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Colonial Inscriptions

Race, Sex, and Class in Kenya

1995
Author:

Carolyn Martin Shaw

Colonial Inscriptions

Explores how images of African colonialism have been influenced by European and American racism and sexual fantasies.

Explores how images of African colonialism have been influenced by European and American racism and sexual fantasies.

Anyone interested in Kenyan colonial history or issues of race and stereotyping in Africa as a whole will find valuable material in Colonial Inscriptions.

African Studies Review

In Kenyan colonialist imagery, the Kikuyu were vilified as deceitful servants while the Maasai were romanticized as noble savages in a fashion similar to American representation of the Black slave and the "wild" Indian. Carolyn Martin Shaw examines this imagery in the works of historians and ethnographers, as well as in novels and films.

Through the works of Louis Leakey, Jomo Kenyatta, Elspeth Huxley, and Isak Dinesen, along with her own ethnographic research, Martin Shaw investigates the discourses that shaped inequalities, rivalries, and fantasies in colonial Kenya. She explores narratives of domination and subordination, arguing that Europeans brought to Africa long-established ideas of difference that influenced racial inequalities in the colonial situation.

Including discussion of the controversial practice of female genital mutilation, Colonial Inscriptions presents an African American woman's views of how images of African colonialism have been influenced by European and American racism and sexual fantasies.

Colonial Inscriptions

Carolyn Martin Shaw is an associate professor and chair of the Board of Studies in the anthropology department, and Provost of Kresge College at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Colonial Inscriptions

Anyone interested in Kenyan colonial history or issues of race and stereotyping in Africa as a whole will find valuable material in Colonial Inscriptions.

African Studies Review

Shaw has given us an important analysis of colonial Kenya in which Africa has shaped its white folks as well as the other way round. Europeans invented their own pornographic fantasies of African women and men in genral and of Kikuyu and Masai in particualar, of savage servants and noble savages, to justify their rule, and to slug out among themselves proper colonial class, sexual and gender relations. And in resisting the whole European project as well as its parts, Kikuyu and Masai contested and reinvented themselves, their systems of stratification, gender and interethnicity. It's a fine read and a wonderful reread of Leakey, Kenyatta and colonial ethnography.

Karen Brodin Sacks, University of California, Los Angeles

This is an excellent study of the social construction of race, sexual politics, and inequality in the crucible that was colonial Kenya. Carolyn Shaw’s book remains an excellent study of how the coloniser and the colonised engaged in discourses baring their diverse experiences, and producing intergral values and enduring images of self and of others in colonial Kenya.

Modern African Studies

It is interesting, clearly written and an erudite examination of writing on Kenya by Kenyans (by birth and by residence). In order to develop an argument or provide illustration Martin also roams farther afield to look at novels, films, and print media coverage of the Mau Mau in the USA during the 50s. This is a treatise on discourses of colonialism which is as clear as it is thoughtful, a delight to read, and thought provoking.

African Affairs

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One of the most important works to emerge in recent African scholarship. Written with elegance, it does not shy away from theoretical sophistication. Concerned with texts that purport to a scientific rationality, it does not ignore their &lsquo;poetry.&rsquo; Finally, passionately engaged with issues of race and particularly of gender, it does not reduce these to the tired binarisms that often beleaguer earlier modes of postcolonial criticism....[A] sympathetic and inspiring work.
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Research in African Literatures