Multivocal morality

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons | © Harri Englund. ISSN 2049-1115 (Online). DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14318/hau5.2.015


Multivocal morality

Narrative, sentiment, and Zambia’s radio grandfathers

Harri ENGLUND, University of Cambridge

Multivocal morality concentrates attention on the ideologies of voice in efforts to narrate boundary-crossing moral dilemmas. This article’s focus on the relationship between narrative and sentiment in moral transgression brings together two distinct bodies of literature. One is anthropologists’ recent statements about a disciplinary shift from the study of law-like morality to ethical reasoning. The other is literary scholars’ emphasis on the novel as the privileged genre of narrative in generating moral sentiments such as sympathy and compassion. While anthropologists risk turning a blind eye to their discipline’s past achievements in understanding the complex interplay between customary obligation and moral sentiment, literary scholars foreclose an open discussion about the genres and media by which narrative may generate moral sentiments. The importance of attending to the notion of voice is elaborated through the work of two self-styled grandfathers on Zambian radio who, thirty years apart, performed the same story about strangers within. Despite the different eras of broadcast, they both assembled multiple voices in order to generate the moral sentiment of sympathy. The customary codes of elderhood informed multivocality not by giving others their voices as an act of charity or justice but by having moral authority to assemble those voices in the first place.

Keywords: morality, narrative, sentiment, radio, voice, Zambia

Thirty years apart, two self-styled grandfathers in Zambia used the airwaves to broadcast morality tales. Gogo Juli in the 1960s and 1970s and Gogo Breeze in the 2000s both used gogo, the Chinyanja word for grandparent, in their radio names and achieved considerable popularity through programs in which they performed narratives about moral transgressions in a variety of everyday and extraordinary situations. They each built their radio persona on the customary expectations of moral authority vested in old age. At issue was elderhood less in its disciplinary, [252]punitive register than, as Victor Turner observed in Zambia, grandparents as “the genial advisers and instructors of the grandchildren” (1957: 245), more intimate than the parents on whose shoulders much of the disciplinary work rested. Max Marwick, working in Zambia’s Eastern Province in the 1940s and 1950s, suggested that the “friendly, sometimes hilarious, relationship” (1965: 134) between grandparents and grandchildren was a somewhat tempered version of the one that obtained between cross-cousins (asuweni), who could indulge in banter and behavior that bordered on the obscene. Grandchildren were tied to their grandparents, particularly through the mother, by coresidence that combined physical intimacy with the moral lessons of “bedtime stories” (ibid.: 34).

This article responds to the call by the editors of this collection for attention to morally charged situations in which difference and affinity appear as simultaneous conditions. The genealogical positions occupied by grandparents and grandchildren—somewhat anachronistic in practice but revitalized over the airwaves—already allude to such a situation, but the aims of this article go further than making this point. The focus is on a particular narrative performed by both radio grandfathers about the intricate boundary between self and other. The narrative summoned the figure of the stranger in multiple instances—from the boundaries between affines to those between humans and animals—but it did not end on a relativistic note. The radio grandfathers associated their moral authority with customary codes of conduct and reserved to themselves the last word. Yet the last word was the product of a multivocal narrative in which, rather like in Mikhail Bakhtin’s (1984) notion of polyphony in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novels, the grandfathers assembled mutually independent voices in order to generate sympathy toward the stranger. This relationship between narrative and moral sentiment, in this case sympathy, presents an opportunity to bring together two distinct bodies of literature. One is anthropology’s current theoretical concerns as they pertain to the study of morality and ethics. The other is literary scholars’ emphasis on the novel as the narrative genre par excellence in the generation of moral sentiments.

Anthropology’s recent forays into the topics of morality and ethics veer more toward ethical reasoning than moral sentiment. The definition of ethics by the editors of this collection can accommodate both, but many other contemporary anthropologists appear to deploy the term “ethics” to signal their break with what they consider to be the tendency in the discipline’s past to regard morality as lawlike. It has become common to suggest that a shift of emphasis has taken place in anthropology “from social constraints to individual freedoms and from local morality to ethical subjectivities” (Fassin 2014: 5). The shift is sometimes represented as delivering anthropology from a preoccupation with law-like morality to an appreciation of reasoning, reflection, and virtues: “’Morality’ evokes the general discourse on what is good and has deterministic normative overtones; ’ethics’ evokes the individual choice of virtues and way of living” (Heintz 2009: 4).1

[253]Anyone familiar with the theoretical resources developed within the anthropology of Africa must admit some puzzlement when presented with such statements (Englund 2008). It is not uncommon in recent studies to bypass altogether this particular body of anthropological literature. For example, possibly because of its North American emphasis, Jason Throop’s (2012) commendable effort to reintroduce the topic of moral sentiment to anthropology omits to mention Meyer Fortes. Yet it is in the work of Fortes that the so-called law-like nature of morality is often considered in a complex relationship to moral sentiment. His distinction between jural-political and domestic domains gave rise to an analysis of the qualities attributed to different kinds of authority, such as the mother’s brother and father among Asante in Ghana (see, e.g., Fortes 1950). While the former was associated with the jural-political domain, the relationship was by no means so exclusively defined by “law-like” morality as to render sentiment redundant. “Jural authority,” Fortes wrote, “implies not only control but responsibility and rests on mutuality of rights and duties” (1987: 79). The source of such authority was less in blind obedience to a transcendental law than in the unequally distributed capacity to deal with life’s contingencies: “What must be stressed is that its operation is experienced piecemeal, in particular situations, and that it is respected and complied with in relation to particular persons, offices, or institutions in which it is vested for the time being” (ibid.: 81). It was in “the experience of filial dependence” (emphasis original) that “sentiments of respect, reverence, and worship” became ingrained.

This article is unapologetic about the use of “morality” rather than “ethics” in its analytical vocabulary. At issue is more than a gesture toward anthropology’s rich legacy. To the extent that “morality” indeed brings to mind obligation as well as sentiment, it allows a sharper focus on contingency and customary conduct than does the emphasis on ethical reasoning, self-cultivation, and virtues. The article also differs in its scope from the rest of this collection by exploring other domains than religion. The key domain is radio, a mass medium whose reach, often in local languages, finds no rival in television and the printed press in African countries such as Zambia (see, e.g., Fardon and Furniss 2000; Gunner, Ligaga, and Moyo 2011). Its significance also lies in the social nature of its reception, for, in an echo of how the medium was first introduced to colonial subjects, much radio consumption in Africa takes place in public places or in the company of several listeners in domestic spaces (see Fraenkel 1959: 17; Larkin 2008: 71). Beyond Africa, radio affords a peculiar form of public intimacy by broadcasting actual voices that generate sentiments in their listeners (see, e.g., Matza 2009; Kunreuther 2014). The other domain discussed in this article is, as mentioned, narrative, a topic of considerable interest in the philosophical literature on moral sentiments and yet largely absent from the canonical works of British social anthropology, including those of Fortes. “Most British social anthropologists in the formative years of structuralfunctionalism,” Karin Barber notes, “did not write much about the verbal genres of the peoples they worked with” (2007: 14). In her view, not much has changed in this regard: “British social anthropology seems somewhat wary of dealing head-on with [254]indigenous verbal texts, greatly preferring to deal with ritual or material culture, or with the textuality of the ethnographer’s own writing” (ibid.: 17).2

The specific narrative that is in the focus of this article concentrates our attention on sympathy as the moral sentiment that the radio grandfathers mediated in their different eras of broadcasting. It brings us, therefore, to the foundational work on moral sentiments, in which sympathy has been seen as a counterpoint to self-interest for David Hume and Adam Smith.3 For Smith, sympathy includes “our fellow-feeling for the misery of others” ([1759] 2002: 12). The work of the imagination is central to moral sentiment by “changing places in fancy with the sufferer” (ibid.). Smith often had in mind works of narrative fiction, whether in the vein of tragedy or romance, as he elaborated his theory of moral sentiments. For example, “Our joy for the deliverance of those heroes of tragedy or romance who interest us is as sincere as our grief for their distress, and our fellow-feeling with their misery is not more real than that with their happiness” (ibid.: 13). It is this identification with the other through “fancy” that is at the core of sympathy.4

Zambia’s radio grandfathers used narrative and their particular medium in ways that ran counter to some of the assumptions in the literature that has emphasized the novel as an especially potent narrative genre in generating moral sentiments conducive to human rights (see Hunt 2007; Slaughter 2007). The story that is described in the next section sounded a seemingly conventional warning against dismissing strangers, but it did so through an intricate ideology of voice. Not only did it open up the prospect of finding strangers within, it also indicated the radio grandfathers’ capacity to give expression to the multiple voices that the narrative entailed. This capacity, as is discussed in the subsequent section, united the two radio personalities in a hierarchical display of moral authority vested in elderhood, despite the differences between the eras when they broadcast. Sympathy for the [255]stranger certainly shares something in common with scholarly perspectives on how identification across social divides is achieved through the work of fancy. Yet as mediated by the radio grandfathers, it depends on an ideology of voice that not only the literature on human rights and the novel but also the current anthropological emphasis on ethical reasoning leaves us ill equipped to discern.

Strangers within

Gogo Juli, real name Julius Chongo, and Gogo Breeze, real name Peter Grayson Nyozani Mwale, never met each other in person, but they shared exceptional skill in storytelling in Chinyanja, a lingua franca often known as Chichewa in neighboring Malawi. Gogo Juli was the most popular voice on the Zambian Broadcasting Service (or Radio Zambia) for about a decade between 1966 and 1976, while Gogo Breeze has had a similar status since 2003 at the privately owned station Breeze FM in Zambia’s Eastern Province.5 A particularly apposite illustration of their radio artistry comes from a story which Chongo first narrated over the airwaves in 1973 and which Mwale subsequently performed virtually verbatim in 2012.6 The story was entitled Tembo, a common clan name, and it revolved around the notion of achaje, a word which, as both Chongo and Mwale explained in the beginning, “means that a person is not your relative, the one who is not of your family” (litanthauza kuti munthu sali mbale wako, amene sali wa banja lako). As Chongo explained in an interview, this social outsider could include relatives: “It could be your mother, your brother, who are not thankful, you can call them achaje.”7 The boundary of social exclusion was drawn sharply in his further comment: “When someone says achaje, it means people don’t thank. You do something good, but they never thank, because they are not you, they are them. They are different from you.” The practice of thanking, kuthokoza, is a way of recognizing relationships, sometimes by using money or material objects along with words, but Chongo outlined here both the possibility of other people being oneself and the condition in which they ceased to be so. What prospect for sympathy was there in a social world that could give rise to the categorical injunction, “They are not you, they are them”?

The whole interest of studying Tembo and the uses of voice by the radio grandfathers in both narrating and commenting on it is, of course, the insight it provides into the complexity of drawing moral distinctions between insiders and outsiders. [256]The storyline, in its bare outlines, began with the predicament of infertility in a couple who had been married for a long time. Village gossip was brutal in its inferences, including the suggestion that “it would not be a real child that Lumbiwe [the wife’s name] would give birth to, it would be the spirit [mzimu] of someone else’s child whom Lumbiwe had killed.” When she eventually did give birth, it indeed was to a dog. Lumbiwe’s relatives thought it was a bad omen (malodza) and urged her to get rid of the dog. She shared their conviction that she was the victim of magic (matsenga) but swore to “raise this dog” (ndidzalera galu uyu). She gave the dog the name Achaje to remind everyone that it was “outsiders who had done her evil” (achaje ndiwo awachita zoipa). Later she also gave birth to a “real human being” (munthutu tsopano enieni), a son whom she called Tembo. When Tembo started to develop an interest in marrying, his mother ordered him to seek permission from his elder brother, the dog Achaje. At first, Achaje refused him the right to marry, but when he relented, he asked to be given a goat8 and told Tembo that they were going to look for a wife for him far away from the home village.

After traveling a long distance, they arrived at a well where they encountered an old woman and a maiden. It turned out that the young woman was awaiting her death in a monthly sacrifice that her village had to perform for a ten-headed bird. People were able to draw water from the well only if they provided this human sacrifice. Attracted to the maiden, Tembo declared he would kill the bird, but his bow and arrows proved ineffective, and it was Achaje who eventually annihilated it, amid much exclamation by the radio grandfathers. The village chief, in a show of gratitude, invited Tembo to marry any young woman he liked. His inclination to marry a woman more beautiful than the one they had saved was cut short by Achaje, who ordered him to marry the maiden. Prosperous times ensued as they settled in the wife’s village in accordance with the uxorilocal custom, with “Tembo getting all his advice from the dog Achaje” (Tembo anali kutenga nzeru zonse kwa galu uja Achaje). Their hunting prowess made Tembo a rich man, a recipe for envy among the villagers, who eventually killed him. The village elders’ plan was to make Achaje the chief ’s dog, but Achaje, in a state of rage, killed the entire village from its chief to its children. “Afterwards, Achaje went mad and entered the bush to live there, transforming into a lion” (Achaje kuchoka apo anafuntha nalowa m’thengo nakhala momwemo, nasanduka mkango).

Over two decades of research among Chinyanja speakers, along with conversations with Mwale and his listeners, give me some grounds to interpret this narrative. Dogs, to begin with, are domesticated strangers for Zambians, who might see them as their “companion species” (Haraway 2003), but who rarely allow them other roles than those of guardians and hunting partners. In everyday speech, to compare someone to a dog is the surest way to inflict an insult. Giving birth to a dog revealed the immorality of the people around the mother, whom she called strangers even if they lived in the same village and were possibly her own relatives. By naming the dog-child Achaje, she thus did not state what everyone knew—dogs are strangers—but hoped to remind her fellow villagers of their status as strangers [257]who had performed harmful magic on her. The dog’s adoption of an elder brother’s customary role in advising on matters to do with marriage confirmed its (his?) own moral being. The younger brother’s trajectory, on the other hand, followed a more familiar path of becoming a stranger in his wife’s village as the son-in-law, known as mkamwini in Chinyanja. In its literal translation, mkamwini is a “little owner,” who has customarily been subject to onerous labor requirements by his wife’s relatives and not considered a full member of her village until after a long period of residence (see, e.g., Mandala 1990). In the narrative, the brothers were both strangers in the wife’s village, but it was the dog that proved more desirable to village elders than the son-in-law. Rendered insane by the latter’s murder, however, the dog gave the ultimate demonstration that the villagers were strangers to itself by killing them all. The move to the bush and the transformation into a lion gave its alienation from human society the prototypical spatial and corporeal forms.

This complex play with the figure of the stranger has to be understood against the background of various Chinyanja exhortations for kindness to strangers. For example, proverbs urge people to treat strangers well, because they are like granaries, resources that can help in hardship, and they come with solutions to problems.9 A moral boundary is drawn between strangers by applying mlendo to those visitors who must be treated well and achaje to those who are irredeemably alien. In the above story, the son-in-law’s customary predicament was one instance of the sometimes ambiguous line between these two conditions, excluded as he was from kindness to strangers and yet presented with the prospect of acquiring village membership in the fullness of time. Some strangers were decisively outside the boundaries of morality as human society, not only the lion but also the ten-headed bird that required human sacrifice. In this animal pantheon of evil, the dog blurred the boundaries by actually becoming the mother’s first-born son and the younger brother’s guardian. In one sense, the story warns, as so many items in Chinyanja literature do, against writing anyone off, however humble or unpleasant they may seem. In another sense, it invites its public to consider strangers within, the ways in which those nearest to oneself are capable of inflicting misfortune, no less than how the prototypical stranger, such as a dog, can become indispensable to moral being, from advising on marriage to destroying a lethal enemy to enabling a prosperous life.

It would be wrong, however, to bring this discussion to a close by ending on a note about ambiguity. While the point about the situational nature of moral boundaries is valid—also conveyed by the common Chinyanja saying maonekedwe amapusitsa, “appearances deceive”—it should not be seen to support moral relativism. Rather like in Fortes’ insight into the piecemeal and situational experience of moral authority (1987: 81), the radio grandfathers conveyed in their own performance the manner in which ambiguity was ordered by customary codes of conduct.10 [258]Multivocality in the above story involved voices emanating from a whole range of sources: malicious gossip; the mother’s declaration of care; the dog’s words of advice; the younger brother bragging about killing the ten-headed bird; the chief ’s expression of gratitude; the elders’ eventual plotting of murder. Yet in actual fact all those voices emanated from only one source: the radio grandfathers themselves. It was the grandfathers on air who assembled the voices into a morally compelling narrative and sonically rich performance by giving them their aural as well as moral dimensions. It was hierachically ordered heteroglossia, based on customary codes of conduct and the exceptional skill in language and storytelling that old age was supposed to entail. At the same time, multivocality highlighted what Webb Keane has called “a condition endemic to social existence”: the impossibility to “wholly identify with only a single voice” (2010: 77). Before exploring multivocality further, and its role in generating moral sentiments, more needs to be known about the historical contexts of the radio grandfathers’ artistry.

Ghosts and grandfathers

The radio grandfathers performed in different eras, with Chongo broadcasting during the high point of postcolonial nation building, which left as little room for competing broadcasters as it did for competing political parties. Following Zambia’s return to multipartyism in the early 1990s, Mwale perfomed in a contemporary context of unprecedented competition over listeners and advertisers.11 He used political pluralism to frame the story in a way that was not available in the one-party rule under which Chongo worked. After explaining the word achaje, Mwale paused before continuing with the story to recall a party political rally where he had heard this word used. Before politicians spoke, a man had performed a song in which strangers were repeatedly said to be unprincipled (sakonzeka).12 The song mentioned no one in particular, but Mwale added to it this explanation:

He confirmed to the people who had come to the meeting that a stranger is up to no good. When he/she is near you, he/she will tell you good [259]things so that you feel good. But as soon as you leave, the talk is different. What is it that happened for the stranger to appear in a song like that?13

Rather than answering his own question by saying something more about the meaning or context of the song, Mwale proceeded to perform the story as Chongo had told it some three decades earlier. Allusion, cultivated through storytelling, had not lost its appeal despite the arrival of multiparty democracy and the associated campaigns for accountability and transparency in public life. Rather than pointing fingers at anyone in particular, Mwale allowed listeners to infer from the story itself its significance to politics. Much as the radio grandfather, in this and any other era, could not control what his listeners might infer, he nevertheless mediated possible reflections by investing his moral authority with a standpoint that put a premium on finding strangers among the people least likely to be such. Customary conduct, especially but not only when mass mediated, provided the framework for moral sentiments to emerge.

In 1971 The national mass media audience survey noted “the enormous popularity of Poceza m’madzulo” (Mytton 1971: 13), the storytelling program that Chongo was famous for. It reported that “people of all language groups” mentioned it as one of their favourite programs and that it appealed to “young and old, educated and uneducated, male and female, and listeners of all tribes” (ibid.). The use of Chinyanja, not only the main language in Eastern Province but also a lingua franca in the capital Lusaka and other urban centers, made the programme accessible to a wide listenership and played its part in defusing ethnic-linguistic differences as political issues in postcolonial Zambia. Nevertheless, Chongo gave himself another nickname to illustrate his disembodied presence in the lives of his listeners.14 The nickname was Chipuku, a “ghost” or a “spookie.” It is not to be confused with other terms for spirits of various kinds that Chinyanja recognizes, particularly those with diabolical intent, such as ziwanda. Mizimu are also distinct from zipuku (plural of chipuku), because they are often associated with the notion of soul and, should they return after the person’s death, can be indistinguishable from ziwanda in their insidiousness.15 Chipuku, despite its element of spookiness, does not evoke such apprehension. Indeed, in its prosaic sense, it can also refer to a person who goes from one place to another instead of staying at home. In their spiritual sense, as Chongo explained in an interview in 1974, zipuku “are not necessarily harmful. They can direct you in your day-to-day operations.” He added, “I just started using it when I was on the radio. You don’t see the ghost, but you can hear its voice. [260]When you are on the radio, you don’t see the man, he is like a ghost.”16 On the one hand, Chongo alluded here to a common theme in the history of broadcasting, by which radio “elicited immediate comparisons to telepathy, séances, and angelic visitations” (Peters 1999: 206). On the other hand, he also built on prevailing ideas of ghostly agency in which the body as the apparent originator of the voice paled into insignificance, perhaps even into oblivion, when compared to the capacity of the voice to be in several places at once. Combined with the moral authority to dispense advice, chipuku was at once multiple and hierarchical.

The disembodied voice was consistent with Chongo’s avoidance of cultivating his radio personality outside the broadcasts. He always pursued other career paths alongside his storytelling, first as a journalist and editor and then, after receiving training in law, as a magistrate (Wendland 1979: 4). The new career in law entailed postings in various provinces, which soon made Chongo abandon broadcasting altogether. In a conversation with me, a journalist working under him at the Zambia News Agency recalled a major discrepancy between Chongo’s entertaining radio personality and his stern oversight of journalists’ work as their subeditor. In a similar vein, although Chongo assumed responsibilities in public life as, among others, counselor among the Boy Scouts and a deacon in the Reformed Church in Zambia, he appears to have kept those roles strictly separate from Gogo Juli.

Such was the popularity of Poceza m’madzulo, however, that the program inspired a flow of letters to the Zambia Broadcasting Station, some of which Chongo acknowledged at the beginning or at the end of his broadcasts, and “write-in” campaigns forced him back on the airwaves when he had tried to retire and focus on his career as a magistrate (Wendland 1979: 13). The letters he received also frequently asked him to develop a storyline or an opening that a listener had come up with, and Chongo became famous, and is still remembered, for his capacity to turn them into complex and entertaining performances. He would thank a listener by name for giving him seeds (mbeu) for a story and say that he had mixed (kusakaniza) tomatoes and onions to make the combination more tasty/sweet (kuti itsekemere). Occasionally he would also read a listener’s letter before launching into the story, but those letters were usually comments on previous stories or requests to rebroadcast them. Chongo did not open up the airwaves for a direct dialogue between listeners and himself on a wide range of topics beyond the actual storylines.

Although Chongo could clearly claim authorship for many of the stories, he drew upon a genre of storytelling known as nthano in Chinyanja. The narrator’s singular skill is as characteristic of this genre as is the audience’s coconstruction of stories by responding to performances. Thematically, Chongo was loyal to the genre by including several tales with animal characters, but he also significantly expanded the thematic range to contemporary and realistic topics involving, among others, labor migrants and marital disputes. Despite the absence of a direct link to listeners, the popularity of Poceza m’madzulo owed much to Chongo’s skill of turning the audience interaction required in the nthano genre into mass-mediated communication. The title of the program—a literal translation of Pozeca m’madzulo would be “chatting in the evening time”—alluded to a communal storytelling event in which the narrator depended on the reactions and responses he/she could elicit from the [261]audience. As pointed out by Ernst Wendland, whose Ph.D. in linguistics in 1979 was about Chongo’s radio artistry, “Mr. Chongo performs in absolute isolation from his audience” (2004: 3). However, all stories Chongo broadcast were performed as though he was interacting live with his listeners. A key means by which he accomplished this effect was by inserting himself into the narratives as Gogo Juli or, as he was also known, CeJuli,17 who commented on the unfolding events. For example, when recounting a story about a fisherman who to his surprise catches a beautiful woman and wants to run away from what he considers to be a bad omen (malodza), Chongo commented that “had it been me CeJuli, I wouldn’t have run away” (takhala ine CeJuli osathawa iyai).18 Similar intimacy with the audience was apparent in the frequent exclamations that marked particularly dramatic or amusing moments in the narrative through phrases such as “relatives, let’s chat this evening!” (tiyeni ticeze m’madzulo ano abale!). Above all, voice was not only the narrator’s medium to tell a story. It summoned a whole range of agencies, human and nonhuman, to account for the unfolding of complex narratives. In a practical sense, variations in tempo, pitch, loudness, intonation, and pause would signal developments in the narrative, while Chongo imitated the voices of different characters. In a more profound sense, to be discussed below, these uses of voice sustained multivocality in both its aural and moral aspects despite only one speaker being present.

While Chongo was born in 1943 and died in 1995, Mwale, or Gogo Breeze, was born three years later than Chongo in 1946 but only started his career on the radio in 2003 when Breeze FM was established in Chipata, the provincial capital of Eastern Province. He had a long career as a schoolteacher posted to various schools in the province, and unlike Chongo, who originally adopted the grandfather appellation, Mwale actually looks the part. Mwale belongs to the generation that listened to Gogo Juli’s broadcasts, but he denies that Chongo directly inspired his decision to pursue a postretirement career on the airwaves. Chongo’s influence is clear, however, on Mwale’s own weekly program of storytelling, called Zotigwera (“What befalls us”), where he often reads, with due acknowledgments, published transcripts of Chongo’s stories. Mwale claims relatively rarely authorship for the stories he performs in the mass-mediated nthano genre, but what really distinguishes the two grandfathers is the wide range of program formats that are associated with Mwale’s radio personality Gogo Breeze. He is a familiar sight not only in the densely populated townships of Chipata but also in the rural areas of the vast province and always carries a small voice recorder with him to capture the interactions he has with the people he encounters. The recordings indeed tend to be encounters rather than interviews. Some of them end up on Landirani alendo (“Welcome visitors”), a program that broadcasts not only the voices of visitors to the province but also the most ordinary encounters he has, made interesting by Mwale’s eye (and ear) for situational humor and the subtleties of language.

A major reason why he spends much of his time away from the Breeze FM studio is another program he is famous for: Makalata, a program on which he answers listeners’ letters. Those letters often contain complaints about injustices that [262]listeners have endured at the hands of unscrupulous employers, dishonest schoolteachers or pastors, cruel husbands or exploitative wives, and so on. Mwale seeks to investigate some of the grievances and sometimes uses his late-evening shift at the station to open the airwaves for listeners’ phone calls on the issues he has earlier dealt with on the letters program. Also, whether on his own or with the claimant, he visits government offices and private stores or companies to confront authorities with the complaints he has received. Inseparable from this engagement with the worlds of his listeners is another program he is famous for, Chinyanja china, which is devoted to Chinyanja idioms, ostensibly broadcast for the benefit of schoolchildren but widely listened to by adults as well. Its popularity derives from Mwale’s skill to explain esoteric idioms through everyday examples, effectively giving many of the grievances he talks about on other programs a richer vocabulary of moral deliberation than is possible in the strictly legal or human rights-inspired discourse in which NGOs and some civil servants tend to situate those grievances.

The contrast to Chongo’s Chipuku, the radio personality as a ghost, is striking. Not only is Mwale widely known by his real name, his face is also familiar among Chipata residents and beyond, his daily outings sometimes causing commotion as people throng to greet him. Mwale deftly defuses any hint at a special celebrity status through self-deprecating humor, his habit of walking or cycling rather than using motor vehicles, and his attention to even the humblest persons he encounters. Chongo’s effort to keep his radio personality separate from his life outside broadcasts contrasts with the ways in which Mwale declines to shed Gogo Breeze when he leaves the studio. The contrast extends to how they addressed their listeners, with Mwale more determined than Chongo to achieve a personalized and participatory audience. Chongo’s broadcasts on the national radio, carried in a major lingua franca, transcended linguistic, ethnic, and gender divides to summon a public that appeared undifferentiated in its appreciation of nthano storytelling. Mwale’s recordings of his encounters with people in the province and his attempts to assist aggrieved listeners not only make himself known to the public in a more embodied sense than Chongo’s voice on the airwaves but also make that public an audience of recognizable personalities with diverse experiences. Note how these differences between the two grandfathers cannot be reduced to differences in the medium they used. Although Mwale occasionally resorts to phone-in programs, his portfolio of programs does not depend on new communication technologies such as mobile phones any more than Chongo’s did. The radio was and is the medium for their public standing.

The differences between the two radio grandfathers, along with the difference between the one-party state and multipartyism, are obvious enough. Yet Mwale’s multifarious engagement with his publics should not obscure important similarities. The two grandfathers’ distinctiveness depended on their radio artistry, but it also drew upon conventions by which elderhood indexed moral authority. Mwale has developed this mass-mediated elderhood well beyond anything Chongo was able to do, but it is the hierarchical ethos of their radio personalities that gave their geniality a set of common parameters. While Chongo was collaborative and Mwale participatory in their approaches to broadcasting, both made it clear that the skill in storytelling and the prerogative to impart advice rested on them as elders on air. Grandfatherhood deployed here some of the features mentioned at the beginning of this article, such as intimacy coupled with moral education, but broadcasting also [263]amplified the grandfathers’ capacity for multivocality. Not only were their skills in narration exceptional, they also became the conduits of multiple viewpoints. They did so not by constructing voiceless subjects to whom they might give a voice as an act of charity or justice, but by being the very subjects who mediated, and therefore framed, many voices. This form of heteroglossia is hierarchical, multiplicity based not on singular voices but on the capacity to assemble and mediate them.

The novel and the voice

To what extent did the radio grandfathers’ hierarchical heteroglossia generate sympathy as a moral sentiment with egalitarian undertones? Would not such undertones be at variance with the very hierarchy presumed by their radio artistry, based as it was on the customary codes of conduct? Addressing these questions helps us to explore further the difference that genre and the medium can make in the relationship between narrative and moral sentiment. Human rights furnish one clear instance of the expectation that sympathy and compassion ought to extend to complete strangers, bound together in the name of humanity and equality. It is also an instance, some authors argue, of the coincidence between the novel as a genre and a new kind of moral sentiment. For example, Lynn Hunt (2007) sees a chronological overlap between the emergence of the epistolary novel and human rights. “The ability to identify across social lines” (ibid.: 40) is, for her, what heralds the birth of human rights, but she readily acknowledges that such an ability could be acquired in a number of other ways than by reading novels. However, “human rights could only flourish when people learned to think of others as their equals,” she explains, and “they learned that equality, at least in part, by experiencing identification with ordinary characters who seemed dramatically present and familiar, even if ultimately fictional” (ibid.: 58). Human rights emerged in tandem with “a sense of the separation and self-possession of individual bodies, along with the possibility of empathy with others” (ibid.: 30). Novels were vital in this regard, because they “made the point that all people are fundamentally similar because of their inner feelings, and many novels showcased in particular the desire for autonomy” (ibid.: 39).

Historians and anthropologists can readily bring their comparative and critical insights to bear on Hunt’s claims. As Samuel Moyn (2010) has emphasized, early modern natural rights and the eighteenth-century rights of man can be seen as the precursors of human rights only if their different constructions of state, nation, and the self are ignored. The eighteenth century might have seen the rise of the epistolary novel but not the birth of human rights. Scores of anthropologists writing about partible persons and permeable bodies can also put to rest the normative universalism of individual autonomy and “the self-possession of individual bodies” (Hunt 2007: 30).19 Within the debate on human rights and the novel, Joseph Slaughter (2007) avoids the quagmire of chronology by advocating a looser [264]connection between them, arguing that the novel merely anticipated the personality development associated with the emergence of human rights. The novel he writes about is the Bildungsroman, an eighteenth-century innovation like Hunt’s epistolary novel but perhaps more squarely concerned with the human personality as a cultivated practice. According to Slaughter, “Personality supplants nature as the base of both narrative plot and human rights” (ibid.: 103). It does so, he adds, after “the loss of the transcendental authorities that guaranteed the plot of classical epic—God(s), the sovereign, the patriarch, nature” (ibid.: 102). Note the accompanying parallel between this notion of Bildung and the Janus-faced rights claim that at once promises transformation and depends on available legal-political conventions for the transformation to happen. The link is “the eighteenth-century German-idealist solution to the perceived conflict between individual and society” (ibid.: 93). Slaughter explains: “German idealism conceives of harmonious human personality development (Bildung) simultaneously as an unfolding of an individual’s latent humanity in its encounter with the structures of the social world and as an enfolding of the individual within and by those structures” (ibid.: 101, emphases original). Agency and structure, or ethics and morality for some, are other conceptual distinctions one might draw to account for this conflict between individual and society that Slaughter sees at the core of both the Bildungsroman and human rights.

As a critical exercise, and one that contains a welcome consideration of how the Bildungsroman was imported into colonial and postcolonial worlds, Slaughter’s argument is blemished neither by Hunt’s teleology nor by her normative universalism. Yet their shared focus on the novel can be challenged on a number of counts. The narrative forms that have recently informed human rights claims include a mix of genres, among which personal testimonies and historical narratives vie for recognition amid legalistic argumentation (see, e.g., Schaffer and Smith 2004; Stonebridge 2011; Wilson 2011; see also Anker 2012; Dawes and Gupta 2014). Narratives about personality development that the solitary reader of novels might consume stand apart from this mix of genres mobilized in actual human rights claims. The question of the ethical self should not, however, be discarded so swiftly. At the heart of the interest in the novel as a kind of human rights discourse lies this very question, an attribution of sympathy to individual selves who are as autonomous as they are able to sympathize with one another. It is the ethical self as a speaking subject, as the one who has a voice, that requires further interrogation. Human rights construct, as Slaughter has noted elsewhere, “a public, international space that empowers all human beings to speak” (1997: 413). What assumptions about voice does such a project carry? In order to interrogate those assumptions, is it enough to produce yet another critique of the autonomous individual without attending to the relationship between voice and the ethical self? In Marianna Constable’s pithy remark, “Despite the importance of speech to liberalism, critics tend to dwell on the liberal construction of autonomous rights-bearing subjects, rather than on liberalism’s construction of speaking subjects” (2005: 57).

It would be expedient to simply reverse Slaughter’s finding about “the loss of the transcendental authorities” (2007: 102) by asserting the radio grandfathers as just such authorities. Yet it would run counter to the observations that have already been made about multivocality. The radio grandfathers had the last word only insofar as multiple voices came to be mediated by them. The practice of multivocal elderhood [265]resembles Hume’s notion of habit, which, in Danilyn Rutherford’s reading, “directs the flow of the ’fancy’ across the imagination” (2009: 8). Far from being the property of an inner voice, sympathy arises from the exercise of fancy in accordance with particular ideologies of voice which, in this instance, privileged elders’ speech over that of others. In general terms, the ideologies of voice influence, among other things, “who should be allowed to speak and how,” and, as such, “how and where we locate subjectivity and agency” (Weidman 2014: 45). How voice is experienced is, in other words, crucial to the ways in which moral sentiments such as sympathy emerge and hold sway over ethical lives. Much moral and literary theory on the relationship between human rights and the novel has built on a metaphorical notion of voice in which the ethical self has a one-to-one conversation with the narrative that furnishes sentiments of sympathy toward others. The ideology of voice is here one that presumes the existence of an inner voice, a notion peculiarly compatible with recent apparently democratizing exhortations to regard voice as “a vehicle of empowerment, self-representation, authentic knowledge, and agency” (Weidman 2006: 11). Ethnography on Zambia’s radio grandfathers challenges not only the metaphorical idea of voice by opening out the possibility of studying actual voices in their sonic richness. It also serves to question voice as “a personal possession, a property of selfhood” (Kunreuther 2012: 51). Despite their different approaches to broadcasting, both radio grandfathers presented themselves as elders whose moral authority secured infallible guidance over the airwaves. Yet the guidance could be compelling only if their moral authority was multivocal from the outset, based on the capacity to mediate several voices at once, not all of which were in any sense their own.

Voice, in other words, is not always agentive. In order to take the speaking subject beyond the simplistic identification of voice with agency, anthropologists are increasingly turning to the radio as an ethnographic site (see, e.g., Englund 2011; Bessire and Fisher 2012; Kunreuther 2014). Not only is radio discovered to adapt itself to a world saturated with newer media technologies, it also provides insights into the mediated nature of voicing, however much voice is evoked in the politics of representation and identity as the citizen’s unmediated property. In countries like Zambia, radio also compels ethnographic attention as the main mass medium and as a locally far more consequential site for the production of moral sentiment than the novel. Despite the contributions of a few renowned writers, mainly in the late colonial period but also more recently, book publishing in Zambia has followed the regional trend of focusing on educational materials rather than literary works (Chilala 2014). Novels are not generally read and debated in Zambia. In this regard, the ethnocentric declaration, attributed to Saul Bellow, that “when the Zulus produce a Tolstoy we will read him” (Taylor 1994: 42) can be supplanted with harder questions about the genres and media by which subjects in specific historical settings come to have moral sentiments. Following voices on the radio as they crisscross each other can pave the way beyond the ethics of the inner voice attributed to the solitary reader of novels.

The ideology of voice associated with the radio grandfathers was certainly not the only one informing broadcasting and public speech in Zambia. The competition between different ideologies of voice became more accentuated during the period when Mwale started his career on the airwaves, with various phone-in programs [266]catering for a range of commercial and NGO-sponsored agendas. At the same time, a significant proportion of these agendas summoned youths as their publics, buttressed by the official recognition of young people as the country’s volatile majority. Mwale’s tireless pursuit of justice on his listeners’ behalf, many of whom belonged to the youthful majority, may have been one response to the changing times, but the similarities between his and Chongo’s ideology of voice are also significant. These similarities do not indicate the moral authority of elderhood in any abstract sense. Rather, they draw our attention to the specific genre and medium that made the experience of that authority possible among their listening publics. For youths exposed to contemporary popular culture, schooling, and migrant aspirations, moral authority based on age was indeed piecemeal and situational, as Fortes (1987: 81) saw it, and now associated with the use of electronic media.

Rank and affect

According to the literary perspectives discussed above, narrative enables sympathy for and between strangers by cultivating “the ability to identify across social divides” (Hunt 2007: 40). These perspectives are interested in a “literary technology in which social outsiders narrate affirmative claims for inclusion in a regime of rights and responsibilities” (Slaughter 2007: 27). Identification and inclusion were also what Zambia’s radio grandfathers seemed to advance by narrative means. Is it paradoxical, then, that they did so while at the same time asserting their special status as elders? To the extent that they directed listeners to recognize dignity in miserable lives, their demeanor on air unsettled the distinction between dignity and honor drawn in moral and political philosophy. While dignity is seen as belonging to the era of human rights, honor harks back to the era of rank and status. Honor, Charles Taylor explains, is “intrinsically linked to inequalities.... For some to have honor in this sense, it is essential that not everyone have it” (1994: 27). Dignity, by contrast, is supposed to attach itself to all human beings in equal measure, so much so that Jeremy Waldron, reluctant to let go of the idea of rank, proposes “universalized rank” for the present era, “high rank and dignity for all” (2007: 230). Quite apart from what rank can signify when it comes to be occupied by each and every human being, Waldron’s elaboration of his argument in terms of voice illustrates its limited validity for instances of multivocal morality. “Entitlement to voice” stands central to his idea of universalized rank, “entitlement of each person, as part of his [sic] dignity as an (equal) peer of the realm, to have his voice reckoned with and counted in the resolution of great affairs of state” (ibid.). As mentioned, claims to such entitlement became audible in Zambia as elsewhere during postcolonial democratization, but they have by no means swept away an alternative ideology of voice. Rank in its hierarchical sense remained critical to the radio grandfathers’ practice.

The notion that rank “remains” important is, however, perilous insofar as it can be seen to subscribe to the teleological view of honor giving way to dignity. The historiography of honor in Africa, examining its changing vocabularies and its defense in contexts such as litigation and religious institutions, is too incomplete to afford firm conclusions about a shift from honor to dignity (Iliffe 2005). It seems more sensible to divest analysis of the honor–dignity distinction and to examine [267]rank in its hierarchical sense where it occurs. That it may occur in conjunction with “the ability to identify across social divides” need not lead to speculation about the confluence (let alone hybridity) of historical and contemporary forms of moral sentiments. The radio grandfathers’ embrace of rank was entirely compatible with a certain democratizing sentiment. Yet the genre and the medium with which they operated both generated that sentiment and ensured their particular rank.

While literary theorists may continue to recognize the place of narrative in generating moral sentiments, other currents such as affect theory appear to discourage such exploration of linguistic and literary genres. Not to be associated with the subject, runs one influential maxim, “affect is non-discursive” (Guattari 1996: 12).20 What seems to be called for by such a maxim, even when it does not result in fully fledged affect theory, is an exploration of moral sentiments through other areas of human (and nonhuman) activity than narrative. While reading Hume, whose influence on Smith is well known,21 Rutherford (2009) appears congenial to recent skepticism toward language by emphasizing the materiality of sympathy. For him, the inspiration to be garnered from reading Hume is to ask how “encounters with objects and others give rise to feelings and thoughts” (ibid.: 5). Throop, in turn, takes the study of moral sentiments into familiar phenomenological territory by emphasizing the “numerous sensory, imaginal, emotional, existential, and embodied processes” (2012: 157) by which experience is constituted. Indeed, the old phenomenological adage that “the body is our general medium for having a world” (Merleau-Ponty 1962: 146) is not necessarily at odds with the weight placed on narrative in the generation of moral sentiments. This is particularly evident in instances where narrative depends on the uses of voice for its affects, for voice—both when it is produced and when it is heard—is from the outset an embodied state. Yet the partially overlapping concerns of affect theory and phenomenology should not be allowed to take us too far from the power of words. It was Smith who emphasized the relationship between words and the imagination in generating moral sentiments. Juxtaposing the passions deriving from the body, such as pain, with those occasioned by “an unguarded word from a friend,” he pointed out that “the agony which this creates is by no means over with the word” ([1759] 2012: 36). The imagination is “ductile,” it “calls forth more sympathy than the greatest bodily evil”:

The person who has lost his whole fortune, if he is in health, feels nothing in his body. What he suffers is from the imagination only, which represents to him the loss of his dignity, neglect from his friends, contempt from his enemies, dependence, want, and misery, coming fast upon him; and we sympathize with him more strongly upon this account, because our imaginations can more readily mould themselves upon his imagination, than our bodies can mould themselves upon his body. (Smith [1759] 2012: 35)

[268]Zambia’s radio grandfathers seemed to have understood this power of words. Hence their renown for the judicious use of vocabulary, from Chongo’s reputation for “mixing” words to Mwale’s programs devoted to esoteric idioms. While skills in oratory and the knowledge of esoteric idioms have indexed the moral authority of elderhood in this and other regions of Africa (Finnegan 2007: 47), their appearance on the airwaves at once transformed the scale of moral authority based on exemplary elderhood and made possible a form of public intimacy in which moral sentiments could emerge. In this remarkable combination of words and voice, narrative had its affects through a social rather than a solitary mode of its production and reception.


This article has compared the work of Zambia’s radio grandfathers with literary perspectives on narrative as a major source of moral sentiments. What makes those perspectives anthropologically problematic is their focus on the novel and their unexamined assumptions about the inner voice. It is incumbent on the anthropologist to introduce other genres and media than the novel to these debates and to question the ideologies of voice that separate the self from the other in an axiomatic manner. In their storytelling discussed here, the two radio grandfathers not only challenged the boundaries by which outsiders were identified, but they also made sympathy a corollary of their capacity to mediate multiple voices. Liberal sensibilities may take solace in recognizing that the two radio grandfathers, despite their apparently gerontocratic ways, cultivated doubt and reflection about the boundaries that separated outsiders from moral being. It is also the case that the ideology of unmediated voice is as available in Zambia as elsewhere in the postdemocratic world, with some citizens taking undeniable delight in hearing themselves on the airwaves. Yet the radio grandfathers’ sheer popularity indicates, across the eras of different political regimes, the particular appeal of exceptional skill in storytelling and its association with the customary codes of elderhood. It reveals the urgency of decoupling the anthropological study of moral sentiments from an “aesthetics and politics of the singular” (Sterne 2005: 343).

The radio grandfathers summoned their publics of grandchildren over the airwaves by basing their radio personalities on conventions that were, at least in their idealized form, widely known. Yet their prerogative was also to challenge prevailing conventions by narrating instances in which sympathy for the other seemed hard to conjure. At issue was the recognition of the self in another, of strangers within, but such recognition was predicated on a ranked difference between the grandfathers and their publics. Collaboration in Chongo’s era of broadcasting and participation in Mwale’s summoned those publics in an interactive fashion, but inequality was a condition that endured across these different eras. Yet inequality comes in different hues, as a comparison between moral sentiments can also reveal. Sympathy mediated by the radio grandfathers contrasts with the compassion currently driving the humanitarian politics of nonreciprocity (see Fassin 2012). The ranked difference that generated sympathy was inequality in the idiom of kinship and affinity, while humanitarian compassion expects no such relationship among subjects connected [269]merely in the name of humanity. The notion of multivocal morality is another way of stating this importance of ranked difference, based on an ideology of voice in which moral sentiments are authorized by those whose voices assemble the voices of others.


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Moralité plurivoque: récit, sentiment et les ancêtres de la radio zambienne

Résumé : La notion de moralité plurivoque porte une attention accrue aux idéologies de l’énonciation dans le but de restituer plus fidèlement les dilemmes moraux associés au franchissement de barrières établies. En plaçant au cœur de son analyse la relation entre récit et sentiment dans le contexte de transgressions morales, cet article rassemble deux corps de littérature distincts. D’une part, la littérature anthropologique qui se tourne, non plus vers une notion de la moralité quasi-légaliste, mais vers le raisonnement éthique. D’autre part, les analyses littéraires qui conçoivent le roman comme un genre privilégié pour l’expression et la conception de sentiments moraux, tels que la sympathie et la compassion. Tandis que les anthropologues risquent d’oublier les accomplissements passés de leur discipline, en particulier ceux qui ont amené à une meilleure compréhension du rapport entre obligation coutumière et sentiment moral, les étudiants de la littérature évitent le débat au sujet des genres et des médias par lesquels le récit engendre le sentiment moral. L’étude du travail de deux pères fondateurs de la radio zambienne auto-proclamés, qui ont, à trente ans d’intervalle, diffusé le même récit au sujet d’étrangers de l’intérieur, permet d’évaluer l’importance de la notion de voix. Même s’ils travaillèrent sur des genres d’émission très différents, ils eurent tous deux recours à des voix multiples afin de faire naître des sentiments moraux de sympathie. Les codes coutumiers conférant certains privilèges aux aînés autorisent cette plurivocité, non pas en leur permettant d’attribuer leurs voix aux autres dans un élan de charité ou [273]de justice, mais par le fait même de conférer l’autorité morale permettant d’assembler ces différentes voix.

Harri ENGLUND is Professor of Social Anthropology and the Director of the Centre of African Studies at the University of Cambridge. His most recent book is Human rights and African airwaves: Mediating equality on the Chichewa radio (Indiana University Press, 2011).

Harri Englund
Social Anthropology
University of Cambridge
Cambridge CB2 3RF
United Kingdom.


1. The distinction between morality and ethics is often drawn only to be rejected in favor of some other conceptual framework, such as “moralities” (Heintz 2009), or such a distinction is shown to be unfeasible from the outset (Faubion 2011: 20–22). The dualism in these discussions also calls for resolutions through a third term, such as consequentialist ethics (Fassin 2014: 6). And whatever the association of Durkheim’s legacy with the idea of so-called law-like morality, no consensus prevails as to whether in his scheme adherence to rules and norms was as complete as it has sometimes been made out to be (Lambek 2010: 12).

2. Barber contrasts this attitude with American cultural anthropology. Yet she also reveals that “British social anthropology was engaged in a passionate clandestine affair” (ibid.: 15) in the work that its founding figures devoted to collecting texts.

3. However, the notion that Smith abandoned his moral theory when he came to write his more widely known work on economics, An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations, has been put to rest in recent histories of moral thought. According to J. B. Schneewind’s authoritative statement, “Smith’s economics rely on the moral philosophy of The Theory of Moral Sentiments” (1998: 388). Moreover, the importance of Smith’s theory of moral sentiments is further underlined by Schneewind’s assessment that “sentimentalism has never gotten a more sophisticated exposition than Smith gave it. After Smith, indeed, it received no major reformulations at all” (ibid.).

4. It is a feature of the English language that Danilyn Rutherford is able to regard sympathy as encompassing “empathy, pity, and compassion” (2009: 2). It is also true that anthropologists have had relatively little to say about empathy as a distinct emotional, embodied, and cognitive state (Hollan and Throop 2008). In the absence of a coherent body of disciplinary work on these subjects, the use of “sympathy” rather than “empathy” signals the inspiration that this article has drawn from the study of narrative and moral sentiment rather than from psychological anthropology. At the same time, despite their overlapping semantic fields, “sympathy” and “compassion” are also kept separate for reasons that become apparent at the end of the article.

5. Chongo was trained as a journalist and worked for several years as a subeditor at the Zambia News Agency. Mwale is a retired schoolteacher who was introduced to radio journalism by the owner-manager of Breeze FM.

6. The dates of the first broadcasts are October 4, 1973, and April, 24, 2012. Both versions were repeated on air several times. The transcription and translation of Chongo’s version are in Wendland (2004: 59–80).

7. Interview with Ernst Wendland in Lusaka, March 30, 1974. I am grateful to Dr. Wendland for allowing me to consult his tape recordings of Chongo’s interviews and radio programs. The Poceza m’madzulo programmes have not survived in the archives of the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation. A selection of transcribed and translated stories has been published in Wendland (2004).

8. As Chongo explained in the interview mentioned above, it is customarily the first-born who marries first, but if it is not the case, the younger sibling is obliged to give the firstborn a token of gratitude for being permitted to marry before him or her.

9. For example, Akunja n’kunkhokwe, “Outsiders are like a granary,” Mlendo ndi amene ayenda ndi kalumo kakuthwa, “It is the stranger who carries the sharp razor,” and Mlendo ndiye amapha njoka, “The stranger is the one who kills the snake” (Chakanza 2000: 21, 201).

10. Appropriately in the context of this narrative, Fortes not only developed an anthropological approach to the study of moral sentiments, but he also provided one of the first ethnographically sophisticated accounts of strangerhood in Africa. His notion of “alien strangers” (Fortes 1975: 239) among Ghana’s Akan peoples arose from the historical observation that strangers excluded from intermarriage and Akan citizenship were a particular type that had emerged relatively recently. This notion brought welcome historical and ethnographic nuance to Georg Simmel’s ([1908] 1964) classical thesis on the stranger as a figure that constitutes social relationships. More recently, anthropologists have resumed the interest in strangers through the literature on hospitality (see Candea and da Col 2012).

11. Zambia’s return to multipartyism in 1991 heralded a vigorous campaign of privatization that eventually led to the mushrooming of privately owned media outlets. The number of radio stations in the country rose from twelve in 2000 to twenty-six in 2005 and to forty-eight in 2008 (Willems 2013: 225). Breeze FM was established in 2003.

12. Public meetings organized to showcase political parties often include musical and drama performances to attract an audience, but the performers are identified locally and do not necessarily represent the parties.

13. Anatsimikizira kwa anthu amene anabwera pamsonkhano umenewu kuti munthu wachaje alibe kabwino ayi. Zochita zake ndi zomwezo ndikuti ngati iye ali pafupi nawe adzakunenera zabwino kotero kuti kumtima kwako kukhale see. Koma ukangochokapo zokamba n’zina. Kodi ndi zotani zimene zinachitika kuti achajewa aikidwa nyimbo yotereyi?

14. On nicknames in the history of Zambian broadcasting, see Vidali-Spitulnik (2012: 255–57).

15. Needless to add, ziwanda and mizimu have long been subject to a Christianized discourse on soul and spirit. The Chinyanja phrase for the Holy Spirit is Mzimu Woyera.

16. Interview with Ernst Wendland in Lusaka, March 30, 1974.

17. The prefix “ce” is an honorific used for elderly people.

18. Kukonda cinthu catsopano kusiya cakale, broadcast on November 7, 1974.

19. Little consensus prevails in anthropology concerning the ethnographic and conceptual status of partible persons and permeable bodies, but a sense of these anthropological controversies can be gained by comparing, for example, Strathern (1988), Lambek and Strathern (1998), and Mol (2002).

20. Reacting to the alleged “preor extra-linguistic” properties of affect, Yael NavaroYashin (2009: 12, 15) has discussed the compatibility of language with affective states.

21. If I had an interest here in the history of ideas, I would of course follow Charles Taylor, among others, in tracing “the language of moral sentiments” (1989: 344) from Hume to Hutcheson.