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Embodying values and socio-religious difference: new markets of moral learning in Christian and Muslim schools in urban Tanzania

  • Hansjörg Dilger

Schools are institutionalized spaces of learning where children and young people are trained to become morally and ethically responsible members of society. Cultural ideas and values relating to friendship, social status and the nation, but also regarding one's own body, dress and emotional, verbal or gestural expression, are learned and performed by young people on an everyday basis. In this article, I build on ethnographic research on the ‘new’ generation of Christian and Muslim schools in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (2008–10), and I show that particular ways of learning and performing values can be understood as a form of embodied morality that orients students and teachers in relation to their educational and socio-urban environments. I argue that schools do not represent monolithic ethical or moral frameworks or that the actors in these educational settings learn or embody those frameworks in uniform ways. Rather, the processes of ethical and moral (self-)formation are often highly fragmented due to the diverse (social, religious and economic) backgrounds of students and teachers as well as the logics of class formation in the neoliberal market, which causes a high degree of fluctuation across the (equally fragmented) educational landscape of Dar es Salaam. I therefore define ‘embodied morality’ as a partial and discontinuous practice whose specific forms and experience are inseparably entwined with the specific ideological, social and institutional environments of particular educational settings.


Les écoles sont des espaces d'apprentissage institutionnalisés dans lesquels on forme les enfants et les jeunes à devenir des membres de la société moralement et éthiquement responsables. Les jeunes apprennent et exécutent au quotidien des idées et des valeurs culturelles liées à l'amitié, au statut social et à la nation, mais aussi concernant leur propre expression corporelle, vestimentaire, affective, verbale ou gestuelle. Dans cet article, l'auteur s'appuie sur sa recherche ethnographique sur la « nouvelle » génération d’écoles chrétiennes et musulmanes à Dar es Salam, en Tanzanie (2008 à 2010), pour montrer que l'on peut interpréter des modes particuliers d'apprentissage et d'exécution de valeurs comme une forme de moralité incarnée qui oriente les élèves et les enseignants selon leur environnement éducatif et socio-urbain. L'auteur soutient que les écoles ne représentent pas des cadres éthiques ou moraux monolithiques, ou que les acteurs de ces milieux éducatifs apprennent ou incarnent ces cadres de manière uniforme. En effet, les processus de formation (ou auto-formation) éthique et morale sont souvent fortement fragmentés en raison de la diversité des milieux (sociaux, religieux et économiques) des élèves et des enseignants, ainsi que de la logique de formation de classe dans le marché néolibéral qui crée de fortes variations dans le paysage éducatif (tout aussi fragmenté) de Dar es Salam. L'auteur définit par conséquent la « moralité incarnée » comme une pratique partielle et discontinue dont les formes et l'expérience spécifiques sont indissociables des environnements idéologiques, sociaux et institutionnels spécifiques des milieux éducatifs.

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