In this study I analyze a playful relationship which Zanzibaris label as 'utani'. Utani has among anthropologists been refered to as 'joking relationships'. In this study I analyze my particular ethnographic observation of utani into a sociocultural context.
There are few contemporary reports on utani. Joking relationships has mainly been studied within a structural functionalistic percpective, and these studies mostly took place in the post-colonial period. Consequently, when I wish to resume a classical anthropological debate, I have found it important to positionate my findings in relation to previous percpectives on the phenomena.
My approach to utani differs from previously approaches to joking relationships on especially two matters.
First and foremost, I focus on utani performed by women. Women were not parts of ethnographic reports until the seventies, and thus there are few reports on joking relationships as occuring among women. This study shows that joking relationships occurs in cross-sex relationships, between women, but also in women's encountering with tourists in the village.
Second, my focus differs from previously approaches, since I seek to explore the dynamics and the processual aspects of utani, and hence not only the functions of the phenomena. Previous theories on joking relationships have in general emphasized on the phenomena's ability to avoid ambiguous situations in people's everyday life. I show in this study that joking relationships among women in Nungwi deals with situations where significant norms and values collide with practice. Further on, I show that joking relationships deals with people's actual behavior either among villagers or between villagers and others, such as tourists. Finally, by approaching joking relationships as social processes, I explore the dynamics and the social changes that utani entail. Through the events of joking, women continuously reject and adjust notions of how people should behave.
This study also shows that utani not always is sucessfull, especially when utani is performed towards tourits. I therefore close this chapter by examining wheter the power of utani will change.
Thus, by anlaysing utani in relation to the concept of joking relationship, I wish in this study to resume a classical anthroplogical debate and give new meanings to our understandings of joking relationships as a phenomena.