The culture of “silent sexuality” amongst the Shambala of Tanzania : towards an intercultural approach in the pastoral ministry

Date: March 3, 2014
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This dissertation aims at discussing the influence of two eminent trends on African culture: modernity and globalization with special reference to the culture of silent sexuality as understood and practiced by the Shambala of Tanzania. It is based on secondary data collected through review of studies, reports, policy documents and surveys from various data sets from national, regional and international organizations. The two trends have not only transported the good side of the economic and social development across the globe and connected people from different cultures or nations in the world, but have also changed the culture of host communities. For example, the change from collectivism social structure that characterizes African society to individualism social structure that characterises the market-oriented culture of western society. This change indicates that without doubt “globalization and modernity are the most important and developed theories of the twentieth century” (Ritzer 2008:230). The process of globalization for example allows two different cultures to either coexist or create a dynamic or transformation to a new and third type of culture, one to be absorbed by the other. If the new incoming culture dominates local culture to absorb it, it sources a conflict between the two cultures, in this case the conflict between the culture of silent sexuality and the western culture, popularly termed by Mankiw (2007:12) as “cultural westernization”. The trend of cultural westernization of Africa has become very pervasive and prevalent, such that Western civilization has taken precedence over African values and culture and the latter are regarded as inferior to the former. As with other societies and cultures in the developing countries, the impact of western civilization on Africa has occasioned a discontinuity in forms of life throughout the continent. This has led to a cultural dualism that often presents itself as a real dilemma in concrete, real-life situations. In other words, the African experience of modernity and globalization is fraught with tensions at every level of the communal and social settings. The post-independence Africa is confronted with how to have a true identity, a new culture that is African in nature. Before the era of globalization there existed local, autonomous, distinct and well-defined, robust and culturally sustaining connections between geographical place and cultural experience. These connections constituted one’s community “cultural identity”. This identity was something people simply had as an undisturbed existential possession, an inheritance, a benefit of traditional long dwelling, of continuity with the past. Identity, then, like language, and other cultural practices, for instance the culture of silent sexuality, were not just descriptions of cultural belonging, they were collective treasures of local communities. But they were also discovered to be something fragile that needed protecting and preserving that could be lost, due to foreign influences. According to Ritzer (2008:231), into this world of diverse, discrete, but to various degrees vulnerable cultural identities there suddenly burst (apparently around the middle of the 1980s) the corrosive power of globalization which has swept like a flood tide through the world’s diverse cultures, destroying stable localities, displacing peoples, bringing a market-driven, “branded” homogenization of cultural experience, thus obliterating the differences between locality-defined cultures which had constituted people’s identities. The Shambala culture of silent sexuality prior to modernity and globalization was aimed at preserving dignity and courtesy in the society. It maintained peace, created a harmonious environment for all people, and stabilized the moral standards of the entire community. Silent sexuality was also connected to the religious meaning of sacredness. Specifically, sex and sexuality were considered sacred and should be abused under no circumstances. The Shambala believed that sexuality was part of life itself; it was liable, by the same token, to be extremely destructive of life if mishandled. Sexual taboos helped to maintain a stable social structure by defining social relationships among members of the family, for example, husband-wife, father-daughter, and mother-son relationships. However, some members of the Shambala society have embraced modernity and globalization which have influenced their traditional sexuality. Sex, to them, is no longer a private matter, and they undermine traditional customs and taboos by regarding them as uncivilized and savage. The result shows that there are many sex related problems which have surfaced among the Shambala, such as unwanted teenage pregnancy, school dropout due to pregnancy and/or early marriage, abortion, rape, child prostitution and other factors. The research findings could serve as a call to the Shambala, the Church and the state to work together to find lasting solutions for the detrimental consequences of recent changes in patterns of sexuality among the Shambala and Tanzanians in general to ratify a gender based anti-violence bill that will be cherished in the constitution to guard women and girls from all forms of sexual violence and create public awareness of the privileges and dignity of women and children.

Publisher: Stellenbosch University
Year of Publication: 2013
Download : 18093_shemsanga_culture_2013.pdf

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