Belief and Belonging: Identity and Religion in Northern Kenya

  • Mack, John (Principal Investigator)
  • Watson, Elizabeth (Co-Investigator)

Project Details


The Borana and Gabra pastoralists of the arid northern district of Marsabit were among the last people in Kenya to convert to Islam and Christianity. These new religions offered an apparent challenge to their traditional age-based ritual and belief system, and to the social identities which were underpinned by this system. This pilot project will explore the processes of conversion amongst these communities, and look at how new national identities and older ethnic identities, as well as gender relations, have been reshaped in the light of these contemporary processes; and will also seek to understand how dramatic changes in livelihood strategies as a result of violent conflict and changing demography have played a part in both conversion and the shifting pattern of ethnic and inter-ethnic relationships.
The project is multi-disciplinary and draws together scholars from a number of institutions in the UK and Kenya. Methodologically, it will focus on the investigation of perceptions of ritual space, text and objects. Through a combination of archaeological, anthropological, geographical and historical perspectives, the project will develop our understanding of the multiple and overlapping landscapes of belief and belonging in the area, exploring the extent of continuity, as well as change, in ideas of belief and belonging; and provide an insight into the relationship between ideas of belief and belonging and patterns of movement and livelihood strategies over the period from 1950 to the present.
Effective start/end date1/10/0731/01/09


  • Arts and Humanities Research Council: £55,751.00