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Sara de Wit

Published On


Page Range

pp. 161-208

Print Length

47 pages

What Does Climate Change Mean to Us, the Maasai? How Climate-Change Discourse is Translated in Maasailand, Northern Tanzania

This chapter explores the varying ways in which the Maasai pastoralists in Terrat village in northern Tanzania give meaning to climate-change discourses. This study moves away from the idea that there is a “linear” (from global to local/science to citizen) and “correct” way of interpreting and understanding climate change as a scientific discourse, but turns the question around by asking “what does climate change mean to the Maasai”? Based on fourteen months of multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork, this chapter contextualizes climate change discourses in the historical, environmental and political dimensions of the Maasai’s “interpretive horizons”. It is argued that local discourses and interpretations are not just barriers in the global pursuit for climate change adaptation, even if they contradict global discourses and policies, but reveal crucial insights about local priorities, values, and agency. In other words, the rejection of this new discourse should not be seen as a form of ignorance, but rather as an act of cultural translation and resistance.