Clans are normally thought of as contained within ethnic groups. In the Horn of Africa the pastoral Rendille, Gabbra, Sakuye and some Somalis of northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia have many clans in common. As a result the clans are not always smaller or less important than the ethnic groups. How such inter-ethnic relationships came about is the subject of this study many go back beyond ethnic divisions to over 400 years ago. The book also examines the uses to which they are put, for instance in managing herds.
Oral history is combined with cultural comparison and the analysis of social structure. The many original texts are themselves of linguistic interest. Blending synchronic and diachronic perspectives, the book synthesises historical ethnology in the Continental tradition with social anthropology. Historically it overturns some established ideas about how the Horn was settled. Anthropologically it shows how relations may exceed the bounds of the ethnic group as the conventional unit of study. It will be of interest to anthropologists, sociologists and social geographers or planners concerned with pastoral development.
Günther Schlee is Director of the Max Planck Institute for Anthropology at Halle.