will jackson on kenya as white man’s country


Will Jackson, ‘White man’s country: Kenya Colony and the making of a myth’, Journal of Eastern African Studies 5, 2 (2011)

This article explains the cultural construction of Kenya Colony. It does so by combining two related histories – those of international tourism and of colonial rule – and two key explanatory themes – those of crisis and of commodity. The cultural construction of the colony, the article argues, emerged from two decisive moments: the “Indian crisis” of the early 1920s and the Mau Mau Emergency of the 1950s. Its content, meanwhile, was determined by its creation as a product, to be constituted, marketed, purchased and consumed. Colonial decline coincided with the emergence of Kenya Colony as global brand. Whilst the political project to maintain white man’s country failed, the commercial project – to market white man’s country as a commodity – succeeded emphatically. Attending to political crisis and cultural construction together, moreover, illustrates the function of the Kenya myth. The myth of Kenya Colony, the article argues, operated through recursive tropes of the picturesque, the transcendent and the primeval that are manifest not only in the writings of colonials themselves but also in accounts of Kenya produced in the period after independence. By examining the post-colonial period alongside the formative years of colonial rule, the extent to which ideas about Kenya circulating in the world today should be thought of in neo-colonial terms becomes apparent.

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