Nilo-Ethiopian Studies No.22 (2017)

Nilo-Ethiopian Studies No.22 (2017)


This article examines how the Nuer people in post-independence South Sudan reinterpret their experiences through past prophecies or kuɔth (divinity), which supports the power of prophecies. The Nuer prophecies, which have been handed down through the generations, are deeply related to the ways that Nuer people cope with new situations such as civil war, development assistance, and national independence. Although most Nuer, including elders, do not know all prophecies, they are told among people based on their personal interests. By referring to two anthropologists, Evans-Pritchard and Lienhardt, this paper explores how the Nuer find their own experiences in the prophecies, focusing on three types of case studies: narratives of prophecy fulfillment; practices where a “church” worships a prophet; and a new prophet that emerged during the 2011 conflicts. These cases show that prophecies which come true and prophets are always judged by people finding an “active subject” (such as kuɔth, Deng, or their ancestors) around themselves or in specific events. Moreover, people who discuss the prophecies by scrutinizing their experiences in relation to active subjects and configurations of experiences start to realize a new realm of being, which can provide them with a way of shaping their own reality.

Keywords: prophecy, experience, kuɔth, Nuer, South Sudan


This article reconsiders the “structural problem” or “demographic contradiction” of the gadaa system of the Borana based on prior research. The Borana are Oromo-speaking pastoralists in southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya. They have two age systems: one is a generation-set system with grades called gadaa, and the other an age-set system called hariya. The gadaa is well known as one of the most complicated age systems in Ethiopian studies and social anthropology. The generation-set continues to recruit members after initiation so that the age gap between members expands over time. Previous studies claim that the age gap makes the age system mal- function, because of the inefficiency to mobilize members. Therefore, previous studies regard the age gap as a structural problem of the gadaa system. In this article, I focus on narratives of the age gap that the Borana express, which prior research has ignored. I conclude that the age gap is indispensable for the gadaa system and is not a structural problem.

Key words: gadaa system, generation-set, age-set, age gap, Borana-Oromo


Today, the governance and representation of local communities is one of the point at issue in the realm of wildlife conservation, but the relationships between local agencies and external initiatives have so far not been well studied. This article examines the details and outcomes of ‘the Maasai Olympics’, a recently initiated community-based conservation (CBC) programme in southern Kenya. It is an athletic competition for Maasai warriors, intended to provide an alternative to their lion hunting tradition. The Maasai Olympics are said to be ‘an innovative conservation strategy’. On the one hand, this event is similar to other CBC projects that provide local people with economic benefits and environmental education, while emphasizing respect for local traditions, but on the other hand, it is different and ‘innovative’ in that it mentions an unpleasant local custom and tries to change it. Maasai warriors pretend that they are traditional animal lovers and that they approve of the idea of the Maasai Olympics. This reactive behaviour of the Maasai warriors is their ‘positionings’, and corresponds to the ‘African potential’. However, as their positionings are based on the ‘function of interface’ but without de-romanticization, it results in the reinforcement of outsiders’ stereotypical views and values, leaving the local people’s biggest problem unpublicized and unsolved.

Key words: Maasai, Maasai Olympics, conservation, positionings, African potential, Kenya


Some predecessors reconstructed the Proto Western Nilotic (PWN) or Proto Nilotic (PN) consonant system with stops based on the phonemic contrasts at five points of articulation. They assumed that the contrastive opposition between dental and alveolar stops had existed in PWN, without submitting evidence to support their reconstruction. In fact, the distinction between dental and alveolar plosives did not exist in PWN. The reconstructed dental-alveolar phonemes {such as a voiceless and voiced plosive, and a nasal) had been pronounced phonetically as a dental before a [-ATR] vowel and as an alveolar before a [+ATR] vowel in PWN. The reconstructed dental-alveolar phonemes split into independent dental and alveolar phonemes in the course of the development of modern languages. PN did not have the contrastive opposition between dental and alveolar consonants, either.

Key words: historical linguistics, phonemic split, dental-alveolar consonants, [ATR], Western Nilotic


The Sukuma live mainly in northwestern Tanzania and engage in both farming and livestock rearing. In the 1970s, some ofthem began to migrate southwards in search ofgrazing land. This paper examines characteristics of the economic activity of the Sukuma, who have settled on the shore ofLake Rukwa, in southwestern Tanzania. Their economic activity has features in common with other East Mrican peasant economies, in that it aims to achieve stable self-sustenance, relying primarily on family labor, and in that people started to commercialize their farming and also venture into non-agricultural activities. However, the Sukuma’s activity was also unique in several respects. First, they migrated into a vast, swampy land, which had not before been uti- lized, and they engage in large-scale farming there. Their livestock enabled them to both migrate and farm, as they needed. Second, the basic unit of their large-scale production efforts was the household, a feature that has been formed by characteristics of the pastoral society. The larger these households were, the more labor they were able to employ, and therefore the higher their production. Consequently, it was possible for a household to invest a relatively large amount into non-agricultural activities. They also faced difficulties maintaining traditional cattle rearing practices, which translated into economic problems.

Keywords: livestock, large-scale household, rice farming, non-agricultural business, Lake Rukwa

Reviewer, Toru Sagawa

The Aged in Africa: Ethnography on the Institutions and Powers of Aging (Africa no Rojin: Oi no Seido to Chikara o meguru Minzokushi). Gen Tagawa, Katsuhiko Keida and Keiya Hanabuchi (eds.), Fukuoka: Kyusyu Daigaku Shuppankai, 2016, pp. 246 (in Japanese).

Reviewer, Gaku Moriguchi
Citizenship for Migrants and Refugees: A Comparative Study of lnstitutions and Practics of Inclusion and Exclusion from Nation-States (Imin/Nanmin no Shitizunshippu). Aiko Nishikida (ed.), Tokyo: Research Institute for Language and Cultures of Asia and Mrica (Tokyo Gaikokugo Daigaku Ajia Afurika Gengo Bunka Kenkyojo), 2016, pp. 258 +vi (in Japanese).

Reviewer, Isao Murahashi
African Practices for Avoiding Conflict: Relationships between Eco-Resources and Peoples (1/.jurika Senzairyoku Siriizu: Arasowanai tameno Seigyojissen: Seitaishigen to Hitohito tono Kakawari). Masayoshi Shigeta & Juichi ltani (eds.), Kyoto: Kyoto University Press, 2016, pp. 360 (in Japanese).