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I Say to You Ethnic Politics and the Kalenjin in Kenya by Gabrielle Lynch

I Say to You Ethnic Politics and the Kalenjin in Kenya


I Say to You Ethnic Politics and the Kalenjin in Kenya by Gabrielle Lynch

In 2007 a disputed election in Kenya erupted into a two-month political crisis that led to the deaths of more than a thousand people and the displacement of almost seven hundred thousand. Much of the violence fell along ethnic lines, the principal perpetrators of which were the Kalenjin, who lashed out at other communities in the Rift Valley. What makes this episode remarkable compared to many other instances of ethnic violence is that the Kalenjin community is a recent construct: the group has only existed since the mid-twentieth century. Drawing on rich archival research and vivid oral testimony, I Say to You is a timely analysis of the creation, development, political relevance, and popular appeal of the Kalenjin identity as well as its violent potential. Uncovering the Kalenjin's roots, Gabrielle Lynch examines the ways in which ethnic groups are socially constructed and renegotiated over time. She demonstrates how historical narratives of collective achievement, migration, injustice, and persecution constantly evolve. As a consequence, ethnic identities help politicians mobilize support and help ordinary people lay claim to space, power, and wealth. This kind of ethnic politics, Lynch reveals, encourages a sense of ethnic difference and competition, which can spiral into violent confrontation and retribution.


This is an indispensable guide to understanding the distinctive place of Kalenjin nationalism in Kenyan politics and the recent post-election violence as well as the role of ethnicity in Africa more broadly. Lynch is superb in explaining both the persistent dissension within the Kalenjin as well as the way unity was achieved in the context of the ethnic logic of Kenyan politics, the dynamics of which she has exceptional insight into. (Adam Ashforth, University of Michigan)

About the Author

Gabrielle Lynch is a senior lecturer in Africa and the politics of development at the School of Politics and International Studies at the University of Leeds.

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Book Info

Publication date

21st October 2011


Gabrielle Lynch

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University of Chicago Press an imprint of The University of Chicago Press


296 pages





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