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The Maasai's New Clothes: A Developmentalist Modernity and Its Exclusions

"Operation Dress-Up," a late 1960s campaign initiated by the Tanzanian state to induce the Maasai to abandon their traditional mode of dress, opens a window on a specific articulation in its historical context of "development." The analysis draws on articles, letters to the editor, and politicians' statements printed in the Tanzanian press to portray how sections of Tanzanian society thought about the Maasai, development, tradition, modernity, and the nation. The article shows how, under the banner of "development," cast as value-neutral and nonpartisan, Operation Dress-Up pursued what must always be a particular and therefore partisan vision of "modern man." Special attention is paid to how the discourses through which the campaign was articulated rendered disagreement with its goals hard to imagine, and even harder to recognize as legitimate.