Published online by Cambridge University Press: 29 May 2014
This article examines the perceived interdependence of territorial rights and social identity in colonial Kenya. In the early 1960s, attempts to win full autonomy for a narrow strip of Indian Ocean coastline – the Protectorate of Kenya – encouraged an exclusivist discourse of autochthony. To establish their historical ownership of the coast, both political thinkers who supported and decried coastal separatism emphasized the correlation of race, ethnicity, religion, and physical space. Through competing claims to ‘the soil’, all parties articulated a dually integrative and divisive language of citizenship. As a result, autochthony discourse exacerbated tensions within coastal society, fortified divergent visions of the postcolonial nation, and highlighted reductive definitions of the coast as either maritime or continental in orientation.
I would like to thank contributors to the workshops, ‘Religion, Law, and Regimes of Control around the Indian Ocean’, at Roskilde University, and ‘Writing Postnational Narratives’, at the Center for Indian Studies in Africa, University of Witwatersrand, as well as those who commented on versions of this article presented to the Chr. Michelsen Institute, European Conference on African Studies 4, and Johns Hopkins History Seminar. Special thanks to Anne Bang, Felicitas Becker, James R. Brennan, Jonathon Glassman, Preben Kaarsholm, Kai Kresse, Pier Larson, Justin Willis, and anonymous JAH reviewers for their valuable criticisms and suggestions. Financial support was provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, Norwegian Research Council, Institute for European Global Studies at the University of Basel, and the University of California, San Diego Academic Senate. The author can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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