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Islam and Ethnicity in Northern Kenya and Southern Ethiopia

Islam and Ethnicity in Northern Kenya and Southern Ethiopia

Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Islam and Ethnicity in Northern Kenya and Southern Ethiopia
    Book Description:

    The recent ethnic violence in Kenya has been preceded by a process of territorialization and politicization of ethnicity. This study examines a marginalized part of Kenya, the semi-arid north inhabited by pastoralists of three language groups - speakers of Oromo, Somali, and Rendille. It spans different periods of time, from early processes of ethnic differentiation between groups, through the colonial period when differences were reflected in administrative policies, to recent times, when global minority discourses, particularly those related to Islam, are tapped by local political agents and ethnic entrepreneurs. A companion volume to Pastoralism and Politics in Northern Kenya and Southern Ethiopia, this book is based on over thirty-four years of field research and synthesizes findings from history and political anthropology. Günther Schlee is director of the Department of 'Integration and Conflict', Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle, Germany; Abdullahi Shongolo is an independent scholar based in Kenya.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-215-0
    Subjects: Anthropology, Religion, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Maps, Figures and Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    Between two East African Highlands, the Ethiopian plateau to the north and Mt. Kenya to the south, there is a vast arid and semi-arid lowland, which, to the east, stretches into Somalia and down to the coast of the Indian Ocean. It comprises the larger part of Kenya and a substantial part of Ethiopia along its southern fringes. Most of this land is used by nomadic pastoralists, and only pockets of it are suitable for cattle. The rest is pasture for camels, sheep and goats.

    Without wishing to revise political maps (there are many good reasons against such revisions) one...

  6. 1 Pax Borana
    (pp. 19-38)

    There is a progression of tales widespread in the lowlands of northern Kenya and the Horn, variously known by its Somali name as kedi guur, the time of migrations or, by the Gabra, gaaf Iris, the time when people went to Iris. These tales describe how, in what must have been the sixteenth century, people fled from the Boran while others remained behind, or how treks of migrating nomads got cut into two by emerging or re-emerging bodies of water (the Moses motif). These stories refer to the ethnogenesis of the modern ethnic groups out of the earlier Proto-Rendille-Somali (PRS)...

  7. 2 Non-Proto-Rendille-Somali Elements of Modern Ethnic Groups
    (pp. 39-70)

    The term ‘non-Proto-Rendille-Somali elements’ can have a variety of meanings. In the case of the killer complex, which is shared by all Proto-Rendille-Somali (PRS)-derived ethnic cultures, it means ‘not particularly PRS’, because it has a much wider distribution in the area. The same applies to the subject of the section below, the calendric cycles of seven. These are shared by all ex-PRS groups and distinguish them from some of their neighbours but, of course, they have a much wider distribution. There is no need to tell an English-speaking audience that in the European cultures, among others, we also find weeks...

  8. 3 Modern Trends
    (pp. 71-110)

    In its mainstream varieties, Islam, or Sunni Islam at least, presents itself as a religion which does not strive for any unusual states of consciousness, one eminently practicable for those with no more than average religious gifts. Its practice consists in the fulfilment of five central duties: the most important one is the ritual prayer (salaat), which must be performed five times a day, and is characterized by set sequences of movements and synchronized text elements. In carrying out these prayers, correct performance is all-important. Directly afterwards or at other times, one may also address freely-formulated prayers to God, but...

  9. 4 Ecology and Politics
    (pp. 111-158)

    Wajir District was delineated as an administrative unit by the British.¹ Its boundaries, although they were meant to stabilize the ethnic distributions which were found at a given moment – the time colonial rule was established – do not reflect earlier or later ethnic or cultural boundaries nor do they comprise a viable economic or ecological unit. Human and livestock populations have always moved across these boundaries, no matter how hard administrations tried to prevent them from doing so, because the scarce and irregular distribution of the resources which they need for their survival dictates a wide ranging form of mobility.


  10. 5 The Impact of War on Ethnic and Religious Identification in Southern Ethiopia in the early 1990s
    (pp. 159-170)

    After the fall of the Mengistu regime in 1991 the extreme south of Ethiopia first went through a period of relative peace in spite, or because of, the total absence of state institutions. The structures of local societies, among them the gada or generation set system, and the local forms of food production appeared to be sufficient for the needs of the local population. Then a variety of parties and liberation fronts started to compete for the control of state institutions which were expected to reappear. This led to a local war in which group identities were redrawn to fit...

  11. References
    (pp. 171-178)
  12. Index
    (pp. 179-185)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 186-188)