"Dust People": Samburu perspectives on disaster, identity, and landscape

Belinda Straight, Paul Jeremy Lane, Charles Hilton, Musa Letua

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


ABSTRACT: This paper discusses a Samburu pastoralist landscape idiom, ntoror, that encapsulates ideas about agentive pastoralist landscapes that inherently attract conflict; and passionate, place-based identities forged out of environmental and human-wrought disaster. The paper grows out of a project that experimentally integrated ethnographic self-scrutiny with a bio-archaeological excavation involving human remains, with the aim of encouraging reciprocal knowledge production. The inspiration for exploring ntoror and expanding its metaphorical reach came from our Samburu co-author, Musa Letua, who responded to the challenges the excavation posed by drawing upon the idiom of ntoror, which made sense to him. The overlapping stories of ntoror we narrate follow closely the ways in which Letua explored them in interviews associated with the excavation, and in other interview settings in earlier years. As such, this paper represents the fruits of cross-cultural collaboration and shared knowledge production.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)168-188
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Eastern African Studies
Issue number1
Early online date8 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding was provided by the British Institute in Eastern Africa (BIEA), the British Academy and Western Michigan University Faculty Research and Creative Activities Fund. Paul Lane?s participation in the Cologne workshop was funded by the Resilience in East African Landscapes Marie Curie ITN [grant number 606879].

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Taylor & Francis.

Copyright 2016 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Kenya
  • Pastoralists
  • environment
  • ethnicity
  • identity
  • landscape

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