Endo knowledge, technology and power : the social construction of Endo material culture through age, gender and authority.

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Welbourn, Dorothy Alice 

Kenya make use of material culture to construct and articulate categories of inequality and authority. A central theme of the thesis concerns the social determination of these categories and the boundaries which are drawn and articulated between them. The analysis is based upon the assertion that a society organises its material culture according to socially-determined categorisations. Just as an authority structure is based upon principles of social difference which carry no universal value , so material culture too is categorised by social , contextspecific factors . The thesis explores the ways in which the Endo use their material culture to establish and maintain their social categories and the thresholds which divide them . This study is set against the backdrop of literature on other East African societies , referring in particular to the sociopolitical organisation of traditional � age-set systems. In these societies there operates a male-oriented gerontocracy. Access to power and authority is found both through action and words. Land, animals and possession of other material culture must go hand in hand with acquisition of ritual esoteric knowledge. This thesis studies in depth these relationships amongst the Endo. The primary principles of social differentiation amongst the Endo are also age and sex . Therefore different gender and age-class roles, act i vities and the social h i erarchy which they support are discussed at length. The everyday manifestations of these divisions are presented, with specific reference to the material culture with which they are associated. Several ceremonies of transition are also described and analysed. Then the relationship of the use of material culture in these rituals to its use in everyday life is determined. The thesis concludes by demonstrating how the ritual manipulation and inversion of mundane social and material categories and associations both upholds and reinforces the traditional acceptance of Endo structures of authority.


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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge