Aging and Social Change Among Abaluyia in Western Kenya: Anthropological and Historical Perspectives

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Abstract

This article presents narrative accounts which illustrate ways that modernization and social change have transformed the daily lives of Abaluyia, especially older people, in rural western Kenya since the late nineteenth century. The narratives reveal history as lived experience, as observed and recorded by an anthropologist who has been doing research among Abaluyia in Bunyala and Samia over the past 25 years. The story involves continuity of cultural beliefs and practices, and it involves change—change imposed by the macro-events of globalizing processes, from colonialism to Structural Adjustment Programs, and change as people's adaptive responses to those processes, particularly how changing cultural practices have impacted elders. The grand narrative is historical, the overarching story of the incorporation of Kenya and Kenyans into the global political economy from the colonial period to the present. Other narratives are biographical, case studies of individuals from two extended families and their personal experiences of social change over the past century. The background narrative is autobiographical, the anthropologist's story of the practice of anthropological fieldwork and her own experiences and observations of social change in western Kenya. Since anthropological data over time become history, the approach here is both anthropological and historical.

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