Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


The Colonial Paradox: Law and Order on the Frontiers of Empire, 1929-1953




College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



It is unfortunate that the majority of scholarship on conflict in Africa seeks to comprehend moments of extreme violence. However, it is just as important to understand instances of extended peace. In this paper, I will examine one such period in Kenya's West Pokot District. From 1929 to 1953 this region benefited from a peace made all the more remarkable by the violence which preceded it. I argue that peace was achieved through the combined efforts of local communities and administrative forces to punish criminals individually rather than collectively. Mutual cooperation was the key to success, and pastoral communities seem to have worked with the police to maintain law and order. With their cooperation the administration was able to prevent minor raids from escalating into more major conflagrations. Unfortunately, the "second colonial occupation" transformed the amicable relationship between herders and the Kenyan state. Although most people still wanted peace and security, a growing number were unwilling to work with a police force which seemed dedicated to their impoverishment. Despite the increasing resources at their disposal, the administration lost its ability to maintain law and order.

Conference Name

53rd Annual African Studies Association Meeting

Conference Location

San Francisco, CA

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