In 1963, Kenya gained independence from Britain, ending decades of white colonial rule. While tens of thousands of whites relocated in fear of losing their fortunes, many stayed. But over the past decade, protests, scandals, and upheavals have unsettled families with colonial origins, reminding them that their belonging is tenuous.
In this book, Janet McIntosh looks at the lives and dilemmas of settler descendants living in post-independence Kenya. From clinging to a lost colonial identity to pronouncing a new Kenyan nationality, the public face of white Kenyans has undergone changes fraught with ambiguity. Drawing on fieldwork and interviews, McIntosh focuses on their discourse and narratives to ask: What stories do settler descendants tell about their claim to belong in Kenya? How do they situate themselves vis-a-vis the colonial past and anti-colonial sentiment, phrasing and re-phrasing their memories and judgments as they seek a position they feel is ethically acceptable? McIntosh explores contradictory and diverse responses: moral double consciousness, aspirations to uplift the nation, ideological blind-spots, denials, and self-doubt as her respondents strain to defend their entitlements in the face of mounting Kenyan rhetorics of ancestry.
Janet McIntosh is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Brandeis University and author of The Edge of Islam: Power, Personhood, and Ethnoreligious Boundaries on the Kenya Coast.
"Janet McIntosh lifts the debate on belonging to a new level in this beautiful book. Her vivid portrait—a sophisticated mix of empathy and critical distance—shows how twisted memory does not necessarily undermine sincerity of feeling. Her notion of ‘structural oblivion’ offers a key to the understanding of the vicissitudes of belonging also elsewhere in the present-day world. So does her magnificent demonstration of the plurality of whiteness."—Peter Geschiere, author of The Perils of Belonging: Autochthony, Citizenship and Exclusion in Africa and Europe
“Richly nuanced, theoretically sophisticated, and utterly compelling… a major scholarly achievement.”—Richard Schroeder, author of Africa after Apartheid: South Africa, Race, and Nation in Tanzania
“This is, simply put, a splendid book… one of the best in the new and growing literature on post-colonial whiteness, and in whiteness studies generally.”—Brett Shadle, author of The Souls of White Folk: White Settlers in Kenya, 1900-1920s
Victor Turner Prize for Ethnographic Writing Honorable Mention, Society for Humanistic Anthropology