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Zeruzeru and Diverse Shades of Difference. A Study of People with Albinism in Tanzania

A young woman in Ilula - UTSS poster.

A young woman in Ilula - UTSS poster.
Bildquelle: Giorgio Brocco.

Giorgio Brocco


Albinism is a congenital condition present within all ethnic groups that attracted lots of attention in Tanzania, since around 2008, when media debates and worldwide newspapers have brought to world prominence the outbreak of alleged “albino killings” in the country’s northwest mining frontier. Even though there was such an outcry regarding this phenomenon in Tanzania, little attention has been paid to life experiences and subjectivity of people with albinism, local explanations about the congenital condition and the ways awareness of what albinism is, within the local population, has been modified by international and national media actions and debates.

The present ethnographic research intends to analyze life situations, everyday experiences, and subjectivity of people with albinism in Tanzania. The primary goal of the study will be pursued through an investigation which will deal with the social, political and moral discourses and ideas about albinism, as they are articulated by diverse actors between local and global settings. The main objectives of the present research will be: (1) to discover the social position of people with albinism within their families and communities; (2) to understand which moral terms members of the communities use in order to conceptualize and explain the social status of people with albinism; (3) to examine what it means to be living as an individual with albinism as an everyday experience and the ways through which people with albinism construct their ‘self’ and subjectivity as a reaction to their social and political condition; (4) to understand in which way local discourses and practices concerning the inheritance of albinism have been becoming interconnected to (bio-)medical explanations for the congenital condition and, furthermore, which gender discourses are active within these explanations; (5) to analyze in which ways the Tanzanian government and international humanitarian organizations and NGOs on behalf of people with albinism try to influence local perception and practices related to albinism e.g. through media and policies debates.

Funding: Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD) Grant for Doctoral Students and Young Researchers (2014-2018)

First Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Hansjörg Dilger; Second Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Olaf Zenker

SFB 1171 Affective Societies
Berlin Southern Theory Lecture