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Title: Ilng'wesi Maasai : livelihoods and moral identity in northern Laikipia, Kenya
Author: Shaughnessy, Sipke Fergal Brahms
ISNI:       0000 0004 7968 5283
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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Recent literature on pastoralism tends to either portray it as a largely maladaptive practice on the brink of collapse, or as a highly adaptive set of practices that enable resilience in the face of change and uncertainty. This dissertation seeks to find a solution to this impasse and contribute to debates about pastoral communities through a historical and ethnographic study of the Ilng'wesi Maasai. Ilng'wesi today self-identify as pastoralists. They once formed part of the Ilaikipiak alliance in the mid-nineteenth century, before being defeated by another Maasai section and fleeing to the forests of Mt Kenya, where they spent half a century dependent on foraging, ivory trading and livestock herding labour. Today, they live in more or less the same location, where they practice pastoralism, as well as engaging in paid labour and sand harvesting. Their history offers an excellent opportunity to study the extent to which pastoralism's role as a socio-moral practice and a focal point of identity endures through material, political and economic change. In giving an account of their history, the dissertation attempts to balance the conventional focus in pastoralist studies on material and technical practices and livelihoods with a close examination of emic processes of meaning-making, moral understanding and identity formation. In particular, it explores how Ilng'wesi themselves link their identities with livelihood practices, and how a close identification with pastoralism - often expressed in both moral and ethnic terms - has shaped pastoral livelihoods and is likely to shape them in the future. It does so through the concept of 'moral identity', which builds on and adapts John Lonsdale's account of moral ethnicity. The dissertation uses historical and ethnographic insights to substantiate this concept in relation to Iln'gwesi livelihoods and identity. This is carried out through four empirical chapters: one on Ilng'wesi livelihood transitions between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and possible explanations for these transitions; one on the impact of colonial rule on Ilng'wesi moral identity; one on use of the vernacular of moral identity in evaluating political candidates during the 2017 general election; and one on the changing cattle rustling practices of Ilng'wesi youth.
Supervisor: Watson, Liz ; Sandbrook, Chris Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council ; University of Cambridge
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Maasai ; history ; ethnography ; Kenya ; rural livelihoods ; pastoralism ; identity ; morality ; cattle rustling ; elections ; politics ; moral identity ; colonialism ; development ; resilience ; conservation ; Laikipia ; Mukogodo ; Ilng'wesi