Monday, April 09, 2007

Yet another picturesque landscape shot. I know that after awhile, these all start to look the same, but if you look closely you'll see the rainbow arching across the sky. We're just getting into the rainy season, which is playing hell with the roads (shock-surprise!), but which is providing some beautiful views when 4 o'clock rain showers clear into 5:30 rainbows.

What I was up to over the last ten days was a census of all of the "inkangitie" or homesteads in two of the administrative sublocations in my study area; I'm going to add a third in the next few weeks. An "enkang" (singular) is a circular enclosure containing several usually households; usually several wives of the same man, but occasionally also married sons, brothers, or friends of the head of the enkang. I decided to do the census because it seemed like a lot of political authority in the pastoralist communities I've been studying (mostly Maasai, but also Samburu, Somali, and Turkana) operates at the level of very small groupings of 4-8 inkangitie- essentially small "neighborhoods" within administrative sublocations. That is rather than being organized clearly into large tribes or villages headed by chiefs, the relevant authority seems to be vested in the elders living in a particular "neighborhod". In order to start documenting how governance works at the neighborhood level, I decided to first map out all of the neighborhoods in three sublocations (two which are two different Maasai communities, the Mumonyot and Digiri, and one which is predominantly Samburu). Using GPS readers, my enumerators and I marked the location of each and every Enkang in the first two areas (146 enkang in all) and recorded a range of basic descriptive measures for each homestead including clan, subclan, number of wives, number of children, etc. We also collected questions that were designed to give a snapshot of political leadership in each neighborhood. My intuition from the first set of interviews with the old folks was that there is variation between Maasai and Samburu communities in how neighborhoods are composed and in what rules govern social interactions; this census data should allow me to take a first swing at starting to test this hunch more systematically.

Luckily, this broken down vehicle wasn't mine... in order to try to avoid the transportation mishaps that have defined the first portion of my trip, I sprung for a 6 day rental of a pretty nice land cruiser; it fit my research team comfortably, dealt with the shitty roads admirably, and didn't break down even once. Also it had no sheep inside it, which is always a plus.


stay tuned for complete wedding and circumcision coverage, as well as a special photo feature called "the puppies of Maasailand".

Sunday, April 08, 2007

I'm Gonna Tell it Like a Comeback Story

I spent the last 10 days out in the field doing a household census of two administrative sublocations, after which I attended a traditional Maasai wedding and a circumcision ceremony for two teenage boys. There was much singing and dancing, as well as the eating of fried meat soaked in blood. I hope to post more pictures and stories before I head back into the field on Wednesday or so. Until then, I leave you with this:

The other day I met a man called "Kidole Sita", which means "Six Fingers" in Swahili. It is not an ironic nickname.