Rethinking pastoralism : the case of the Masai

Creator: 

Drysdale, Brian Kane

Date: 

1982

Abstract: 

Anthropological discussions of pastoralists often rank groups along a continuum from partial to "pure" pastoralists. This approach is criticized and an ecological perspective in "defining" pastoralists is advocated.

Anthropologists have presented one group of pastoralists, the Masai, in a particularly coonfusing manner. On the one hand, the Masai are put forward as the ideal example of a herding society. But paradoxically, their reported exclusive subsistence on cattle has led researchers to single them out as unique and anomalous. This thesis argues that such a perception of the Masai is in error. It is a view that stems 1) fron a continuum approach to ranking pastoralists which thereby creates a need for a "pure" form, 2) fron a romanticized view of the Masai which neglects the roles in their society of trade, other livestock and women, 3) from a male bias among researchers, and 4) from a failure of researchers to distinguish between what informants say, and what actually exists.

Subject: 

Maasai (African People)

Language: 

English

Publisher: 

Carleton University

Thesis Degree Name: 

Master of Arts: 
M.A.

Thesis Degree Level: 

Master's

Thesis Degree Discipline: 

Anthropology

Parent Collection: 

Theses and Dissertations

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