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Being Maasai, Becoming Indigenous

Postcolonial Politics in a Neoliberal World

Dorothy L. Hodgson

Publication Year: 2011

What happens to marginalized groups from Africa when they ally with the indigenous peoples' movement? Who claims to be indigenous and why? Dorothy L. Hodgson explores how indigenous identity, both in concept and in practice, plays out in the context of economic liberalization, transnational capitalism, state restructuring, and political democratization. Hodgson brings her long experience with Maasai to her understanding of the shifting contours of their contemporary struggles for recognition, representation, rights, and resources. Being Maasai, Becoming Indigenous is a deep and sensitive reflection on the possibilities and limits of transnational advocacy and the dilemmas of political action, civil society, and change in Maasai communities.

Published by: Indiana University Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. ix-xvi

Toward the end of 1987, as I was preparing to leave Tanzania after three years of working in community development for the local Catholic Diocese (now Archdiocese) of Arusha, I was invited to lunch by Lepilall ole Molloimet. At the time, Lepilall was in his second five-year term as the member of Parliament for Monduli District...

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pp. xvii-xix

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Introduction: Positionings—The Cultural Politics of Representation, Recognition, Resources, and Rights

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pp. 1-24

Long-marginalized peoples in Africa and elsewhere today confront a radically restructured political field with new opportunities and constraints for political action. Decades after independence and the end of apartheid, most postcolonial states have now withdrawn from their exuberant developmentalist aspirations, coaxed and coerced by the demands of international capital, the United States and its allies...

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1. Becoming Indigenous in Africa

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pp. 25-62

On August 3rd, 1989, Moringe ole Parkipuny, long-time Maasai activist and former member of the Tanzanian Parliament, addressed the sixth session of the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations (UN Working Group) in Geneva, Switzerland. After noting that this was a “historic moment,” since he and a Hadza man...

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2. Maasai NGOs, the Tanzanian State, and the Politics of Indigeneity

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pp. 63-104

Shortly after his trip to Geneva in 1989, Parkipuny and seven other Maasai men founded one of the first Maasai nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Tanzania, called Korongoro Integrated People Oriented to Conservation, or KIPOC, which also means “we shall recover” in Maa. These men clearly recognized the tensions between international recognition of indigenous peoples and state hostility toward the relevance of the concept...

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3. Precarious Alliances

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pp. 105-156

Maasai, like other groups in Africa marked by distinctions of culture, language, and livelihood, had a long history of challenging the injustices and disparaging stereotypes perpetrated on them by first the colonial and later the postcolonial nation-state...

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4. Repositionings: From Indigenous Rights to Pastoralist Livelihoods

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pp. 157-180

While the involvement of Maasai activists with the international indigenous rights movement in the 1990s was tremendously successful in terms of increasing their international visibility and attracting donor funding, it backfired with regard to their relationship with the Tanzanian state. Like leaders in most African states...

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5. “If We Had Our Cows”: Community Perspectives on the Challenge of Change

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pp. 181-210

So, more than twenty years later, what has the development of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), community-based organizations (CBOs) and, now, civil society organizations (CSOs) meant for the everyday lives of pastoralists, especially Maasai men and women? Has the decision of Maasai organizations to reposition their struggles from discourses of indigenous rights to pastoralist livelihoods, from international...

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Conclusion: What Do You Want?

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pp. 211-216

One day in 2006 a prominent Maasai activist told me a story about a recent meeting that he had had with the U.S. ambassador to Tanzania. After my friend made a long presentation about the struggles of pastoralist organizations and activists to retain their land and protect their livelihoods and the anti-pastoralist bias of most government policies and practices...


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pp. 217-232


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pp. 233-254


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pp. 255-265

E-ISBN-13: 9780253000910
E-ISBN-10: 0253000912
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253356208

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 10 b&w illus., 1 map
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 753562133
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Being Maasai, Becoming Indigenous

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Maasai (African people) -- Tanzania -- Politics and government.
  • Indigenous peoples -- Africa -- Politics and government.
  • Indigenous peoples -- Tanzania -- Politics and government.
  • Identity politics -- Africa.
  • Identity politics -- Tanzania.
  • Non-governmental organizations -- Political aspects -- Africa.
  • Non-governmental organizations -- Political aspects -- Tanzania.
  • Africa -- Social conditions -- 1960-.
  • Tanzania -- Social conditions -- 1964-.
  • Neoliberalism -- Africa -- Social aspects.
  • Neoliberalism -- Tanzania -- Social aspects.
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