Heather Dee Switzer

Grant Type

Post PhD Research Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Arizona State U.

Grant number

Gr. 9797

Approve Date

April 27, 2019

Project Title

Switzer, Heather (Arizona State U.) "More than Usual is at Play: Cultural Politics of Maasai Schoolgirl Pregnancy and Girl-motherhood in Kajiado County, Kenya"

More than Usual is at Play: Cultural Politics of Maasai Schoolgirl Pregnancy and Girl-motherhood’ investigates how Kenyan Maasai girls who leave secondary school for pregnancy navigate and negotiate pregnancy and motherhood as intimately embodied experiences and socially significant events that have bearing on their social bodies and imagined futures particularly because of their relationship to school. Building on previous research in the same region (2007-2008; 2011; 2017) this study aims to provide insights that challenge the positioning of pregnant schoolgirl-mothers as wayward daughters and failed schoolgirls. Kenyan culture broadly, and Maasai culture specifically, privilege parenthood as a path to social adulthood. However, given pressure on Kenyans to enter the formal workforce coupled with transnational expectations for ‘girls’ empowerment’ through formal schooling, cultural norms regarding the impossibility of motherhood and schooling positions schoolgirl-mothers in the cross-hairs of cultural change. This study aims to understand the gendered, generational and ethnic cultural politics of schoolgirl pregnancy and girl-motherhood and the implications of changing institutional norms for marriage, family formation, and parenting on Maasai gender regimes. Preliminary findings demonstrate remarkable efforts by schoolgirls (and their families) to negotiate existing social norms for proper Maasai girlhood in ways that subvert and reinforce those same norms.