University of Sussex
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Pastoralism in the shadow of a windfarm: an ethnography of people, places and belonging in northern Kenya

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posted on 2023-06-09, 12:19 authored by James Anthony Drew
This thesis develops an ethnographic approach that draws upon multispecies ethnography to provide insights into the lives of people living to the south and east of Lake Turkana. The thesis is based upon twenty-two months of fieldwork with Samburu, Rendile and Turkana communities in Samburu and Marsabit Counties. However, most time was spent with a community of Samburu pastoralists living at Mt Nyiro. Information was gathered during fieldwork through participant observation and various types of interviews. Through engagement with people’s perspectives, analyses, and where possible their cosmologies, the thesis provides insights into the ways historical context, (‘timeless’ notions of) identities, belonging and custodianship are inter-connected, emerge and are contested as a part of people’s lives and changing relationships (including violence) within and between communities, the state and investment companies - in an arena of political reforms, patronage networks and perceived rights to benefit from recent large-scale investments. The large amount of time spent with one Samburu pastoralist community at Mt Nyiro enabled me to gain insights into the ways their lives are entwined with the landscapes that they and their livestock live in and shape, through networks of relations and the associated cosmological ways of lkerreti, in which humans and non-humans (including ‘supernatural’ entities) are inter-dependent agents. The thesis exemplifies how these lived entanglements are a part of and inform this community’s ‘timeless truths’ relating to past and present lineage, ethnicity, belonging and custodianship. Also shown are the ways these ‘timeless’ portrayals and associated cosmologies emerge through contestations with, and analyses of, others’ portrayals of lineage, ethnicity, belonging and custodianship, and how these are forwarded as a part of, emerge from and inform patronage politics and contested ‘rights’ to benefit from investments. The thesis demonstrates how changing relationships between people living within the Samburu community at Nyiro and between people of this and other communities, in light of political and economic changes, can also only be understood as a part of people’s entanglements with humans and non-humans, and the associated cosmological ways of lkerreti.


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