Research

“An Uncertain Age: Making Manhood, Maturity, and Authority in Kenya, 1898-1978”

Faculty Residential Fellowship
Grant Year
2013

Book Project: “An Uncertain Age: Making Manhood, Maturity, and Authority in Kenya, 1898–1978”

In my book, “An Uncertain Age: Making Manhood, Maturity, and Authority in Kenya, 1898–1978,” I explore young African men’s access to the alternative possibilities opened up by the colonial encounter, their entanglements with elders and the state, and their changing perceptions of male gender and generation, which emerge from these interactions.

To harness the energy of these young men and consolidate their own power, African elders, British colonial officials, and ultimately Kenyan African politicians tried to wield generational authority. In the process, they institutionalized manhood and maturity as prerequisites for political and cultural power in colonial and postcolonial Kenya. The state became an elder, and its subjects became youths.

In this book, I focus on six interlocking spaces in which the state as well as African young men and elders debated shifting ideas and practices of masculinity and maturity. These are: alteration of initiation practices; migration and wage labor; town life; criminality and punishment; participation in the Mau Mau uprising; and process of nation building after 1963. These six spaces represent established, signiQicant historiographies in their own right.

Reexamining each of these historiographies in the contexts of male gender and generation sheds new light on Kenyan African experiences of colonialism. 

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