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Opposing Streams and the Gerontocratic Ladder: Two Models of Age Organisation in East Africa

Paul Spencer
Man
New Series, Vol. 11, No. 2 (Jun., 1976), pp. 153-175
DOI: 10.2307/2800202
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2800202
Page Count: 23
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Opposing Streams and the Gerontocratic Ladder: Two Models of Age Organisation in East Africa
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Abstract

Ever since Evans-Pritchard's analysis of Nuer age-sets, there has been a tendency to present the age organisations of East Africa as coherent self-explanatory systems that at most contribute diffusely to the integration of the wider society by cutting across the divisive boundaries between lineages, villages, etc. Of the two models presented here, that of the Arusha age organisation is taken as a test case for this type of approach because of the wealth of illustration and insight provided by Philip Gulliver. This model is compared with an alternative approach adopted for the Samburu which has sought to explore a more specific and functional relationship between age organisation and the wider society. The essential question is not whether the two societies, both closely related to the Masai, are merely variants of one system, but whether the approaches are compatible or can sustained by the material available.

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