This paper analyzes the “camel trust system” (dabare
) of the Gabra, pastoralists in a Eastern Province of Kenya. Gabra people transfer their camels as gifts, and on the basis of short term loan, trade and “trust”.
Trust, the most ordinary of these four, is a long term loan. Usually, an owner trusts out (loans) most of his camels to other Gabra, and he lives on camels trusted in (borrowed) from other Gabra. Trustees can keep trusted camels as long as the owner does not ask for their return. Trustees have the right of use of the camel and what it produces, most importantly milk. As well, trustees can in turn, trust offspring to another Gabra. Trustors and trustees are recognized as “jal
” (special friend), connected by the trusting of camels. This “jal
” chain creates multiple networks in the Gabra society.
The first part of this paper outlines the trust system of the Gabra and analyzes the relationships which are found in the “jal
” networks. There are two important relationships. One is a direct relationship between trustor and trustee, characterized by intimacy and loose reciprocity. The other is an indirect relationship between the owner of a camel and the trustees of that camel's offspring. A camel owner has the right to demand a gift from the trustee, however, in some cases, this demand is deemed too high, and the trustee does not accede to the owner's demand, in which case the owner will compulsorily recall his camel from that trustee. The latter relationship is particular to the Gabra trust system.
Secondly, this paper analyzes three features which the trust system generates in the Gabra society. (1) Trust system organizes the Gabra into particular clan. The trust system strongly unites the owner's clan's members. As clans ideally own numerous camels, owners of camels and his clan members keep a close eye on trustees to ensure they breed a camel correctly. The trust system mobilizes and unites the members of the owner's clan. (2) Trust system have the Gabra conform themselves to the discipline. As the owner and his clan's members keep close watch on trustees, trustees try to keep the regulations of trusted camel. Moreover, as the owner who is offended with trustee often compulsorily recalls his camels form that trustee, trustees must always be deferent to camel owners. By virtue of these, trustee are obliged to assume a discipline-abiding attitude with respect to any Gabra who is closely watching him. (3) Trust system makes Gabra imagine the ethnicity. The owner and trustees often live in different region in Gabra land. Trust system connects these people who mutually live in “outside” of their daily-world. By virtue of these, the Gabra recognize the reality of their ethnicity.
It is likely that these features resulted from the detachment of the right of ownership from the people who directly exchange the camels.