Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Geography & Environmental Studies


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Margaret Walton-Roberts

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor

Second Advisor

Judy Bates

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


Colonialism brough Africa into the sphere of European dominance and laid the ground work for the adoption of neoliberal globalization. This has affected change for the Maasai of southern Kenya who had attempted to remain isolated for much of the 19th and 20th centuries. However, such cultural isolation has been disrupted by global tourism and the desire of western citizens to view and participate in ‘authentic’ experiences in unique Maasai environments; thus creating a global desire to visit the Maasai Mara National Reserve (MMNR). The MMNR is part of Maasailand and has exposed many in the surrounding communities to new western ideas and ideals. This exposure, alongside the increasing role of supranational organizations such as the United Nations, has created a desire and demand within the Maasai community to participate in education, which in turn has taught some of the Maasai how to become ‘good western’ citizens. Other supranational organizations such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund have created contradictions in the development process by limiting the amount spent on formal education. This means that students in rural schools, such as the Maasai, are forced to endure a lower quality of education, which does not provide the tools needed to engage in the modern economy.

Maasai children are attending school at higher rates than ever before; forcing change in their community and culture. These include changes in appearance, housing materials, diet, attitudes and more. Since the Maasai culture is not compatible with the formal education system of Kenya, and the education system does not have any leniency to deal with this conflict; children are being forced at a young age to choose between formal and traditional learning. Using a conceptual framework of globalization, these changes are further understood by the use of Pierre Bourdieu’s work on social capital. The main purpose of this thesis is to demonstrate how the Maasai community is adapting to these changes in an effort to give its youth a strong foundation of modern education supplemented by the strength of its cultural traditions.

Convocation Year