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Military AnthropologySoldiers, Scholars and Subjects at the Margins of Empire$
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Montgomery McFate

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190680176

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190680176.001.0001

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Jomo Kenyatta, Louis Leakey, and the Counter-Insurgency System

Jomo Kenyatta, Louis Leakey, and the Counter-Insurgency System

(p.239) 7 Jomo Kenyatta, Louis Leakey, and the Counter-Insurgency System
Military Anthropology

Montgomery McFate

Oxford University Press

Jomo Kenyatta, who held a PhD in Anthropology from the London School of Economics, became the first president of Kenya. Kenyatta successfully employed his knowledge of anthropology – the so-called ‘handmaiden of colonialism’ – against a colonial regime, using that knowledge to pinpoint British political weaknesses, unify the Kikuyu and other tribes of Kenya, and construct an ethnographic Trojan Horse that undermined the British edifice upon which colonial law had been built. On the other side, the British counterinsurgency against the Mau Mau also utilized anthropology, both in theory and in practice. As this chapter describes, Louis Leakey’s conceptualization of Kikuyu culture influenced how the British fought the war and demonstrates how elements of the host nation culture – in this case, the Kikuyu practice of oathing and counter-oathing – may be employed in a security strategy. In this intersection of two lives – Jomo Kenyatta and Louis Leakey – many of the themes of this book become apparent, including the danger of fantasy ideologies, the limits of anthropological knowledge, and the asymmetry of cultural knowledge.

Keywords:   Jomo Kenyatta, Anthropology, Kenya, Mau Mau, Louis Leakey, Counterinsurgency, Kikuyu, Oathing

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