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Jeremy Graham Prestholdt
University of California, San Diego (La Jolla, CA 92093-0013)
Autochthony and Power: Political Culture and Communal Violence in Kenya, 1961-1997

This project examines the intersection of social identity, politics, and violence in postcolonial Africa. Addressing the history of social strife in Kenya, I challenge the notion that identity-related violence is the product of age-old enmity. Specifically, I offer a sustained reflection on how social identities have gained relevance in the context of high-stakes political contests. To better understand social polarization in Kenya I emphasize the political underpinnings of communal clashes and focus on the culture of political engagement in Kenya’s Coast Province since the 1960s. My research suggests that since the late colonial era political elites have posed identity group cohesion as a primary means of addressing grievances around issues such as land and the inequitable distribution of wealth. The fusion of popular discontent with social identity has proven an expedient tool for political mobilization, but it has also dramatically exacerbated inter-community tensions.

Project fields:
African History

Fellowships for University Teachers

Research Programs

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
8/1/2011 – 7/31/2012