Cattle Bring Us to Our Enemies

Turkana Ecology, Politics, and Raiding in a Disequilibrium System
J. Terrence McCabe
An in-depth look at the ecology, history, and politics of land use among the Turkana pastoral people in Northern Kenya


Based on sixteen years of fieldwork among the pastoral Turkana people, McCabe examines how individuals use the land and make decisions about mobility, livestock, and the use of natural resources in an environment characterized by aridity, unpredictability, insecurity, and violence. The Turkana are one of the world's most mobile peoples, but understanding why and how they move is a complex task influenced by politics, violence, historical relations among ethnic groups, and the government, as well as by the arid land they call home.

As one of the original members of the South Turkana Ecosystem Project, McCabe draws on a wealth of ecological data in his analysis. His long-standing relationship with four Turkana families personalize his insights and conclusions, inviting readers into the lives of these individuals, their families, and the way they cope with their environment and political events in daily life.

J. Terrence McCabe is Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Colorado at Boulder.

Praise / Awards

  • "Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. . . a welcome addition to the literature on the Turkana and their adaptive strategies for surviving in an environment in disequilibrium."

  • "McCabe skillfully integrates theoretical approaches from pastoral ecology, political ecology, and behavioral ecology...The author has rich data over a considerable period of time, and his presentation of case histories of violence and raiding make for vivid reading. Cattle Brings Us to Our Enemies presents the Turkana as an important case study of tribal-based politics and human ecology, on par with Napoleon Chagnon's (1997) Yanaomamo of Amazonian South America. McCabe's monograph would be useful to both undergraduate and graduate courses in human ecology and anthropology."
    Human Ecology

  • "J. Terrence McCabe's analysis of Turkana mobility, resource management, and ecology is an important contribution to contemporary understanding of human-environment relations in pastoralist societies on several counts. McCabe is among the few social scientists to address the subject with such extensive empirical research...His book contributes to this broader discussion while also addressing contemporary debates on the nature of African pastoral systems and prospects for pastoral development initiatives."
    The Professional Geographer

  • "This is a book rich in data, but also rich in insights into people as individuals. McCabe's first-hand accounts of cattle raids make compelling reading. The book's synthesis of material on Turkana pastoralism and on pastoral ecology will be invaluable for students. Its honest and constructive discussion of how to balance social and the ecological in research is worthy of wider debate, by both graduate students and their elders."
    —William Adams, Cambridge University, Journal of Modern African Studies

  • Winner: 2005 The Anthropology and the Environment Section of the American Anthropological Association's 2005 Julian Steward Award

Look Inside

Copyright © 2004, University of Michigan. All rights reserved. Posted October 2004 and April 2005.

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Product Details

  • 320 pages.
  • 25 tables, 10 maps.
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  • 2010
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  • 978-0-472-02621-0

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