Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

J. Terrence McCabe

Second Advisor

Kathleen A. Galvin

Third Advisor

Mara J. Goldman


Beginning in the early 1990s, Maasai in the northern Tanzanian district of Simanjiro have worked in the nearby area of Mererani--the only place in the world where the gemstone tanzanite is found and mined. Here, men work as middlemen, buying and selling tanzanite, and women have small businesses selling milk and beadwork. While the work at Mererani represents one of several forms of livelihood diversification for Maasai in Simanjiro, it is very distinct. In this dissertation I examine the changes occurring in the context of the tanzanite trade. I reveal both the transformations Maasai themselves perceive to be important and those that I witnessed as an outsider. While I address the economic motivations for and outcomes of working in the tanzanite trade, I also explore how social relations and power structures shape and are impacted by this livelihood strategy. Through this analysis, I conclude that tanzanite trading has unique and widespread implications for households, communities, and society. I also suggest that some of the patterns that emerge through Maasai participation in this new livelihood strategy can influence how we think about livelihood diversification among pastoralists in general. To address these broader implications I ask the following questions: How do various individuals and groups of people take advantage of livelihood diversification strategies, and how do they differentially experience the outcomes? What forms of privilege and exclusion do livelihood diversification strategies perpetuate and produce? Why do tensions surface in the context of livelihood diversification strategies and how do people attempt to mediate these tensions? To answer these questions, I situate my case study within the pastoral livelihood diversification literature and apply a livelihood strategies framework of analysis. While several studies exploring livelihood diversification among pastoralists primarily focus on economic and ecological drivers and outcomes of different livelihood strategies, the livelihood strategies framework encompasses economic and ecological processes as well as the wide-ranging social and political structures that constrain and are affected by livelihood diversification. This framework also provides an overarching schema in which to situate the different theoretical and analytical approaches in anthropology that I apply throughout this dissertation.