The shrinking cultural and political space of East African pastoral societies

TitleThe shrinking cultural and political space of East African pastoral societies
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1997
AuthorsG.J. Abbink
Secondary TitleNordic journal of African studies
Pagination1 - 17
Date Published1997///
PublisherNordic Association of African Studies
Publication Languageeng
KeywordsAfrica, Boran, Ethiopia, identity, Kenya, mobility, Nuer, pastoralists, social structure, southern ethiopia, Sudan, Suri

The relation of pastoral societies with the 'outside world' has proved to be one of structural deterioration. This poses questions as to the political space remaining for these societies within the State arenas to which they nominally belong and the nature of their ethnoreligious identities. The pastoral societies of East Africa, while varied in nature and social organization, still show some common characteristics with regard to religion and political system. The author argues that the principles of clan segmentation, age-group structure, the ritual-cyclical ordering of community life, and decentralized, regionally exercised power will remain more important organizing elements for pastoral societies than purely ideological-religious factors. This is a result of certain macroconditions such as their necessary confinement to marginal areas, their geographical mobility, and their lack of integration into the wider State society in terms of literacy, economic surplus extraction, social mobility, or political representation. The author looks at the 'strategies' of various agropastoral groups in terms of religious response and political action within these macroconditions. He uses the examples of the Boran in Ethiopia and Kenya, the Nuer in Sudan and Ethiopia, and the Surma of southern Ethiopia. Bibliogr., notes, ref

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