Schlee, Gunther and Abdullahi A. Shongolo, Pastoralism & Politics in Northern Kenya & Southern Ethiopia.

Author:Simpson, George L., Jr.
Position:Book review
 
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Schlee, Gunther and Abdullahi A. Shongolo, Pastoralism & Politics in Northern Kenya & Southern Ethiopia. (Suffolk, UK: James Currey, 2012), pp. ix, 179.

This companion volume to Islam

In the book's clear and cogent introduction, the study's lead author, Gunther Schlee, the Director of the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle, Germany compellingly presents an interpretation, which sees pastoralism as an adaptive and innovative specialization rather than an anachronistic means of production. Schlee is persuasively bullish on the herders' future prospects, from both a historical and economic perspective. Indeed, this chapter represents the state of current scholarship by one of the world's leading authorities on pastoralism. Besides his extensive knowledge of the region, Schlee's experience with pastoralism reaches from the reindeer herders in the artic tundra of northern Russia to nomadic peoples in Central Asia and cattle herders in southern Africa. One would search in vain for a better understanding of this complex subject.

Another of the strengths of this monograph comes from its extensive and intensive research. One gains a sense for the depth of the authors' research by consulting its excellent, up-to-date bibliography, which reflects scholarship in several languages and which contains the essential readings on nomadism and pastoralism. Likewise, Schlee's more than three decades of fieldwork and Kenyan scholar Abdullahi Shongolo's extensive field notes are complemented by critical assessments of accounts from the Kenyan newspapers, the Daily Nation and East African Standard. The authors also present extended quotes that give voice to their African subjects themselves in their original languages with translations. Doing so allows the more general reader to gain a more subtle sense of the original ideas being expressed and the specialist to have a precise record with which to consult for future research.

The heart of this work has to do with what the process that the authors refer to as the territorialization of ethnicity. According to Schlee and Shongolo, this phenomenon occurred especially from about the time of the accession of Daniel arap Moi to Kenya's presidency in 1978 through the end of the first term of Mwai Kibaki in 2007. While it may be difficult for the uninitiated reader to grasp the vagaries of local and regional politics in this era, the authors make the endeavor worthwhile as they address some of the...

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