We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Generations Past

Youth in East African History

Andrew Burton

Publication Year: 2010

Contemporary Africa is demographically characterized above all else by its youthfulness. In East Africa the median age of the population is now a striking 17.5 years, and more than 65 percent of the population is age 24 or under. This situation has attracted growing scholarly attention, resulting in an important and rapidly expanding literature on the position of youth in African societies.

While the scholarship examining the contemporary role of youth in African societies is rich and growing, the historical dimension has been largely neglected in the literature thus far. Generations Past seeks to address this gap through a wide-ranging selection of essays that covers an array of youth-related themes in historical perspective. Thirteen chapters explore the historical dimensions of youth in nineteenth-, twentieth-, and twenty-first–century Ugandan, Tanzanian, and Kenyan societies. Key themes running through the book include the analytical utility of youth as a social category; intergenerational relations and the passage of time; youth as a social and political problem; sex and gender roles among East African youth; and youth as historical agents of change. The strong list of contributors includes prominent scholars of the region, and the collection encompasses a good geographical spread of all three East African countries.

Published by: Ohio University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

pdf iconDownload PDF (185.7 KB)


pdf iconDownload PDF (121.1 KB)
pp. v-vi

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (134.0 KB)
pp. vii

This book has its origins in a multidisciplinary 2006 conference held in Nyeri, Kenya, titled Youth in Eastern Africa: Past and Present Perspectives. It was organized by the British Institute in Eastern Africa (BIEA) and the Institut Fran

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (241.9 KB)
pp. 1-24

Generation has long formed a key theme of Africanist scholarship. For much of the twentieth century anthropologists produced classic monographs on age-grades and age-sets in rural societies, frequently observing how formal rituals such as initiation and marriage mark the passages of the life cycle and endow Africans with status, control over resources, wisdom, and civic...

read more

1. Arms and Adolescence

pdf iconDownload PDF (231.4 KB)
pp. 25-46

In this essay I explore the impact of warfare on eastern African male youth, as well as their involvement in various forms of conflict, during the nineteenth century. A selective approach has been adopted in defining “eastern Africa”: the paper is focused largely on lacustrine central eastern Africa...

read more

2. Youth, Cattle Raiding, and Generational Conflict along the Kenya-Uganda Border

pdf iconDownload PDF (200.5 KB)
pp. 47-67

Most descriptions of modern cattle raids mention the involvement of young men. Writers suggest that “the possession of guns has enabled some people to draft the lumpenized youth into their private armies for cattle-raiding expeditions.”1 The youth, it is assumed, have been empowered by...

read more

3. Setting a Moral Economy in Motion

pdf iconDownload PDF (205.7 KB)
pp. 68-83

The concept of moral economy has never been far from the view of historians of Tanzania.1 Yet, the most prominent approach to moral economy in Tanzanian studies has been neglected over the past two decades. After generating intense debate in the first half of the 1980s, Goren Hyden’s concept of...

read more

4. Colonial Youth at the Crossroads

pdf iconDownload PDF (262.2 KB)
pp. 84-107

Jean and John Comaroff define youth as a sociocultural category constructed in the context of modernity.1 As Foucault had earlier observed, it is in fact in modern nation-states that the gap between childhood and adulthood is most emphasized and where youth can be addressed as an autonomous category...

read more

5. Raw Youth, School-Leavers, and the Emergence of Structural Unemployment in Late Colonial Urban Tanganyika

pdf iconDownload PDF (262.5 KB)
pp. 108-134

In 1958 an article in the Tanganyika Sunday News singled out “workless youth” as a “problem of our future.”1 Its author showed great prescience in identifying joblessness among young Africans as an imminent threat. This was a pivotal time for urban economies throughout the region, when a problem of structural unemployment first emerged, which intensified after independence and...

read more

6. Bad Boys in the Bush?

pdf iconDownload PDF (313.3 KB)
pp. 135-174

in mid-1918, the military authorities in Nairobi finally decided to conscript Maasai murran (warriors), as the Officer in Charge of the Masai Reserve (OiC) had long been urging.1 Plans were made to take 250 for the Kings African Rifles (KAR) and 50 for the police. However, when recruiting began in Narok at...

read more

7. Youth, Elders, and Metaphors of Political Change in Late Colonial Buganda

pdf iconDownload PDF (227.1 KB)
pp. 175-195

“The young African,” argued Robert Kakembo in a 1946 pamphlet calling for sweeping changes in Uganda, “will no longer tolerate the old out-of-date chiefs. They must give room to the young generation.”1 In his progressive vision of Uganda’s politics, modern “youth,” qualified in new ways, were...

read more

8. Youth, the TANU Youth League, and Managed Vigilantism in Dar es Salaam, 1925–73

pdf iconDownload PDF (249.3 KB)
pp. 196-220

...male youth in the political history of Dar es Salaam in particular and Tanza-nia in general. It demonstrates how colonial and postcolonial political authorities constructed and manipulated male youth, and how young men formed an increas-ingly powerful political force in their own right. The chapter also looks into the larger questions raised by the political history of youth, such as creating meaningful ...

read more

9. To Differentiate Rice from Grass

pdf iconDownload PDF (180.2 KB)
pp. 221-236

Understanding how Zanzibar’s revolutionary regime sought in the 1960s and 1970s to discipline youth helps scholars theorize the postcolonial state in Africa in new ways. Jean-François Bayart’s evocative, vegetal, “politics of the belly” serves as a reference to how political scientists in particular commonly describe African political life.1 Achille Mbembe characterizes the postcolonial...

read more

10. Premarital Sexuality in Great Lakes Africa, 1900–1980

pdf iconDownload PDF (248.1 KB)
pp. 237-261

the definition of youth is problematic. A liminal state, it is perhaps best understood by being contrasted with the life stage that follows it, adulthood. Adulthood itself, though, is not a concept with the same meaning in all places and at all times. And within any particular historical context, the process of social recognition of maturity might not occur at the same time as...

read more

11. “Ruined Lives”

pdf iconDownload PDF (268.4 KB)
pp. 262-278

HIV and AIDS remains one of the major challenges to human life in the world. Over the past twenty-two years HIV has infected more than 35 million people, killing millions and leaving 14 million children orphaned.1 In spite of all efforts to control the epidemic, the situation has been worsening; the...

read more

12. Protecting Young People

pdf iconDownload PDF (193.3 KB)
pp. 279-290

In June 2005 the government of Kenya announced that it intended to ban alcohol advertising from television and billboards. The announcement was explicitly linked to the dangers that such advertising posed to young people: the ban was intended to “protect young people from becoming hooked.”1...


pdf iconDownload PDF (133.6 KB)
pp. 291-292


pdf iconDownload PDF (180.3 KB)
pp. 293-301

E-ISBN-13: 9780821443439
Print-ISBN-13: 9780821419243

Page Count: 301
Publication Year: 2010

Research Areas


UPCC logo

Subject Headings

  • Africa, Eastern -- Social conditions.
  • Young men -- Africa, Eastern.
  • Intergenerational relations -- Africa, Eastern.
  • Social change -- Africa, Eastern.
  • Age groups -- Africa, Eastern.
  • Ethnology -- Africa, Eastern.
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access