Association of Senior Anthropologists
Invited - Oral Presentation Session
In the mid-1980s I lived for two years among Samia people in western Kenya. I was researching older people and the impacts of social change on their lives. In my dissertation I created an in-depth snapshot of Samia as I experienced it during those two years. In the years since I have returned to Samia a dozen times, most recently in 2018. These return visits have allowed me to observe social change unfolding over the past 35 years. My snapshot has expanded into a feature film. I have witnessed the appearance of many new things, from clothing styles to cellphones, and the disappearance of other things, such as granaries and grinding stones. I have observed shifts in how people relate to each other and in burial customs, and changes in ideas about ancestor spirits, the meaning of home and other aspects of Samia thought. And over the years I have eaten many meals in different homes which made me aware of new foods, new cooking methods and changing eating patterns, including how people relate to each other through food. I think of these changes as the most recent aspects of the globalization of an indigenous food system, a process which began centuries ago. In this paper I focus on food as an example of what I have learned about social change from many return visits to my first fieldsite.