Khat

Posted: February 27, 2012 by lynndts403 in Feb. 29

Neil Carrier’s Bundles of Choice discusses the production, distribution and sales of Miraa itself. It is an interesting read for it illustrates the process and journey from farmer to consumer, the variety and region-specific preferences of its users. In addition, the valuation of different varieties of Miraa that ranges from cultural roots in Nyambenes to levels of freshness for UK consumers.

Axel Klein’s Khat and the creation of tradition in the Somali diaspora on the other hand explores the origins and truths behind the mixed feelings towards the use of Khat within this particular community. Klein argues that “ khat may be part of the culture, but its not part of history” contrary to the popular notion of a long traditional history amongst the second generation. In addition, Klein expresses that problems which arise amongst khat users are not from its pharmacological properties but rather the surrounding circumstances of the users thay perpetuate unemployment and poverty within the Somali communities.

I particularly enjoyed reading Klein’s article as he discussed the social implications of Khat in a narrow scope focusing on one specific community. He made clear logically arguments and depicted khat in both a historical and contemporary context ; addressing factors that have influenced its position and perception in society as a whole and within the community.

Carrier’s article is very informative and clearly articulates the manipulation and association of the value of Khat. My only criticism is that the article almost come across as a ‘product review’, having too much emphasis on the “logistics” of Khat – how it’s grown, the movement of the product, how different regions consume it etc. rather than including more social elements for a well-balanced argument.

Overall, I feel that both articles read together, complements each other very well. Carrier’s article discussed khat as a heterogeneous product, revealing its complexity and relationship with people while Klein addresses the problematic associations communities’ make with a  “false memory” of tradition; all of which cover important aspects of the evaluation of a diasporic object.

Questions:

Klein states that “ Khat may be part of the culture, but its not part of history”. However, shouldn’t Khat be considered part of history even if it was recent? Does being part of history require a certain timeline?

According to Carrier, UK consumers only pay a flat rate of 3 pounds a bundle of Khat while others pay more/less depending on quality/origin etc. Since the value and quality of Khat consumption can be linked to knowledge discrepancy amongst consumers. Why isn’t the price be as reflective of that?

 

 

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Comments
  1. elyssamayer says:

    I think that it is interesting you posing the question of whether Khat chewing is part of the history even if it is only the “recent history”. I do not agree that the memory of this tradition is a “false memory”, since culture is always evolving and is not a stangnant concept. Rather, it is the people who define what their culture is and these definitions are always changing, especially when applied to different places and contexts. The argument that Klein is making that Khat chewing is only a recent cultural phenomenon among Somalis does not mean that it is not significant and authentic. As we have discussed, a practice or an object does not have to be steeped in antiquity to be authentically ‘cultural’.

  2. innocentk says:

    According to Carrier, UK consumers only pay a flat rate of 3 pounds a bundle of Khat while others pay more/less depending on quality/origin etc. Since the value and quality of Khat consumption can be linked to knowledge discrepancy amongst consumers. Why isn’t the price be as reflective of that?
    I think that Carrier was suggesting that valuation of Khat in the United Kingdom is more so a reflection of how fresh the bundles are, and less about the quality of the Khat itself. Therefore, the prices reflect different standards of criteria in the UK as opposed to its consumption in Kenya.

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