More clever than the devil: ujanja as schooling strategy in Tanzania

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This article explores the concept of “cleverness” as it is employed by Tanzanian youth to improve their likelihood of succeeding in school. It analyzes the Swahili term ujanja, which combines cleverness, opportunism, and deception, while it also illustrates an educational anthropologist’s ongoing process of familiarization and defamiliarization with this culturally salient concept over many years of fieldwork and engagement with key participants. Specifically, the study draws on interviews with youth participating in a longitudinal study on Mount Kilimanjaro and an extended life history interview with a close friend and research assistant. The interviews reveal the strategies used by some youth to evade peer pressure, thwart sexual advances, and cultivate relationships with school sponsors. The article concludes with a call for greater use of life history methodologies in the study of complex cultural concepts like “cleverness” and of textual forms that elucidate the emotional complexity of narrator/interpreter relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)50-71
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education
Volume28
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
3. My thanks to Lesley Bartlett for her insights and encouragement, to my colleagues at the University of Minnesota Institute for Advanced Study, especially Nikhil Anand, for their critical commentary on this project, and to the participants in this study, first and foremost Amina, for their time and trust. I would also like to thank the Fulbright Program for supporting me as a Fulbright Scholar in Tanzania in 2006–2007 and the University of Minnesota’s McKnight Presidential Fellows program for its support of fieldwork in 2012.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014, © 2014 Taylor & Francis.

Copyright:
Copyright 2015 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

Keywords

  • Tanzania
  • cleverness
  • life history
  • secondary schooling
  • social mobility
  • ujanja

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'More clever than the devil: ujanja as schooling strategy in Tanzania'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this