David Morton

Associate Professor

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Graduate Student Supervision

Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2021)
Disrupting ethnic politics and imagining alternative futures in Kenya, 1975: the J.M. Kariuki assassination (2021)

“We do not want a Kenya of ten millionaires and ten million beggars,” J.M. Kariuki, the popularKenyan politician, famously declared. The statement struck at the heart of President JomoKenyatta’s post-independence government and rising economic inequality in Kenya in the 1970s.By March 1975, Kariuki was dead, assassinated with suspected government involvement. Newsof his assassination promptly sparked protests in Nairobi. This thesis explores these immediateresponses to Kariuki’s assassination. Although scholarship has established that ethnic politicswas entrenched in Kenya by 1975, this thesis intervenes in this historiography and trajectory ofethnic politics by highlighting alternative means of political mobilization. It points to the agencyof ordinary Kenyans who, in 1975, mobilized against the Kenyatta government not throughethnic affiliations, but rather through collective grievance with Kenya’s trajectory sinceindependence. Those involved in this opposition denounced authoritarianism in Kenya, unequalwealth distribution, and what they suspected was neo-colonial interference in their country. In sodoing, they highlighted an alternative sort of national political mobilization in Kenya, one builtaround socioeconomic and political ideals. These events in the spring of 1975 also highlight thepowerful possibilities of commemoration and the agency of ordinary citizens. In 1975, in tandemwith movements against many of the first independence-era African governments as well ascontinued struggles against imperialism on the African continent, Kenyans rallied against theKenyatta government around a memory of Kariuki as a martyr who represented the possibility ofa more just future. In defiance of the authoritarian state, they exposed the fragility of theKenyatta government. Although little ultimately came from these protests in the spring of 1975,they nonetheless remind that Kenya’s post-independence trajectory was not inevitable.

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West African pan-Africanists and the memorialization of Edward Wilmot Blyden (2021)

This thesis examines the debates between West African intellectuals over Pan-Africanism and African nationalism in the early twentieth century. It focuses on intellectuals in three major port cities: Freetown, Lagos, and Cape Coast. These intellectuals practiced different forms of Pan-Africanism that suited the political circumstances of their respective cities. In 1912, they asserted their separate Pan-African visions through the memorialization of Edward Wilmot Blyden, the “Father of Pan-Africanism,” after his death the same year. West African intellectuals published newspapers which acted as forums for public discourse and political organization. When Blyden died, newspapers published obituaries that discussed his career and the significance of his life. Each city, and each newspaper, had a slightly different portrayal of Blyden. The different versions of Blyden printed in West African newspapers reflected different strains of Pan-African thought. Intellectuals manipulated Blyden’s legacy, highlighting certain aspects of his work and criticizing others, to communicate and legitimize their own views, on empire, race, and nationalism. In 1913 and 1914, intellectuals detailed their preferred courses for West Africa’s future at public ceremonies commemorating Blyden. There were multiple Pan-African conversations in West Africa.

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