Cawa Issa: Khat, preserving cultural identity?

Posted: February 29, 2012 by awa2i in Uncategorized

Carrier’s article examines the consumption and role of khat (mirra) in Kenya. The ways in which he examined east Africa’s relationship with the object culturally and economically, help shed light on how the object’s significance varies across different audiences.  He discusses the popularity and cultural importance of khat in a particular Kenyan community (town of Isilo) and how many different versions of the substance are consumed and used for experiment. Despite the fact that the stimulant is closely associated with Yemen, it has also has been in transit through other cultures as a vital social institution.

Moreover, in addition to its cultural familiarity in East African and Middle Eastern countries, khat has preserved its role in many of these Diasporas. Carrier briefly explains the fondness and lucrative trading of the substance in East African Diaspora communities, such as the Ethiopian and Somlian Diasporas. However the efficiency of the networks and mobility of the product, bring about questions of legality which way heavily on its consumption.

In many of the diasporas in which khat is consumed, the united states, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, khat is legal only in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. Thus Klein, the author of khat the creation of tradition in the Somali Diaspora, constructs a well-rounded argument by brining about the negative and positive outlooks of khat in Somali diasporic communities. At the onset of his article he analysis through informants from the Somali diasporic communities, two particular views on the consumption of khat. One view being that khat has essentially maintained cultural identity in the Somali Diaspora, the other being that it cripples constructive activity and makes its consumers susceptible to a variety of health issues. These two apposing views were interesting, in that one view questions the perception of khat, as maintaining cultural tradition. For an example, Klein makes the case that khat was not always apart of these cultures and was not consumed prior to the early 1970’s. In light of these facts, its appropriate to consider, what makes an object cultural, does it have to be accepted by all Somalis at large? Is consensus on the consumption of khat important? The division on the status of khat and the fact that has as times been rendered problematic for the progress of Somali communities, evokes questions on whether or not the object is worthy of being connected to Somali diasporic communities.

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