Customary commons are today considered as a key management regime for human well-being, the conservation of the environment and global sustainability. Holistic ethnography of such communal systems is among the best tools to unveil their indigenous conceptualizations of sustainability, conceptualizations which are emerging as a new conservation paradigm. Because East Africa is one of the most paradigmatic regions in the world for the study of pastoralism, and pastoralism is one of the most important systems in the study of the commons, one could expect growing importance of holistic ethnographies of customary pastoral commons of East Africa. However, our exhaustive literature review demonstrates that cultural analyses of such systems are rather scarce in this region. Therefore, our objective is to provide a synthesized overview of the available literature to establish a basis from which to develop the much-needed holistic ethnographies.