Everyone "knows" the Maasai as proud pastoralists who once dominated the Rift Valley from northern Kenya to central Tanzania.
But many people who identity themselves as Maasai, or who speak Maa, are not pastoralist at all, but farmers and hunters. Over time many different people have "become" something else. And what it means to be Maasai has changed radically over the past several centuries and is still changing today.
This collection by historians, archaeologists, anthropologists and linguists examines how Maasai identity has been created, evoked, contested, and transformed from the time of their earliest settlement in Kenya to the present, as well as raising questions about the nature of ethnicity generally.
Thomas Spear received his doctorate in history at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He has written histories of Zwangendaba's Ngoni, the Mijikenda (The Kaya Complex), eastern and central Kenya (Kenya's Past), and The Swahili (with Derek Nurse); and is currently completing a social and economic history of the Meru and Arusha peoples of Tanzania. Formerly at La Trobe University and Williams College, he is now professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.