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Heyer, Amrik F. (1998) The mandala of a market: A study of social and cultural change in Murang'a District, Kenya. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This study takes the market-place as a focus for looking at the changes which have taken place during the course of this century in relation to the development of the state and capitalism. The market-place is viewed in terms of the relationships between four main trading groups. These are maize and beans, clothes and manufactured goods, fruits and vegetables, and livestock and bananas. The first section of each chapter begins by locating each trading group in terms of its demographic and economic features; gender, age, marriage status, education, church membership, capital, scources of capital, mobility, assets investments and so forth. It then develops the characteristics which individuate each group with reference to cultural and historical data from the community of which the market is a part. Together, the data from the market and from the surrounding community allow the uncovering of four ontological perpectives each with a dominant ethos and dynamic. The next two sections of each chapter utilise these four ontologies as theoretical frames from which to examine the processes of state and capitalist development in the areas in which the market is located. Each chapter finishes by returning to the market-place where the ontological dynamics which have emerged are contextualised in the transformative process of action and agency in the lives of individuals. The treatment of the market as a site of ontological resonance allows for the development of a set of theoretical models which are informed both by my own background and anthropological understandings and by the understandings of the people among whom my fieldwork was based. This leads to a theoretical framework which goes some way towards transcending the dichotomies of theory and practice, of objectivity and subjectivity, with which social anthropology has, for sometime, been concerned. In addition, the holistic nature of the ontologies which I uncover allows me to account for their power to shape historical action. This leads me to a critique of some currents in postmodernist anthropology which, in deconstructing cultural and theoretical 'wholes', often fail to deal with powerfulness of human experience and action in the world. At the same time the plurality of the ontological constructs which have emerged through my research has led me to avoid taking an essentialist view of the relationship between system and subject and hence of the process of state and capitalist development. I understand the properties of both holism and plurality at the level of ontology to stem from its connection to an overall principle of the universal. It is the invocation of this principle which informs the analysis, subject matter and method of my thesis.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 14:59

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