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Uses of Race: Moral debate and political action in Mombasa, 1895-1990

CHOME, KILLIAN,NGALA (2021) Uses of Race: Moral debate and political action in Mombasa, 1895-1990. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This study examines the moral and political uses of racial thought in greater Mombasa, from 1895, the time of British imposition of colonial rule, to 1990, the return to multi-party politics in post-colonial Kenya. Tracing the origins of racial thought from a pre-colonial past of ambiguous racial thinking, this dissertation shows how colonial administrative practice and intellectual work served to crystallise situational, negotiable and flexible categories of identity around static concepts of race. Assuming a central place in colonial and post-colonial struggles for status, rights and resources, racial thought then came to influence the imagination of separate moral and political communities, Arab and African, Swahili and Mijikenda, which were further mapped onto distinct spatial categories, that is, town versus hinterland. Across this spatial distinction, the study shows, is an enduring historical tension between the continental and maritime orientations of the Kenyan coast. This tension has influenced local political rivalries, Mijikenda political organisation, the late colonial mwambao movement, and Islamic reformism within the coast’s Muslim community. In examining racial modes of thought in Mombasa, this study not only makes important contributions to wider debates on racial thought, but is also important to scholarly debates regarding the nature of racial thought in Africa, and to understandings of the local implications of the reorganisation of macro-spatial relations along Africa’s Indian Ocean rim during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The colonial and post-colonial history of Mombasa was told by its residents through an excess of over sixty, in-depth interviews, conducted in 2018, information which was triangulated with archival documents, newspaper records and secondary literature.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Kenya, Kenya coast, Mombasa, Race, Racial Thought, Indian Ocean
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > History, Department of
Thesis Date:2021
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:10 Jan 2022 09:01

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