Ateker People – mutual frontiers and integration

The term “frontier” is commonly associated with the notion of a superior civilization moving into a wilderness inhabited by inferior people. This notion accompanies expansion processes in which socio-cultural systems - more or less violently – invade areas where others are using resources through established patterns of control, consumption, and distribution. In most cases this goes along with an ideology that declares – more or less explicitly - these other arrangements as less efficient, less appropriate, and less justified, with different degrees of stress on the interrelation of these issues, yet always implying a cause that is not a matter of choice to the ones subjected to these assessments.
Yet on the other hand you would sometimes, as in the case of the Ateker region, not find submissive objects of a superior will, but very self-conscious individual and collective subjects with not only strong own ambitions, but also plenty of skills and determination to pursue them. For them, the world introduced and persistently built by the invaders is as much seen as alien and in need of checks as also a field of chances for rewarding access to resources.
The territory dominated by the indigenous community is a frontier as long as this community remains an entity that lives and acts out of a consciousness of essential difference and autonomy, as something distinct and not merged into the dominant society – a society that is, in this case, at the same time national, westernized, and global.
Individuals, however, move between the poles, to different degrees and following most diverse motives and strategies, at the same time forming the very scenery they are subjected to.
My first aim is to depict this scenery in a way that illustrates basic political, ecological, economic, and cultural elements of its regional composition, identifying key patterns of social differentiation and interaction, the accumulation of economic, social, and symbolic capital, lines and strategies of conflict.

Toposa girls selected by Holy Trinity Peace Village Kuron at Pax Christi’s “Cross-border Peace Conference for Youth Warriors 2008” in Kapoeta, Southern Sudan.

By portraying the regional and historical context of the area and exemplary local micro-societies in key zones along the borders of the four nation states hosting ethnic groups of the Ateker language cluster, traditionally agro-pastoralists of Eastern Nilotic language, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Sudan, a regional social field is portrayed that displays all the mentioned aspects. They are analyzed against the backdrop of processes known as typical for system competition in world history and from anthropological research. This will allow reviews and conclusions regarding development work and peace building.

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