Outline: Maasai Identity

Yongho Kim
Anthro 258: African Societies
November 14, 2003

In my topic proposal, my research question has been this: How do the younger generations of Maasai view themselves [in the context of generational gap, education, “tradition”, tourism and authenticity] in relation to elders and the urban Kenyan society?

Based on readings, I have come to identify the self as a subject of tourism as an answer to the question. The perspectives about race and ethnicity brought on early by the British and subsequent waves of adventurous (later touristic) Europeans has had a major impact in the Maasai society. Economic needs make tourism hardly not an option for many Kenyans, including the Maasai. This perspective is continuously reinforced by the push of the government to foster the industry and the writings of highly educated Maasai people promoting “the tradition”, namely, the pastoralist way of life and preservation of Maasai culture.

The question still persists in the form of the how, having covered the what. What kind of reconciliation is achieved between the photographer and his or her touristic subject? Bruner observes that the Maasai appropriates in a sense the medium of tourism and translates previous forms of self-affirmation into the mass produced script of touristic experience.

I have not outlined the structure of the paper, but the main thesis will state Maasai’s identity as a tourist subject as a given (or else narrow the area of study to those involved in the tourism industry) and explore the particular instances of embodiment of archetypal relationships through tourism and theoretical approaches the ethnic identity rendered as touristic representation.


Main texts

Bruner, Edward. “The Maasai and the Lion King: authenticity, nationalism, and globalization in African tourism”, American Ethnologist, 28.4 (2001): 881-1009
Galaty, John. “’Being Maasai’, being ‘People-of-Cattle’: Ethnic Shifters in East Africa.”, American Ethnologist, 9.1 (1982): 1-20

Supporting readings

Bruner, Edward. “Abraham Lincoln as Authentic Reproduction: A critique of Postmodernism” American Anthropologist, 96.2 (1994): 397-415
Bruner, Edward M., and Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblet. “Maasai on the Lawn: Tourist Realism in East Africa”, Cultural Anthropology, 9.2 (1996): 435-70
Foottit, Claire. “Culture Tourism”, African Business, 206 (1996): 38
Lekuton, Joseph Lemasolai. Facing the Lion: growing up Maasai on the African Savanna. (Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2003)
Little, Peter. “Maasai identity on the periphery”, American Anthropologist, 100.2 (1998): 444-58
Phillips, Jacqueline and Navaz Bhavnagri. “The Maasai’s education and empowerment: challenges of a migrant lifestyle.”, Childhood Education, vol.78, 3 (Spring 2002): 140-47
Saitoti, Tepelit Ole. Maasai. (New York: H.N. Abrams, 1980)
Southall, Aidan. “The Illusion of Tribe”, Journal of Asian and African Studies 5, 1-2 (1970): 28-50

Materials yet to be read

Appiah, Kwame Anthony. “Topologies of Nativism”, In my Father’s House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992): 47-72
Michaels, Walter Ben. “Race into Culture: A Critical Genealogy of Cultural Identity”, Identities, ed. by Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995): 32-62
Mudimbe, V. Y. “Questions of Method”, The Invention of Africa: Gnosis, Philosophy, and the Order of Knowledge. (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1988): 24-43
Saitoti, Tepelit Ole. The worlds of a Maasai Warrior. (New York: Random House, 1986)
Spencer, Paul. “Becoming Maasai, Being in Time”, Being Maasai: Ethnicity and Identity in East Africa, ed. by Thomas Spear and Richard Waller. (London: James Currey, 1993): 140-56