In a cup of tea: Commodities and history among Samburu pastoralists in northern Kenya

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Abstract

In this article, I explore the 20th-century history of Samburu pastoralists through the lens of a particular beverage, tea. In classic anthropological analyses, "drug foods" such as tea have been taken as emblematic of the spread of global capitalism. Tea, however, is a rare example of a commodity that Samburu have adopted as a central component of a self-defined "traditional" culture specifically counterposed to change. Tracing historical transformations in practices and meanings associated with tea use, I consider both the processes underlying its acceptance and their import in explicating broader processes through which Samburu agents have negotiated contexts of change. [Kenya, consumption, pastoralism, food, tea, history]

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