Society for Urban, National and Transnational/Global Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
I first arrived in Mwanza, Tanzania’s second largest city in 2001 as a master’s student taking a weekend break from volunteering with/studying a rural health and development non-governmental organization. More recently – in 2018 and 2016 – I returned as a professor facilitating three week programs for Mercer University’s international service-learning program. In the intervening years, I conducted long-term and short-term solo fieldwork in Mwanza on witchcraft beliefs and anti-witchcraft practices with attention to the ways that Tanzanian national politics intersect with and transform the practices of traditional healers and religious practitioners. Over these two decades and while participating in these diverse forms of engagement, I have watched the city grow from a dusty fishing and mining town to an infrastructurally-rich city, observing how visual markers of “economic development” – roads, covered sewers, public transportation, a shopping mall, and luxury hotels – have changed the contours of the landscape and the ethnic composition of the city.
In this paper, I use impressions, observation, imagery, casual conversations, and authoethnography to reflect on Mwanza’s spatial and social changes wrought by time and national and local development projects. I analyze my own circular positionality from eager volunteer to faculty member working to teach and practice collaborative development in lieu of “white saviorism.” In doing so, I offer an experimental ethnography of space and self and argue that anthropological reflections on punctuated field research can offer insights into collaboration, struggle, and change.