Chun-Hsien Wu (Sharon) 93122011

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Chun-Hsien Wu (Sharon) 93122011 ...

    Wu 1

    Chun-Hsien Wu (Sharon) 93122011

    Professors Amie Parry and Guy Beauregard

    Thesis Proposal

    A History Refusing to be Enclosed:

    Mau Mau Historiography, Ngugi wa Thiongos A Grain of Wheat, and M.G.

    Vassanjis The In-Between World of Vikram Lall

I: The Mau Mau memory as a problem

    1This thesis investigates the contested memory of the Mau Mau rebellion in

    2late-colonial Kenya (1952-1960). An anti-imperialist resistance movement led by

    Kenyas largest ethnic group, the Kikuyu, during the 1950s, the Mau Mau rebellion has been a hotspot where Kenyas pasts and Kenyas possible futures have been

    debated, contested and fought over (Atieno-Odhiambo 300). Despite the fact that

    fifty years have passed since its occurrence, the Mau Mau movement is still the subject of constant revisitations, refusing to be enclosed as a static memory. This thesis attempts to explore the ways of memorializing this critical anti-colonial resistance movement by focusing upon three sites of representation: Mau Mau historiography; the representation of Mau Mau memories in Ngugi wa Thiongos

    novel A Grain of Wheat (1967); and an updated reconsideration of the Mau Mau

     1 Historians still hold no consensus over the official appellation attached to the historical event recognized as Mau Mau. Part of the reason originates from the ambivalent attitude of the colonial government, which shunned using war or rebellion in addressing the enemy but rather preferred

    the less politically-charged term civil disturbance (Anderson 238). With a purpose to employ a

    postcolonial critique in reading this historical event as a problematic issue, this thesis will stick to the term the Mau Mau rebellion to designate the failed but significant anti-colonial resistance movement. 2 The length of the Mau Mau war I provide here is in accordance with Kenya‟s emergency period, which was declared by Kenyan colonial government on 20 October 1952. Although the major militant actions within the Mau Mau war had only lasted into 1956, it was not until 12 January 1960 that the emergency was then officially lifted from Kenya. Given that, in the extra four years, many so-called Mau Mau adherents were forcibly detained by the colonial government, an experience actually very few Kikuyu people managed to escape in the emergency period, I think it is justifiable to include the whole length of the emergency period as the period of the Mau Mau rebellion.

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    rebellion in M.G. Vassanjis novel The In-Between World of Vikram Lall (2003).

    With an examination of the tensions within this triangular dialogue, I hope to explore how and why the Mau Mau rebellion has been represented and memorialized.

     As an important source of images in the twentieth-century Wests representation

    of Africa (Lewis 230), the Mau Mau rebellion intriguingly gained its publicity in the most crooked manner. Memorialized as the greatest horror story of Britains

    empire in the 1950s (Anderson 1), the Mau Mau rebellion stood for the wests

    long-invested imagination of Africa: the Dark Continent. In Something of Value

    (1955), which is known as the first novel representing the Mau Mau story and which remains the most-well known account of the rebellion, the American writer Robert Ruark inculcates his western readers with the necessary portable attitude to the Dark Continent and simultaneously promises them to expect the luring dangers in his adventure story: To understand Africa you must understand a basic impulsive

    savagery that is greater than anything we civilized people have encountered in two centuries (qtd. in Anderson 1). The black-magic oathing rituals which mesmerized Africans into deranged, murderous savages; the bodies which were brutally mutilated by the farming utensils-turned-into-weapons pangas; and finally the unkempt,

    animal-like Mau Mau fighters scurrying around in the dark African forestthese

    breathtaking images of Mau Mau rebels daily devoured by western readers in the 1950s simply confirmed for them the characteristic African impulsive savagery that

    is presented by Ruark.

    Despite such high exposure to the public gaze, the Mau Mau rebellion remains elusive to its beholders. The linguistic void the term Mau Mau entails seems to

    reassert its mysteriousness, justifiably enshrouding the resistance movement into

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    3layers of myths (Kennedy 241). Attracted by its call, its pursuers have in the past half-century embarked on a series of efforts to demystify the Mau Mau rebellion yet,

    4in the meantime, have inscribed new myths over it. In the following proposal of

    this thesis, I will try to probe into these efforts to see how the myths of Mau Mau

    came to be the dominant enterprise in Mau Mau historiography. My focus will be on the following questions: What kinds of myths have been created to explain the Mau

    Mau rebellion? For what reasons are they created? And: how, and toward what ends, can we read these myths today?

II: Mau Mau historiography

    a. Creating the Myth of Mau Mau

    The creation of the Mau Mau myth was rooted in the unusual phenomenon of

    the numerous Mau Mau writings that were immediately produced when the event

    was not yet a closed history. As the British declared war on the Kikuyu rebels through the emergency in 1952, they meanwhile embarked on one of the most sophisticated propaganda wars on defining the nature of the Mau Mau rebellion.

    With a firm denial of the economic and political grievances suffered by the Kikuyu people under colonial rule, they constructed a colonial discourse to diagnose the cause of the rebellion as an expression of a psychological disease. According to the

     3 The origin of the appellation Mau Mau remains a mystery to its examiners. According to

    Carol Sicherman, the term Maumau was first used by the official colonial reports in 1948 to inform the colonial government the presence of a secret organization. In the following years, the term would be popularized by the Europeans to refer to the anti-colonial movement, even though the Kikuyu rebels preferred to call themselves the Kenya Land and Freedom Army. See Carol Sichermans Ngugi wa

    Thiongo: The Making of a Rebel (London: Hans Zell, 1990): 214-27. 4 It is interesting to note that the exponents of the Mau Mau rebellion have stuck to the title the

    Myth of Mau Mau. With Carl Rosberg and John Nottinghams pioneer academic study on the Mau

    Mau rebellion The Myth of Mau Mau: Nationalism in Kenya published in 1966, there have been a

    long list of similar titles, including: Robert Buijtenhuijss Mau Mau Twenty Years After: The Myth and

    the Survivors (1973); A.S. Clearys The Myth of Mau Mau in Its International Context (1990); Dane

    Kennedys Constructing the Colonial Myth of Mau Mau (1992); and Galia Sbar-Friedmans The

    Mau Mau Myth: Kenyan Political Discourse in Search of Democracy (1995). From the popularity of

    this phrase in these titles, we can see the tenacity and ongoing currency of the Mau Mau myth.

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    colonialist official version, Mau Mau was a secret society organized by several

    bad-intentioned Kikuyu agitators who wanted to pursue their self-interests. Ungrateful for Europeans introduction of modernity and progress to build Africa,

    these agitators returned good for evil by aiming at subverting British rule. To rally their whole tribe into aligning with them, these Kikuyu masterminds mobilized the traditional ritual practiced in their tribeoathsto bind their fellow tribesmen into

    participating in their insurgent plan. Contaminated by the black magic of the oaths, the Kikuyu people were transformed from peace-loving though naïve people into atavistic savages who could not control their impulse for atrocious killings.

    This official version of the rebellion was established by two monumental scientific studies. Both published in 1954, L.S.B. Leakeys Defeating Mau Mau and

    Dr. J.C. Carotherss The Psychology of Mau Mau offered an anthropological

    interpretation and an ethno-psychiatric reasoning respectively to backup such disease theory. Brandishing a panoptic quasi-scientific viewpoint (Said 215) to

    psychologizeand produce knowledge aboutthe Mau Mau rebellion, Leakey and

    Carothers diverted attention from Kikuyu peoples real grievances and instead molded

    the rebellion into its dominant image as myth. Leakey and Carothers reasoned that

    the ameliorating but rapid social change brought out by the European civilization had disturbed the mental health of the African in transition (Lonsdale, Mau Mau 410).

    Frightened by the sudden ruin of their traditional life styles, the Kikuyu people, they suggested, were allured by the nativistic religion called Mau Mau-ism for mental

    security. Appropriating the traditional Kikuyu tribal ritual oathing to shock the

    Kikuyu people, Mau Mau exploited Kikuyu peoples mental instability, turning

    them into atavistic killers.

    However, as colonial discourse provided the first cornerstone to mythologize the Mau Mau rebellion, the real crisis of the Mau Mau memory would happen when it

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    finally became a de facto memory. Marshaled by Kenyas founding father Jomo

    Kenyatta, the post-independence state of Kenya had imposed a policy of amnesia to

    suppress the Mau Mau memory (Clough 256). As early as in his 1962 speech to a crowd of Kenyas peasants, Kenyatta had taken up the Britishs stigmatization of the

    Mau Mau rebellion. Charged as the Mau Mau mastermind by the British and as a

    result detained throughout the emergency, Kenyatta nevertheless appropriated and extended colonial discourse to condemn the Mau Mau rebellion as a disease which

    had been eradicated, and must never be remembered again (qtd. in Clough 255).

    Following its presidents open denunciation of the Mau Mau rebellion, the

    post-independence state accordingly propagandized slogans like Forgive and Forget

    and We all fought for freedom (Elkins 360-61) to discredit the Mau Mau rebellions

    contribution to Kenyas independence. With the suppression of memorializing the Mau Mau rebellion as an anti-colonial resistance movement, the post-independence state then collaborated with the colonizers to mythologize the rebellion.

    b. The counter-myth: the nationalist myth

     In the 1960s, a conspicuous voice emerged to challenge this first version of the Mau Mau myth. Dissatisfied with the demonization of their resistance efforts by the British and their neo-colonial successor, former Mau Mau fighters began to self-portray their aims and activities in participating the rebellion. Starting with J.M.

    5Kariukis Mau Mau Detainee (1963), these Mau Mau memoirs refuted the

    psychological myth charted out by the colonialist official version. Under their portrayal, Mau Mau rebels were by no means atavistic savages but, rather, heroic fighters of the Land and Freedom Army who were inspired by patriotism to fight for

     5 Along with Kariukis Mau Mau Detainee, some of the most notable Mau Mau memoirs include:

    Karari Njamas Mau Mau from Within (1966), a first-person narrative co-written with the radical

    anthropologist Donald Barnett; and Mau Mau General (1967), written by one of the most famous

    Mau Mau generals, Waruhiu Itote.

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    Kenyas independence. Claiming their contributions to Kenyas independence, these

    Mau Mau memoirs attempted to legitimize the Mau Mau rebellion as a righteous anti-imperial resistance movement.

     This revisionist version of the Mau Mau rebellion was further supported by the publication of Carl G. Rosberg, Jr. and John Nottinghams The Myth of Mau Mau:

    Nationalism in Kenya in 1966. In this pioneering academic study on the origins of the Mau Mau rebellion, Rosberg and Nottingham explicitly demonstrated their revisionist spirit to the colonial myth of the Mau Mau rebellion: In suggesting that

    the European conception of Mau Mau constituted a myth, we maintain that Mau

    Mau was indeed an integral part of an ongoing, rationally conceived nationalist movement (xvii). In contrast to the colonial discourses blame on the African side,

    Rosberg and Nottingham attributed the eruption of the Mau Mau rebellion to a

    European failure: it was the failure of the European oppressors to recognize the social and political strains on the Kikuyu people that eventually drove the ordinary people into pursuing violence. Identifying the Mau Mau rebellion with the militant

    nationalism, The Myth of Mau Mau countered the colonial myth of the rebellion as

    manifestation of savagery and instead credited it as a paradigmatic expression of African nationalism (xvii).

    c. Demystifying and re-mystifying the Mau Mau rebellion

    To counterattack the colonial and neo-colonial cooperation of mythologizing the Mau Mau rebellion, Mau Mau fighters themselves and the first academic writing asserted the nationalist quality of the rebellion. Under their portrayal, the movement is represented as the legitimate expression of African nationalism to resist the subjugation of colonial rule. However, as Robert Buijtenhuijs observes, the new alliance between the Mau Mau fighters and the earliest historians created the African

    myth of Mau Mau (qtd. in Clough 259). While these revisionists located the Mau

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    Mau rebellion within the sanctuary of nationalism, they forgot to attend to one of the significant features of this movement: its ethnic dimension. Indeed, the Mau Mau rebellion was not so much a wholesale national movement participated by all Kenyan natives as a regionally and ethnically restricted rebellion led by one ethnic group, the Kikuyu. Can such an ethnic-bound movement be valorized as a heroic nationalist

    6anti-colonial resistance?

    This question has come to be a focal point in the debates of later Mau Mau historiography. As Peter Simatei observes, two clamorous voices have emerged to dominate the current debates over the role of the Mau Mau rebellion. Led by Kenyas prominent historian Bethwell A. Ogot, a group of so-called Nairobi

    historians, most of them non-Kikuyu, have argued that instead of being an all-sweeping nationalist movement, the Mau Mau war was at best a mere internecine

    feud among the Kikuyu (Versions 154). They observe that the overt attention on

    the Mau Mau rebellion has restricted the fruits of freedom within certain interested

    7groups, marginalizing other peoples contributions to Kenyas independence. In

    contrast to the first threads argument that the Mau Mau rebellion was a internal tribal

     6 In this review of Mau Mau historiography, I have tried to schematize the different representations of the Mau Mau rebellion into three distinct phases by investigating the debates and agreements within historians discussions. While I would like to suggest that historians have

    generally agreed upon the development of the first two phases, that is, how the first myth of the rebellion was collaboratively created by the colonizers and their successors, and how the revisionists accordingly created a nationalist myth to counteract the first myth, what I try to chart out in the third

    phase actually remains an on-going battlefield of unclosed debates. Therefore, in the so-called third phase of Mau Mau historiography, I will simply explore one conspicuous trajectorythe ethnic

    problem of the Mau Mau rebellionwithin the current debates among historians. 7 The debates over the ethnic problem of the Mau Mau rebellion reached the peak in the 1986

    Historical Association conference. In a paper presented in his absence, the British historian John Lonsdale writes in his paper that However one approaches the subject, Mau Mau is an

    embarrassment. In the following question and answer section, Kenyan historian William Ochieng

    immediately picked up the sentence to confirm that Yes, Mau Mau is an embarrassment to all of us,

    with an explanation that the rebellion had been appropriated by the Kikuyu elites to secure their rule by recognizing the Mau Mau rebellion. However, the next day newspaper excised Ochiengs explanation,

    retaining only the provocative statement: Mau Mau is an embarrassment. The following fervent

    public debates, which once again stimulated Mau Mau fighters self-valorization and the criticisms that

    Ochieng received, which focused on his ethnic and generational exclusivenessdemonstrate how the

    Mau Mau rebellion has been and remains a sensitive topic in Kenyan national narratives. See E.S. Atieno-Odhiambos The Production of History in Kenya: The Mau Mau Debate, Canadian Journal

    of African Studies 25.2 (1991), especially pp. 300-02.

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    war of Kikuyu people, advocates of the second group have dwell[ed] on [the Mau

    Mau rebellions] social significance and have offered deconstructions of colonialist

    and conservative versions of the war (Versions 155). These radicals have not

    only succeeded the earlier revisionists recognition of the Mau Mau rebellion as a

    glorified anti-colonial resistance movement, but have further extended it into an inspiring symbol in resisting the continued colonialist suppression in the

    8post-independence state.

    In Unhappy Valley: Conflict in Kenya and Africa, the book co-written with the

    political scientist Bruce Berman, the British historian John Lonsdale has intervened in the current dichotomized contestations over the ethnicity of the Mau Mau rebellion by evoking the question of moral economy. In a long essay that extends into two

    separate chapters with the shared title The Moral Economy of Mau Mau, Lonsdale

    has explored how the seemingly incompatible opposition of ethnicity and nationality can be dissolved on the grounds of morality: [T]ribes, Lonsdale observes, like

    nationsand they are alike in most respects other than in their lack of a stateare

    changing moral arenas of political debate (267). Lonsdale points out that both

    parties within the ethnic problem debateswhat Lonsdale identifies as liberals and

    radicals have been mocked by the myth of modernization, and thus both have

    failed to attend to the dynamics of Mau Maus ethnicity (315). While Lonsdale

    rejects liberals accusation that ethnicity is limited, he meanwhile disavows the master narrative pursued by radicals. He observes that the more productive way to investigate the Mau Mau rebellion should move away from the question Why did

    Kenyan nationalism fail? to the question Why did colonial Kenyas African politics

    take the forms that it did? (315). With an emphasis on the internal struggle that the

     8 Ngugis participation and contribution to the Mau Mau debate will be further discussed in the following chapter.

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    Kikuyu people underwent under colonial rule, Lonsdale has relocated the discussions concerning the ethnic problem to bridge the gap of ethnicity and nationality of the Mau Mau rebellion.

III: Overview of the chapters

    Chapter One of this thesis will explore the different constructions of the Mau Mau rebellion as myth in Mau Mau historiography; it will also map out the

    structure of the thesis as a whole. As I have begun to discuss in this proposal, the collaboration of the colonial and neo-colonial powers created the first myth of the rebellion. I would like to suggest that by mythologizing the rebellion as a psychological disease of the Kikuyu people, the first myth not only disavowed the economic and political grievances suffered by the Kikuyu people but also attempted to delegitimize the Mau Mau rebellion as the righteous resistance of the oppressed. Following this mapping of the first myth of the rebellion, I will then explore how the second myththe nationalist mythemerged in the 1960s. I would like to argue

    that with the negligence to attend to one of the most significant features of the rebellionits ethnicitythe revisionist version of the Mau Mau rebellion failed to ground the rebellion as a glorious nationalist movement but rather once again perpetrated a mythologization of the rebellion. After examining the two classic myths of the Mau Mau rebellion, I will end with an examination of one major trajectory within current Mau Mau historiography: the ethnic problem of the Mau Mau rebellion. By borrowing Lonsdales idea of moral economy to intervene in

    the current formulation of the Mau Mau rebellion as a dichotomized opposition between ethnicity and nationality, I would like to suggest that the ongoing discussions of the rebellion have demystified and re-mystified the rebellion, which remains subject to new modes of representation and narration.

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    Chapter Two will turn to Ngugi wa Thiongo literary representation of the Mau

    Mau rebellion in his classic postcolonial novel A Grain of Wheat (1967). In this

    novel, Ngugi brings us back to the eve of Kenyan independence on 12 December 1963 to reexamine the meaning of freedom in a community divided by different

    loyalties. Through the dramatization of the motif of betrayal, Ngugi revisits the

    wreckages brought out by the Mau Mau rebellion yet suggests that the memory of the Mau Mau rebellion is betrayed by the post-independence state. Composed in the

    context of the state-sanctioned amnesia of the Mau Mau rebellion, A Grain of Wheat

    critiques how the post-independence state had disavowed the Mau Mau rebellions

    contribution to Kenyan independencethat the fruits of freedom gained by the

    peasant-led anti-colonial resistance had been appropriated by the nationalist elites. My reading of Ngugis novel would like to highlight how Ngugi deliberately employs multiple perspectives to dramatize the disintegration of a community brought out by the Mau Mau rebellion and through the structure of this narrative, further rejects the master narrative upheld by the post-independence state. By depicting how a disintegrated communityboth on the individual level and in the nation as a

    wholehad tried to mend its broken parts back to unity through a confrontation with its past, Ngugi reminds us of the importance of memorializing the Mau Mau rebellion as a way to figure out Kenyas future.

    Chapter Three will investigate an updated reconsideration of the Mau Mau rebellion in M.G. Vassanjis novel The In-Between World of Vikram Lall (2003).

    Narrated by the protagonist Vikram Lall, the novel depicts how his community, the African-Asians in Kenya, had complicated the colonial scenario of a white-black racial clash with their in-betweenness. Vassanjis novel deliberately interweaves

    the life story of Vikram and his community with political developments in Kenya from the late colonial period all the way to the post-independence period. My

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