What the beer shows

Exploring ritual and ontology in Kilimanjaro

by Knut Christian Myhre

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Anthropology's recent turn to ontology extends a trajectory of rethinking established analytical domains, such as kinship, politics, and ritual. I reassess ritual by exploring the concept of “showing” among Chagga-speaking people of Rombo District, in Tanzania's Kilimanjaro Region, where substances such as eleusine (finger millet), entrails, milk, and beer have the capacity to reveal the past and point to the future. Through this case, I consider the analytical limitations of notions such as “interpretation,” “symbol,” and “signification” as I investigate how “showing” and the substances it involves acquire a conceptual character and the capacity to enunciate Deleuzian “events.” “Showing” is thus revealed as a moment that posits and creates concepts, a revelation that transforms and reorients anthropological notions of ritual.