1650 map entitled 'Regna Congo et Angola' by Joannes (Johan) Jansson - Janssonium

David Schoenbrun

The audience and workshop participants

KONGOKING : Workshops

15 March 2013: David Schoenbrun's lecture on the Bunyoro kingdom

Rich vernacular traditions about the aftermaths of the social trauma of a major famine, sometime in the 16th century in eastern Africa, narrate the founding of a new dynasty in Bunyoro, one of the region’s oldest monarchies. Scholars around the world have understood traditions about the founding of new dynasties as charters for the new political order. Whether traditions credit that order with the aura of antiquity or strengthen it by excluding social elements discordant with the new orchestrations of power, they are exercises in legitimation. When scholars recognize that such traditions were set in the aftermath of widespread violence, a spirit of mourning emerges in them. In what ways do spirits of mourning, joined to those of legitimation, shape traditions about the founding of a new dynasty by deftly inflecting the problem of accountability? In Bunyoro, traditions about its founder depict him as a barbarian cultural neophyte of fluctuating emotional stability. These unflattering and realistic representations of a founding dynast’s affective comportment were designed to appeal to the emotional repertoires in the different life experiences of audience members, enlisting their participation in the project of reviving sovereignty in the aftermaths of traumatic violence. Mourning and legitimation run through historical narratives initiating an aftermath to structural violence, revealing that loss and worry shape narratives of transformed sovereign authority, reviving it in the aftermaths of structural violence. Mourning lends emotional depth and counterpoint to matters of bureaucracy, economy, gender, and so forth, in crafting satisfying accounts of transformation and accountability in political life. That emotional depth, in turn, helps explain the durability of traditions.

Pdf file of David Schoenbrun's lecture abstract