Burying SM Paper
April 17, 2011
Death. Death is an inevitable occurrence in the life cycle of the human race that is dealt with in numerous different ways. Culture. Cultures are so numerous and varying that it is almost impossible to compare the small nuances that make them unique. Death and culture truly share a major thing in common, as they coincide harmoniously with such questions as “How is death handled?” and “What happens next?” As human beings, it is certainly possible to only look at the perspective of death that our particular culture is familiar with, and to let that obscure the views of others around the world. In Africa, death is a little more complicated. ...view middle of the document...
Shortly after SM’s death, the two tribes were then involved in a struggle as to where his remains where to be buried, and a final resting place to be selected. There are two types of pluralism, either normative or legal. In the case here with Mr. Otieno, both types of pluralism came into effect. Normative pluralism really draws upon the society or cultural normalcies that tend to constrict and limit deviation from these rules. Legal pluralism involves court proceedings that override the in-place cultural-state laws that deny individuals the common human right of choice (Twining, 2009). Clearly, with the American ideals of freedom and the choice to decide our own fates and the fates of our family members, it is logical to state that Mr. Otieno should have been granted the legal case to be buried at his farm as per the wishes of his wife Virginia.
In order for this famous case to be even relevant today, it is obviously so that it drew immense public spotlight back in 1986-1987 when the legal battle was still being enacted. To put the case into a more relevant example, the S.M. Otieno case in Kenya had as much public media exposure as the O.J. Simpson case did in the United States. With the entire world seemingly peering down upon the African nation, Kenya was forced to handle the brunt of the activist activity that took place during the trial. The fact that Kenya was a nation divided was evident, a land split between several different cultural rule-sets, whether it be the Luo, the Kikuyu, or any of the other factions or states of Kenya (Githongo, 2010). The face that these divisions are still evident today proves that Kenya has had a past and will certainly have a future of strict normative pluralism, and the Otieno family was ravaged by these killer hidden codes.
Aside from all of the tribe-enacted rules, the court decision that finally decided that SM would follow his cultural customs and be buried in his hometown is shocking and utterly different from the freedom that we so covet in our society. The court claimed that as Mr. Otieno’s widow, Virginia had no right, under the customs of his tribe, to bury her husband at their farm outside of Nairobi (Reuters, 1987). No right. The tribal standards that bound this court decision nullified the natural right of a spouse to lay their significant other to rest. The article from the New York Times is really a great example of how widespread the news of this court battle spread, as people in America were left shocked at how such a simple human right had been snatched away due to long-outdated and un-solid rules set up by a lineage of tribal elders, members, and scholars. A wife was not allowed to bury her husband near their home, truly nullifying the closer that all people seek with the completion of burial and prayer.
History is of course very important in the course of the human race. The tribes of Kenya are built upon a rich history of past events, facts, “rules’, and...