This paper addresses how Makonde Muslim villagers living on the Swahili coast of southern Tanzania conceptualize and discuss environmental change. Through narratives elicited during in-depth interviews and focus group discussions, I show that respondents associate various forms of environmental change—ecological, climatic, political, and socioeconomic—with God’s plan. Respondents had a sound grasp of the material workings of their lived realities and evoked religious causality to fill in the residual explanatory gaps and find meaning in events that were otherwise difficult to explain. Such narratives reveal both a culturally engrained belief system that colors people’s understandings of change and uncertainty and a discursive idiom for making sense of social suffering. On an applied note, I submit that social science approaches to studying environmental change must take into account political and economic contexts relative to local cosmologies, worldviews, and religious faiths, which may not disaggregate the environment into distinct representational categories.
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Research Article| March 10 2021
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Justin Raycraft; Islamic Discourses of Environmental Change on the Swahili Coast of Southern Tanzania. Human Organization 1 March 2021; 80 (1): 49–60. doi: https://doi.org/10.17730/1938-3525-80.1.49
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