Spencer introduces the article by explaining that the Maasai’s identity within their culture is determined by their age and corresponding stage of life. He first distinguishes between ‘age-grades’ which I took to mean each particular year which marks getting older physically, and ‘age-sets’ which is each period of about 7 years which the Maasai use to group each generation and define their cultural identity.
I was surprised by the fact that men and women in the Maasai are divided differently within society. Women are not placed in age sets as men are but move up in social status once married. Men on the other hand, must go through imitations at different stages of life and move through the different age sets with their peers. At first I thought this to be slightly disparaging of women as it appeared to imply that they are not regarded as highly as the men because they only way they can move through the life stages is by becoming one with a man. However, this may just be my western prejudices coming through as it is not uncommon in other societies for men and women to have very different places in society.
The moving up the age sets in not seen as a rigid ladder from one generation to the next however, it is described as more of a spiral. This I feel makes more sense as you do change and mature over time not just when you have lived another year. I liked that at the end of the article Spencer noted that although he has given a description of the Maasai’s affairs, it is only one view of them. He reminds the reader that stereotypical views are used and that in practice the aging ceremonies and beliefs of the Maasai people could be slightly different.