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Title: Rural, remote, 'raiya' : social differentiation on the pastoralist periphery in Turkana, Kenya
Author: Rodgers, Cory
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2018
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In places formerly characterised by the economic and political predominance of mobile pastoralists, the rise of urban centres can dramatically alter the social landscape, with both positive and negative consequences for herders. While many studies describe the processes (e.g. sedentarisation and commercialisation) affecting pastoralism as a livelihood system, there are fewer accounts of the divisions that emerge when these effects are unequally experienced by different people within that system. Through an ethnography of development- induced social differentiation in Turkana, Kenya, this study examines the ways that herders perceive, make sense of, and respond to their changing circumstances. Many herders in contemporary Turkana refer to themselves as raiya, a word derived from the Swahili term for 'civilian' or 'subject' but reworked through historical encounters between rural Turkana-speaking communities and various agents of "development", including missionaries, international agencies, and the state. This term takes on different connotations for differently-positioned speakers: Formally educated urbanites describe the raiya as rural people who "lack" education, development, and global awareness, while rural herders use the term with pride to describe their toughness, pastoral knowledge, and adherence to customary practices (ng'italio). To explore the meaning of raiya - as both an exonym applied by urban dwellers and an endonym adopted by the rural periphery - and its implications for social stratification, I conducted 18 months of fieldwork between 2015 and 2016 along a rural-to- urban transect. Using the concept of the cultural archive (James 1988), I discuss how herders draw on notions from an idealised nomadic past to distinguish themselves as raiya. This is manifested in explicit descriptions of "tradition" (etal), but also in everyday performances of style, skilled livelihood practices, and attunement to the remote landscapes in the borderlands where they live. However, while the notion of raiya makes explicit reference to conventional binaries - distinguishing rural/traditional/non-literate herders from their urban/modern/educated counterparts - I argue that the flexibility of its more implicit meanings has made it useful in negotiating relationships across these dichotomies. This is especially important as herders manage kinship obligations and political relations with educated elites. The future prospects for herders in Turkana are not a matter of their persistence as pastoralists or their adherence to conservative tradition, but the particular ways that they re-articulate kinship and political relations with elites, who are increasingly untethered from the pastoralist moral economy as urban opportunities reduce their reliance on the family herd.
Supervisor: Hsu, Elisabeth ; Turton, David Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Anthropology ; Social Anthropology ; Development Anthropology