Tanvi Kapoor

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

New York U.

Grant number

Gr. 10318

Approve Date

April 13, 2022

Project Title

Kapoor, Tanvi (New York U.) "A History of Waiting: Time, Politics, and Cosmology in Zanzibar (1950-Present)"

Questions of time, event, and historicity have long vexed anthropological theory, furthering disciplinary divides between anthropology and history. This dissertation project theoretically examines these temporal questions through an ethnographic history of waiting. Historians shun waiting as a non-event. Anthropologists conceptualize it primarily in terms of boredom, wastefulness, and a sense of limbo. Departing from these scholarly trends, this project approaches waiting as a historically-specific encounter with time as a structuring force of reality. Drawing on the shared insights in the anthropology and history of social life, religion, and health in Africa, it proposes that this encounter has cosmological, political, and ethical dimensions. As a cosmological praxis, waiting spurs the temporal imagination beyond the confines of the past, present, and future. As a political praxis, waiting creates volatility. As an ethical praxis, waiting transforms norms. For the past century, waiting has found a particularly acute and collective expression in the semi-autonomous, predominantly Muslim archipelago of Zanzibar in Tanzania. This project thus turns to Zanzibar to investigate the cosmological, political, and ethical dimensions of waiting historically, in the process charting an alternative history of the archipelago within living memory.