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Putting Race in its Place: Race, Empire and Spaces of Belonging in Colonial Kenya, 1890s-1960s

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Rouphail, Robert Michael. “Putting Race in its Place: Race, Empire and Spaces of Belonging in Colonial Kenya, 1890s-1960s.” (Under the direction of Dr. Owen Kalinga.)

This thesis investigates how local politics of land ownership and global currents of imperial knowledge production informed racial thought in colonial Kenya. Employing Timothy Mitchell’s analytic tool of “enframing,” the project first assesses how white settlers and British colonial administrators worked together to construct a logic of racial territoriality against a perceived threat of racial contamination through Indian settlement in the so-called White Highlands. This was done, I argue, by situating the “place” of the White Highlands in the “space” of the larger British Empire, through which knowledge produced on race, science and governance informed local political decisions. The second chapter argues that Indians in Kenya had created an alternative spatial framework that mobilized the political, economic and social authority of the British Raj in support of South Asian political claims in East Africa. The final chapter argues that the spatial paradigms of the British Empire and the Rajgoverned Indian Ocean sphere deployed in the first thirty years of the century collapsed in the 1940s. Subsequent spatial imaginaries emphasized a contiguous White Africa in the case of settlers, while South Asians constructed a new Indian Ocean realm defined through anticolonial nationalism and political non-alignment. The project draws from the online British National Archives, the Kenya National Archives at Syracuse University, collections of the periodicals held at North Carolina State University, and extensive secondary literature.

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