HAR is pleased to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology: a fascinating article, in English, on Jomo Kenyatta, the famous Kenyan disciple of Malinowski.
Peatrik, Anne–Marie, 2021. “Jomo Kenyatta’s Facing Mount Kenya and its Rival Ethnographies: The Kikuyu in the Mirror of Colonial Anthropology,” in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.
Born around 1895 in southern Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta (c. 1895-1978) or Kamau wa Ngengi (his name from his youth) was a Kenyan pan-African activist and politician. As a representative of an association defending the land interests of the Kikuyu dispossessed by the white settlers, he went to London in 1929, and remained in Europe until 1946, meeting more and more with the English-speaking and anti-colonial intelligentsia. A hero of Kenyan decolonization, he became the first president of the newly independent country from 1964 until his death in 1978. Jomo Kenyatta was also an anthropologist. In 1938, he published Facing Mount Kenya, The Traditional Life of the Gikuyu, a book based on a master’s degree in anthropology under the supervision of Bronislaw Malinowski. It was the first academic anthropological monograph to be written by an African about his people. In this challenging article, Peatrik unveils the tumultuous trajectory of Jomo Kenyatta’s monograph, which was ignored, disparaged, and celebrated in turn. Particularly from the 1930s until the period following the Second World War, other writers engaged in relations of anthropological rivalry with Kenyatta, clashing over the legitimate representation or anthropological truth of the Kikuyu. By unravelling the ways in which these competing versions affected the status of Facing Mount Kenya, Peatrik eventually reveals the hidden or forgotten story of a major work in the history of anthropology.
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