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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Kikuyu-Maasai Nutrition and Colonial Science: The Orr and Gilks Study in late 1920s Kenya Revisited
Author:Brantley, Cynthia
Periodical:International Journal of African Historical Studies
Geographic terms:Kenya
Great Britain
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
History and Exploration
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/221546
Abstract:The first extensive colonial field study of African nutrition in the British colonies influenced the understanding of African diet on a scale reaching far beyond the scope of the study itself. Begun in 1926 under the supervision of John Boyd Orr and J.L. Gilks, the study compared the diets and health problems of Kenya's agricultural Kikuyu and pastoral Maasai populations. This article explores the significance of the study, how the findings were interpreted, and how they were used. The study found that both populations had sufficient calories but that they also had some difficult health problems. Investigators concluded that the Maasai, with a diet of milk and meat, were better off than the Kikuyu, with a vegetarian diet. But the study was constrained from the beginning by contemporary assumptions regarding African diet and health, including the existence of 'tribal diets' of long standing. By taking the position that there were 'tribal diets', the study encouraged that belief to become fact. Its design reflected the key colonial need for ablebodied labourers. The study also suffered from faulty assumptions about the impact of colonialism on various aspects of African diet. The author argues that some major discoveries were ignored and that the findings were used and misused in such a way that they were misleading. Notes, ref.