Being Maasai: Ethnicity And Identity In East Africa

Overview

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.

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“The editors have succeeded in assembling a remarkably integrated set of essays that is at once the most historical study of the Maasai yet published and a significant contribution to the growing volume of literature on ethnicity and identity in Africa.”

— Charles Ambler, University of Texas, El Paso

“This is a rich collection, crammed with information presented from several different analytical perspectives, and the pieces repeatedly offer valuable critical insights on each other.”

— Justin Willis, British Institute in Eastern Africa

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780821410455
  • Publisher: Ohio University Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/1993
  • Series: Eastern African Studies Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.76 (d)

Meet the Author

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.

Richard Waller lectures in the Department of African Linguistics at the University of Bayreuth, Germany, having received his doctorate from the University of Cologne and his Habilitation from Bayreuth. He has published widely on Nilotic, Maa, Khoisan, and Bantu language history, including The Eastern Nilotes (1982), Towards a Comparative Study of the Maa Dialects of Kenya and Tanzania (1988), Patterns of Language Knowledge and Language Use in Ngamiland, Botswana (1988), New Perspective on the Study of Khoisan (1988), and Die Khoe-Sprachen (in press).

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