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Distributing Responsibilities in an Agricultural Ecosystem

Insights from the Lake Naivasha Water Basin in Kenya

Gaële Rouillé-Kielo

This article explores the responses to acknowledged anthropogenic transformations of Lake Naivasha in Kenya, whose ecosystem is considered to have been disturbed by the intensification of agricultural uses of natural resources (notably land and water) over the last half century. It examines the ways in which a “payments for environmental services” (PES) project has been implemented, reflecting the rationale of ecological modernization. This article aims to challenge the environmental narrative that supports the project by revealing its oversimplifications. Empirical data demonstrates how the environmental issues addressed by the project are embedded in historically inherited land trajectories. This in turn forces us to reflect on the necessary question of responsibility, an issue at the heart of the debate since the emergence of the Anthropocene concept.

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The “Moral Effect” of Legalized Lawlessness

Violence in Britain’s Twentieth-Century Empire

Caroline Elkins

From 1930s Palestine to Kenya in the years following World War II, systematized violence shaped and defined much of Britain’s twentieth-century empire. Liberal authoritarianism, and with it the “moral effect” that coercion had upon colonial subjects, gave rise to the systematic use of violence against colonial subjects. The ideological roots of these tactics can be located in the twinned birth of liberalism and imperialism, together with metropolitan responses to imperial events in the mid-nineteenth century. Despite copious amounts of empirical evidence documenting the evolution of liberal authoritarianism, and the creation and deployment of legalized lawlessness throughout the British Empire, Steven Pinker either ignores this evidence, or implicitly denies its validity. In reframing Britain’s civilizing mission, and challenging liberalism’s obfuscating abilities, this article critiques not only the British government’s repeated denials of systematized violence in its empire, but also Pinker’s reinforcement of the myths of British imperial benevolence.

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“Can You Really See What We Write Online?”

Ethics and Privacy in Digital Research with Girls

Ronda Zelezny-Green

The use of digital technology, particularly cell phones, is growing as a medium for data collection in social research. However, there remains concern about our implementing appropriate ethical practice when we are conducting digital research with people, including girls, who are considered vulnerable. In this article, I will discuss some of the ethical considerations that emerged during an action research project I undertook with a community of secondary school girls in Nairobi, Kenya. These considerations are related to privacy in connection with surveillance as a means of cell phone-based data collection. My aim is to initiate a scholarly dialogue on creating a framework of ethical practice for digital research with girls—particularly those who are infrequently given a voice in the literature on girlhood studies.

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Epistemology and Ethics

Perspectives from Africa

Henrietta L. Moore

There has been much discussion in anthropology of the problem of belief and of the difficulties inherent in understanding and interpreting alternative life-worlds. One consequence of anthropological understanding and interpretation being intimately tied to the epistemological and ethical project of contextualization is that other people's knowledge is often rendered as parochial, defined by its local contexts and scope. This article discusses the recent conversion to radical Protestant beliefs in a community in northern Kenya that has resulted in new forms of knowledge and agency. The moral continuities and discontinuities between researcher and researched cannot in this situation be glossed by making the informants rational in context or by asserting the existence of culturally distinct worldviews. The article explores how this sets up a series of epistemological and ethical dilemmas that shape both the research project and the research process.

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Moving Onward?

Secondary Movers on the Fringes of Refugee Mobility in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya

Jolien Tegenbos and Karen Büscher

This article examines the migration-asylum nexus in the microcosm of Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya by focusing on refugees and asylum seekers who move onward from a first refuge, in Central-East Africa. By drawing on qualitative ethnographic field research in Kakuma, the article outlines how such “secondary movements” cause many anxieties, as the distinction between refugees and migrants is blurred by motivations that are not exclusively protection related. Based on a Foucauldian analysis of power and discourse, we argue that this creates a contested social and semantic space wherein all actors struggle to uphold the rigid distinction. Additionally, by combining the strengths of migration studies’ consideration for policy categories and mobility studies’ holistic perspective toward migration, the article aims to further deepen academic interaction between two literature traditions in order to enhance our understanding of how mobility is “shaped” and “lived” by people in wartime situations.

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"Eyes, Ears, and Wheels"

Policing Partnerships in Nairobi, Kenya

Francesco Colona and Tessa Diphoorn

Research on policing in Africa has provided tremendous insight into how non-state actors, such as gangs, vigilantes, private security companies, and community initiatives, increasingly provide security for urban dwellers across the continent. Consequently, the state has been categorized as one order among many whose authority is co-constituted through relations with other actors. Drawing on our ethnographic fieldwork in the past two years, we highlight how the state police dominates security arrangements in Nairobi and asserts itself not just as one order among many. We show how, in various policing partnerships between police, private security companies, and residents’ associations, the state police acts as a coagulating agent of such practices. In order to elucidate this relationship, we utilize the “junior partner” model from the criminology literature and expand based on the community policing initiatives that in Nairobi act as the “eyes, ears, and wheels” of the police.

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Disruptive Discourses

Kenyan Maasai Schoolgirls Make Themselves

Heather Switzer

This article examines the practical construction and effects of the schoolgirl as an emergent social category in contemporary Kenyan Maasai society against mainstream development's figuring of the girl-child. The paper relies upon ninety-eight interviews with schoolgirls between the ages of ten and seventeen in nine primary schools in Kajiado District, Kenya. A contradictory resistance to traditional gender norms and social forms characterizes the schoolgirls' narratives of education and development in their daily lives. These narratives are embedded in larger questions regarding the transnational intersections of ethnicity and gender in the formation of local identities in marginalized indigenous communities in postcolonial Kenya. Without disputing the practical necessities of educating girls, I problematize the seamless rhetoric concerning formal schooling as a neutral public good in order to open up the complex conversation about educational access and attainment in the global south today.

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Girls in Transition

Negotiating, Constructing and Re-constructing Girlhood after the “Fall” in Rural Kenya

Christine Oduor-Ombaka

This article discusses problems of childbearing as experienced in rural Kenya by girls in their adolescence—a powerfully formative time of transition to adulthood. Findings reveal that girls face unique challenges and harsh choices when they are faced with pre-marital pregnancy such as emotional violence and abuse, early marriage, expulsion from school, unsafe abortion and poverty. Many Kenyans are calling on the government and communities to put into place policies and programs necessary for empowering girls with enough information to make a healthy and safe transition to adulthood.

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J. Cammaert Raval

Ocobock, Paul. 2017. An Uncertain Age: The Politics of Manhood in Kenya. New African Histories. Athens: Ohio University Press. 368 pp. $34.95. ISBN 978-0- 8214-2264-9 (paperback); ISBN 978-0-8214-2263-2 (hardback); ISBN 978-0- 8214-4598-3 (e-book)

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“Money Is Life”

Quantity, Social Freedom, and Combinatory Practices in Western Kenya

Mario Schmidt

This article focuses on how money’s quantity is enacted as multiple in Kaleko, a small market center in Western Kenya. Residents of Kaleko conceptualize money’s quantity as abstracting, concretizing, and recursive. Theorizing this ethnographic data allows us to understand money as a sign that stands against itself. The abstracting and concretizing properties of money’s quantity symbolize what it means to be coerced to do something, while its recursive property symbolizes what it means to act freely. The article scrutinizes how money’s recursive quantity thereby relates to one peculiar trait of free social encounters in Kaleko: it suspends the distinction between part and whole with the help of ‘combinatory practices’.