Maasai marriage: a comparative study of Kenya and Tanzania

Ernestina E. Coast, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

This study compares and contrasts recent and contemporary nuptiality among Maasai men of Kenya and Tanzania. A variety of methodologies are used: individual questionnaire (n=2,394 men aged 20 and above); survey of ethnographic evidence; and participant observation. By comparing nuptiality between Kenyan and Tanzanian Maasai, this study examines marriage among the Maasai in particular and rural sub-Saharan African populations undergoing socio-economic change in general. Maasai men marry later, on average, than the national average in both Kenya and Tanzania, and the age at first marriage appears to be declining. Country-level differences in entry into and type of (monogamous or polygynous) marriage are described and explanations sought. The Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania are arguably the best-known pastoralist population in the world, and the study updates and reviews the body of evidence linking pastoralism with polygyny. Linkages between socio-economic divergence and nuptiality are identified, with reference to uptake of formal education.

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Presented in Poster Session 3