Jumping Tribal Boundaries: Space, Mobility, and Identity in Kenya

  • Timothy H. ParsonsEmail author


Kenya has endured periodic outbreaks of violence over land which arose primarily from new meanings that land and space took on at independence. Kenyans have struggled with the legacy of the colonial regime’s attempt to link collective identity with specific physical spaces. Their choices shaped violent communal conflicts over land since 1963. Some people became targets of violence but others did not. As identity is shaped by a person’s place within broader social systems, there are risks and opportunities in migration and boundary crossing. Media reports depicting Kenyan communal violence as the result of tribal friction miss a key point. Due to the inherent flexibility of identity in East Africa, it was possible for marginalized people to acquire land by blurring, if not changing, their identities. But land is finite. Overly successful landed people, particularly if they have “foreign” origins, in marginal societies are often dangerously exposed.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of HistoryWashington UniversitySt. LouisUSA

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