Category: Spending Time


Retelling the past

There is a growing tendency to discount knowledge about the past, with archaeology and historicized ways of thinking seen as an unaffordable luxury irrelevant to an African future. At the same time, historical narratives and knowledge play an ever more potent role in discussions about national cohesion, and in debates and litigation over land rights, citizenship and the politics of culture and heritage. Opportunity also comes from wider debates over the nature of scholarship and decolonisation of knowledge. Challenge and opportunity are linked, and the past – whether deep, or recent – must be revisited and retold from new perspectives. Archaeology, ethnography, anthropology, history and a host of complementary disciplines can be used to retell the past.

Applied agro-archaeology in Eastern Africa

Dr Matthew Davies is Fellow in East African Archaeology at the British Institute in Eastern Africa and the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge. ([email protected])

Building on Dr Davies’ doctoral research into the process of agricultural intensification among the Pokot of the northern Cherangani Hills, alongside the interdisciplinary African farming network and the ongoing Marakwet Community Heritage Mapping Project, this new research attempts to situate 20th-21st century development interventions within a longer-term understanding of landscape. The research is funded by a three year Leverhulme/Newton Trust Early Career Research Fellowship awarded to Dr Davies.

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TRIBES: Molecular History, Geography and Adaptation of some Kenyan Tribes – the Impact of Culture, Ecology and Demography

Dr Marta Mirazon Lahr is the Director of the Duckworth Laboratory at the Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge. ( ([email protected])

Recent genomic studies have revealed an unexpected degree of adaptation in the human genome, with an ever-increasing number of genes under selection being identified daily. These genomic insights give us not only a renewed perspective onto the extent to which human diversity reflects the adaptive trajectory of populations, but also the opportunity of understanding the functional relationship between given phenotypes and their genetic basis. Read more…

Conversion to Camels and Meaning and Performance in the Era of Climate Change, Northern Kenya

Dr Elizabeth Watson is a University Senior Lecturer in the Department of Geography and Pybus Fellow of Newnham College at Cambridge University. ([email protected])

In the drylands of northern Kenya, there are serious worries that climate change will exacerbate existing problems and threaten livelihoods.  In September 2010, Dr Watson and Mr Kochore visited northern Kenya to research attitudes to and responses to the prospect of climate change.  Building on the earlier BIEA/AHRC/ESRC project, ‘Belief and Belonging: Religion and Identity in Northern Kenya’, this research investigated the role of different religions in shaping attitudes to and responses to climate change. Read more…

Risk, Impact, and Policy Implications of Expanding Financial Access in Kenya

Judith Tyson is a PhD student in the department of economics at SOAS, University of London ([email protected])

The School of Oriental and African Studies conducted a project in conjunction with the BIEA in April 2012 as part of Ms Judith Tyson’s doctoral research in Development Economics.  Led by Ms Judith Tyson from SOAS, the research focuses on the Kenyan economic policy of expansion of financial access and its impact on financial system stability and deposit mobilisation. The field research consisted of a series of focus group interviews in Kibera and Kisumu districts relating to low-income groups financial behaviour including engagement with the formal financial sector and informal savings, investment and spending.  Over 120 individuals were interviewed and results included both quantitative and qualitative data. The results are expected to be published in 2013.

Drinking Culture: Looking at Somali Responses to Displacement Through the Camel Milk Market in Nairobi’s Eastleigh Estate

Hannah Elliott is a PhD Fellow at the University of Copenhagen’s Centre of African Studies ([email protected])

This research focuses on the camel milk market in Nairobi’s Eastleigh estate as a window through which to observe Somali responses to displacement. Parallel processes of displacement – forced migration from Somalia, pastoralist sedentarisation and rural-urban economic migration from the Somali region of Kenya – have brought Somalis from diverse backgrounds across the Somali territories and the global diaspora to Eastleigh, which is today strongly associated with the Somali community in Kenya.  Camel milk is a highly valued commodity in the estate and is ubiquitous in its markets, a shift from its traditional gift status amongst pastoralists. Drawing on Appadurai’s perspectives on commodities, the study traced camel milk’s ‘life history’ and trajectories to the Eastleigh market in order to elucidate the socio-economic processes behind this transformation.

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The Marakwet Community Heritage Mapping Project

Henrietta Moore is Professor of Social Anthropology at Cambridge University ([email protected])

Dr Matthew Davies is Fellow in East African Archaeology at the British Institute in Eastern Africa, and a Research Associate in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at University of Cambridge ([email protected])

Building on the long-term research of Professor Moore and Dr Davies the Marakwet Community Heritage Mapping Project involves the large-scale mapping of Marakwet landscape features and the collection of related oral historical and case history records.  The research has been primarily conducted by Professor Moore’s Marakwet research team headed by Mr Timothy Kipkeu. The local team has used GPS, digital photography, questionnaires and interviews to collect a wide range of spatial data relating to settlement patterns, clan and lineage distributions, land-tenure and field systems, irrigation systems, cropping patterns and ritual/ceremonial sites and sites with attached stories or myths.   Read more…

Gender and Social Change in Marakwet, Northern Kenya

Returning to anthropological research in the Kerio Valley of northern Kenya after an absence of 25 years, Professor Moore is in a unique position to examine social change among Marakwet communities. Her current research focuses on debates within the community over the practices of female initiation, and how evangelical Christianity and campaigning non-governmental organisations have played an increasing role in these. In addition, Professor Moore is considering the effects of changing land-utilisation practices as responses to, and catalysts of, environmental change and degradation. The project is supported financially by Leverhulme and the LSE; BIEA facilitates the research by providing a vehicle, equipment, graduate attachees and facilities for managing payments and communication in Nairobi. The project will continue until late 2007.

A History of Colonial Psychiatry

This project is funded by a grant from the British Academy to Dr Mahone; BIEA is facilitating the research through providing graduate attachees and through managing various logistical aspects of the work. The focus of Dr Mahone’s research is on colonial policy towards mental illness in the 1950s, and she has an especial interest in the work of Dr Margetts, the leading figure in psychiatric treatment in Kenya at the time, who became deeply involved in the policy of treating Mau Mau suspects as psychiatric cases. The role of the attachees has principally been in sorting and listing the case files held at the Mathari Mental Hospital, Nairobi. These had been in a very poor state of preservation. All files relating to the colonial period have now been sorted and indexed, and a new phase of work has now begun, extracting data from these files. It is expected that this project will continue through 2007/8.

Drinking in Modern Kenya

Alcohol consumption continues to be a major concern in Kenya. This small project, a collaboration between the former Director and Dr Dorothy Mutisya of Kenyatta University, builds on research undertaken by Dr Willis in the 1990s and explores some of the questions around the economics and sociology of drinking in modern Kenya through case studies on the coast and in Naivasha. The project investigates the continued prevalence of illicit liquor of various kinds, and the consequences of the recent relaxation of restrictions on palm wine at the coast.