From Mukogodo To Maasai

Ethnicity and Cultural Change in Kenya


Lee Cronk

First Edition • August 1, 2004 • 192 pages


Print ISBN: 9780813340944 • $36.00 USD$53.99 CAN

Ebook ISBN: 9780786729937 • $22.99 USD$26.99 CAN

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Can one change one’s ethnicity? Can an entire ethnic group change its ethnicity? This book focuses on the strategic manipulation of ethnic identity by the Mukogodo of Kenya. Until the 1920s and 1930s, the Mukogodo were Cushitic-speaking foragers (hunters, gatherers, and beekeepers). However, changes brought on by British colonial policies led them to move away from life as independent foragers and into the orbit of the high-status Maasai, whom they began to emulate. Today, the Mukogodo form the bottom rung of a regional socioeconomic ladder of Maa-speaking pastoralists. An interesting by-product of this sudden ethnic change has been to give Mukogodo women, who tend to marry up the ladder, better marital and reproductive prospects than Mukogodo men. Mukogodo parents have responded with an unusual pattern of favoring daughters over sons, though they emulate the Maasai by verbally expressing a preference for sons.

Lee Cronk is associate professor of anthropology at Rutgers University. He is the author of That Complex Whole (Westview Press, 1999).

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“This well-written ethnography of the Mukogodo of Kenya works on a number of levels. It is an engaging introduction to the field of cultural anthropology and to the basics of fieldwork. It touches on a number of important anthropological topics, including the nature of hunter-gatherer societies, definitions of ethnicity, and modernization and inequality in colonial and postcolonial societies….From Mukogodo to Maasai is accessibly written and jargon free, and it would make an excellent introductory text for undergraduates. It is of broader interest as well: Cronk takes the opportunity here to develop, in an unpolemical way, some important arguments about the relationship between culture and human behavior….From Mukogodo to Maasai is an excellent demonstration of the value of bringing rigorous methods and original thinking to bear on some of the perennial concerns of cultural anthropology. It deserves a wide readership.”
— American Anthropologist

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