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University Crisis, Student Activism, and the Contemporary Struggle for Democracy in Kenya

Abstract:
Abstract:

In many parts of Africa, university systems are in crisis; squalid conditions, student strife, and increasing state violence have turned many campuses into battlegrounds. Through an in-depth look at the Kenyan case, this paper examines some of the deep political dynamics of the current desperate situation. We demonstrate how in Kenya, state–university links involve attempts by higher-level government officials to control campuses through patronage, surveillance, and violence and how institutional configurations facilitate this. As the burden of repression falls on student activists who challenge current power configurations, we examine the current crisis through a student lens. By presenting and analyzing the historical narrative of student activism on campus, we show the inadequacy of overly structural, economic approaches to the crisis favored by the World Bank and some of its critics. Instead, we show the critical importance of understanding how the university crisis is organically linked to wider political processes, including local struggle over democratization of the state and economy.

Résumé:

Dans plusieurs régions de l'Afrique, le système universitaire est en crise: conditions sordides, conflits étudiants, et violences croissantes de la part de l'état ont transformé bien des campus en champs de bataille. A travers une étude approfondie du cas du Kenya, cet article examine certaines des dvnamiques politiques de fond dans la situation désespérée actuelle. Nous démontrons comment à l'Université d'État du Kenya, il existe des liens impliquant des tentatives de contrôle du campus par des personnalités gouvernementales et officielles haut placées, à travers un système de népotisme, de surveillance et de violence, et comment la configuration des institutions facilite ces pratiques. Alors que le poids de la répression retombe sur les étudiants activistes qui remettent en question les configurations actuelles du pouvoir, nous examinons la crise actuelle à travers la vision de ces étudiants. En présentant et en analysant leur histoire de l'activisme étudiant sur le campus, nous démontrons comment les approches trop structurales et économiques favorisées par la Banque Mondiale et certains de ses critiques se révèlent inadéquates pour comprendre cette crise. Nous montrons plutôt l'importance cruciale de comprendre comment la crise des universités est liée de manière organique à de plus larges processus politiques, y compris aux luttes locales pour la démocratisation de l'état et de l'économie.

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African Studies Review
  • ISSN: 0002-0206
  • EISSN: 1555-2462
  • URL: /core/journals/african-studies-review
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