The thesis ‘BECOMING VISIBLE’ is about economic and social transformation and marginalization of Akie hunters and gatherers in Northern Tanzania. My initial interest in the Akie ‘Dorobo’ was motivated by the fact that they have constituted an almost blind spot on the ethnographic map of East Africa. In this study it will become apparent that the Akie have also been invisible in a political sense and subject to marginalization.
Economic and social changes are explored within a wide historic frame, through a process of fitting and contesting different sources of data. My observations and insight acquired over twelve months among the Akie to the extreme south in Arusha Region in 1996/97 are revealing. Conceptual tools and frameworks of understanding evolve gradually in accordance with the presentation of material, in order to highlight aspects of economic and social transformation from different angles.
An outline of Akie and ancient and pre-colonial history is proposed. Akie history does not begin with the coming of German and British colonialist from overseas. Changes in the Akie economy are explored in relation to external forces of push and pull, implications of colonial and post-independence policy and intervention, and how it has articulated on the local leve. The changes in the Akie economy has taken place through social and economic interaction in a shifting socio-political context of change. I have examined internals of the Akie economic system - described subsistence technology (including ideological components) and analyzed particular features of Akie social and economic organization, to try to explore further how the economic system may have changed - also over larger span of time. I have analyzed relations to neighbors, stigmatization and avoidance strategies. Focus is set on how the Akie have become muted in the land quest. Control over land and vital resources have been lost due to forces largely outside the Akie realm of influence. Land legislation is a part of this picture. The Akie vote with the feet even in the few cases they are represented on even the lowest levels of the modern administrative set-up, understandable in the light of their marginal influence, stigmatized status and previous negative experiences. I have shown however, that Akie can mobilize renewed interest and take initiative themselves. Unfortunately the Akie are not politically organized, lacking the means and knowledge to do so.
Finally, I have pointed to some changes that have occurred since I left field, if with uncertain consequences. An Akie participated in a conference on indigenous peoples in Tanzania in 1999. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has also made a major reorientation on the politics of difference, etc.