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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Enkurma Sikitoi: Commoditization, Drink, and Power among the Maasai
Author:Willis, JustinISNI
Periodical:International Journal of African Historical Studies
Geographic term:Kenya
dual economy
alcoholic beverages
History and Exploration
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Agriculture, Natural Resources and the Environment
Health and Nutrition
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/220345
Abstract:This article examines the recent history of alcohol sale among the Maasai of Kajiado District, Kenya, and argues that the situations in which alcohol becomes a commodity are contested through reference to historical precedent, and that commoditization does not lead to immediate vulgarization and ritual obsolescence. Alcohol is bought and sold among the Maasai now, but it still serves in ritual, just as it does in societies where commoditization of drink is perceived to have propelled a social crisis. Asked when the selling of homemade alcohol began, many people in Kajiado District refer to the famine of the yellow maize ('enkurma sikitoi') in 1960-1961. While the men drove their cattle further and further afield in search of grazing, the women left behind survived by making and selling an alcoholic beverage made from processed sugar or jaggery. Documentary evidence shows, however, that Maasai had apparently been making alcohol for sale for decades before 1961. This article argues that this apparent conflict - between oral history and documentary evidence - may be understood in terms of chronic tensions over the linkage between alcohol and power, which were related to wider arguments over resources and authority within Maasai society over the last century. The story of 'enkurma' serves to obscure both the individual detail of the past and the overall direction of historical change, which has been towards a chronic rather than acute loss of entitlements. Both men and women have some stake in this contingent, temporary compromise, which allows the continued ritual use of alcohol and maintains the vitality of claims to entitlements. Notes, ref.