Being Maasai, Becoming Indigenous

Being Maasai, Becoming Indigenous

Postcolonial Politics in a Neoliberal World
Dorothy L. Hodgson
Distribution: World
Publication date: 04/21/2011
Format: Hardback 10 b&w illus., 1 map
ISBN: 978-0-253-35620-8
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Honorable Mention, 2012 American Ethnological Society Senior Book Prize competition

What happens to marginalized groups from Africa when they ally with the indigenous peoples’ movement? Who claims to be indigenous and why? Dorothy L. Hodgson explores how indigenous identity, both in concept and in practice, plays out in the context of economic liberalization, transnational capitalism, state restructuring, and political democratization. Hodgson brings her long experience with Maasai to her understanding of the shifting contours of their contemporary struggles for recognition, representation, rights, and resources. Being Maasai, Becoming Indigenous is a deep and sensitive reflection on the possibilities and limits of transnational advocacy and the dilemmas of political action, civil society, and change in Maasai communities.

Author Bio

Dorothy L. Hodgson is Professor and Chair of Anthropology at Rutgers University, where she is affiliated with the Center for African Studies and the Women's and Gender Studies Department. She is author of Once Intrepid Warriors (IUP, 2001) and The Church of Women (IUP, 2005).


“Captures with detail and fidelity the historically important story of the evolution of Tanzanian Maasai internal politics and the emergence of local heroes willing and able to exercise a new form of leadership in a context of political repression.”
 — John G. Galaty, McGill University

“The most comprehensive study of local NGOs and perhaps the only genuine ethnography of African (or other) 'indigenous' rights organizations.”
 — Elliot Fratkin, Smith College

“For readers interested in NGO politics, sub-Saharan Africa, indigenous movement, neo-liberalism, and gender studies, among others.”
 — Christine Walley, MIT

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Table of Contents

List of Key Organizations and Documents

Introduction: Positionings--The Cultural Politics of Representation, Recognition, Resources, and Rights
1. Becoming Indigenous in Africa
2. Maasai NGOs, the Tanzanian State, and the Politics of Indigeneity
3. Precarious Alliances
4. Repositionings: From Indigenous Rights to Pastoralist Livelihoods
5. "If We Had Our Cows": Community Perspectives on the Challenge of Change
Conclusion: What Do You Want?