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For Money and EldersRitual, Sovereignty, and the Sacred in Kenya$
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Robert W. Blunt

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226655611

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226655895.001.0001

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(Not) Seeing Is Believing: Ethnicity, Trauma, and the Senses in Kenya’s 2007 Postelection Violence

(Not) Seeing Is Believing: Ethnicity, Trauma, and the Senses in Kenya’s 2007 Postelection Violence

Chapter:
(p.171) 7 (Not) Seeing Is Believing: Ethnicity, Trauma, and the Senses in Kenya’s 2007 Postelection Violence
Source:
For Money and Elders
Author(s):

Robert W. Blunt

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226655895.003.0007

This chapter focuses on the ethnic violence that erupted just after the 2007 elections between Kalenjins and Kikuyus in the Rift Valley. While “ethnic violence” has become a normative aspect of Kenyan politics, the chapter argues that this particular instance of violence exceeded the political calculations of ethnic armies working on behalf of political big men. Violence erupted between social intimates, Kikuyu and Kalenjin neighbors who had accomplished a door-by-door diversity in various Rift Valley villages. The chapter focuses on Kalenjin justifications for acts of violence against their Kikuyu neighbors, which took the form of a refrain that they were preemptively saving themselves from Kikuyu violence, which was being carried out for “ritual purposes.” To explain this “ethnic violence” the chapter turns to the analytic of the uncanny—the feeling that what is familiar can become terrifyingly unfamiliar—shedding light on the sudden inability of Kalenjins to “see” their Kikuyu neighbors and the way the senses, especially sight, are configured in patrimonial spectacle politics. The chapter also spells out the endgame of what began in the colonial period.

Keywords:   ethnic violence, Kalenjins, Kikuyus, Rift Valley, uncanny, patrimonial invisibility, patrimonial spectacle politics

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