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The Exercise of Power through Creation of Knowledge: A Narrative of Environmental Change During Colonization in Kiambu, Kenya
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Earth Sciences, Department of Earth Sciences.
2012 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Ongoing environmental change is one of the greatest barriers facing programs and policies aiming to achieve sustainable development today. While the concept of sustainable development is relatively new, the threat of environmental change is not. Throughout colonization in Kenya the British colonial government was overly concerned with the quality of soil and increasing possibilities of erosion. Both Victorian ideologies of culture and society as well as the colonial discourse that existed in Kenya lead to a conception of the Africans as environmentally and agriculturally inept. Thus, they were blamed as the greatest threat to soil fertility. These notions together created a colonial environmental narrative based on inaccurate conceptions of the African farmer. International examples of environmental degradation as well as the expertise of Western research were used to support the narrative and further intervention into Kenyan society.

The goal of this thesis is to examine exactly what made up the narrative, what purposes it served and who benefited from it. Through analysing the case of the Kikuyu in Kiambu, the district where Africans came in closet contact with the Europeans, this paper examines how a reorganization of power and control occurred. Specifically, archival research was utilized to gain direct insight into colonial perceptions and departmental reporting. The results show that African farmers were wrongly accused as the main culprits of soil degradation; in fact, changes to cultivation methods during much of colonization such as increased output and forced implementation of European techniques had a detrimental effect on soil fertility. While evidence existed to counter the narrative, it was reinforced as truth by Western research and colonial power. The result for the settlers was prioritized agriculture as well as security over land rights; simultaneously, for the colonial administration the narrative served as justification for their humanitarian mandate, while fostering an amount of social control. The results reveal that the creation of a narrative based on environmental change where the African was labelled as the problem, created a situation where colonial and settler interests triumphed over all others.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. , 42 p.
Examensarbete vid Institutionen för geovetenskaper, ISSN 1650-6553 ; 86
Keyword [en]
environmental narratives, colonization, soil erosion, Kenya, knowledge & power, sustainable development
National Category
Natural Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-182693OAI: diva2:560565
Subject / course
Sustainable development
Educational program
Master Programme in Sustainable Development
2012-09-12, Skåne, Department of Earth Sciences, Villavägen 16, 752 36, Uppsala, 13:00 (English)
Life Earth Science
Available from: 2012-10-15 Created: 2012-10-15 Last updated: 2012-10-15Bibliographically approved

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Follis, Kristin
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