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Pastoralism, Patriarchy and History: Changing Gender Relations among Maasai in Tanganyika, 1890-1940

Dorothy L. Hodgson
The Journal of African History
Vol. 40, No. 1 (1999), pp. 41-65
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/183394
Page Count: 25
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Pastoralism, Patriarchy and History: Changing Gender Relations among Maasai in Tanganyika, 1890-1940
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Abstract

This article explores the question of how pastoralist women come to be thought of as 'property', as 'possessions' 'owned' and controlled by men. Based on ethnohistorical research among Maasai in Tanzania, it demonstrates that contemporary gender relations among pastoralists, which many scholars have described as 'patriarchal' because of the political and economic domination of women by men are not inherent to pastoralism as a mode of production or ideology, but the result of a historically particular constellation of interactions involving both British and Maasai ideas and practices. The paper traces the emergence of 'patriarchy' among Maasai to two interrelated processes central to colonial state formation: the division of the complementary, interconnected responsibilities of men and women into the spatially separated, hierarchically gendered domains of 'domestic' and 'public'/'political', and the consolidation of male control over cattle through the commodification of livestock, monetization of the Maasai economy and targeting of men for livestock development interventions. Incorporation into the state system reinforced and enhanced male political authority and economic control by expanding the bases for political power and introducing new forms of property relations. Together, these processes shifted the contours of male-female power relations, resulting in the material disenfranchisement and conceptual devaluation of Maasai women as both women and pastoralists.

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