Precarious Alliances: The Cultural Politics and Structural Predicaments of the Indigenous Rights Movement in Tanzania



Since 1990, over one hundred indigenous nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) have emerged in predominantly Maasai areas in Tanzania, attempting to organize people around diverse claims of a common "indigenous" identity based on ethnicity, mode of production, and a long history of political and economic disenfranchisement. Despite attempts to foster unity and promote common political agendas, the indigenous rights movement has been fractured by sometimes quite hostile disagreements over priorities, competition over resources, and tensions over membership and representation. This article explores the complicated causes and consequences of these tensions by focusing on the discussions, disagreements, and silences that occurred during a recent attempt to reconcile indigenous groups in Tanzania. The workshop offers a unique window on the cultural, political, and historical dynamics of the indigenous rights movement in northern Tanzania, the principles and practices of inclusion and exclusion that have defined and shaped the movement, and the internal and external stresses that have made alliances within and among the INGOs, donors, and the government precarious, at best. [Keywords: indigenous peoples, social movements, cultural politics, Maasai, Tanzania]