+1 Recommend
1 collections
      • Record: found
      • Abstract: found
      • Article: found
      Is Open Access

      “Collaborators” or “Resistors,” “Loyalists” versus “Rebels”: Problematizing Colonial Binary Nomenclatures through the Prism of Dedan Kimathi's Career



            This paper evaluates the “evolution” of African anti-imperial resistance in African history in general and that of Kenya in particular, in the attempt to reveal hidden or private/public transcripts and inherent power dynamics that fueled political dissent, opposition, and action. James C. Scott informs us that people, generally, and especially where relations of power are concerned, do not usually wear their opinions, emotions, motives or deepest thoughts that shape their behavior on their sleeve. Therefore, throughout history, the vast majority of people, the “dissembled weak,” or “those subject to elaborate and systematic forms of social subordination,” are given to putting up “public performances,” a perfunctory adherence to imposed laws, policies, and the status quo as is required of them. The outcome of this general rule of thumb is a “public transcript” that, “by its accommodationist tone,” provides “convincing evidence for the hegemony of dominant values, for the hegemony of dominant discourse.” Such public transcripts are misleading since they lead observers to “conclude that subordinate groups endorse the terms of their subordination and are willing, even enthusiastic, partners in that subordination.” The implications of Scott's insightful paradigmatic conceptualization of the internal dynamics of the “arts of resistance” are far-reaching. This radical conceptualization of the concealed roots of external human behavior, and “public performances,” naturally complicates earlier analysis of social categories of African responses to European imperialism thought to be straightforward and concrete or mutually exclusive. It presents a possibility for an analysis and reinterpretation of the deep psychosociological springs and triggers of human behavior, which necessitates a crucial return to this important theme in African history. That is, a more nuanced scrutiny and critical study of the popular mind or populist reason. This paper is such a critical reexamination of problematic social categories and Eurocentric binary nomenclatures.


            Author and article information

            Groundings: Development, Pan-Africanism and Critical Theory
            Pluto Journals
            1 July 2018
            : 3
            : 1 ( doiID: 10.13169/groudevepanacrit.3.issue-1 )
            : 50-67
            York College, CUNY
            © 2018 Global South Research Consortium

            All content is freely available without charge to users or their institutions. Users are allowed to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of the articles in this journal without asking prior permission of the publisher or the author. Articles published in the journal are distributed under a http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

            Custom metadata

            Economic development,Political science,Social & Behavioral Sciences,General social science,Development studies,Cultural studies
            resistance,anti-colonialism,rebels,Dedan Kimathi,loyalist,Mau Mau,collaboration,James Scott,anti-imperialism,colonialism,Foucault,Kenya


            1. Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. New York: Penguin Books, 1994.

            2. Branch, Daniel. Defeating Mau Mau, Creating Kenya: Counterinsurgency, Civil War, and Decolonization. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

            3. Branch, Daniel. From Home Guard to Mau Mau: Ambiguities and Allegiances During the Mau Mau Emergency in Kenya, 1952-60. University of Leiden: African Studies Centre, 2005.

            4. Clegg, Stewart. “Power and Authority, Resistance and Legitimacy.” In Power in Contemporary Politics: Theories, Practices, Globalizations. Henri Goverde et al., eds. London: Sage, 2000.

            5. Comaroff, Jean. Body of Power, Spirit of Resistance: The Culture and History of a South African People. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985.

            6. Elkins, Caroline. Imperial Reckoning: The Untold story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2005.

            7. Giddens, Anthony. Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991.

            8. Giddens, Anthony. The Constitution of Society: Outline of the Theory of Structuration. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984.

            9. Githuku, Nicholas K. Mau Mau Crucible of War: Statehood, National Identity, and Politics of Postcolonial Kenya. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2016.

            10. Githuku, Nicholas K. “The Unfolding of Britain and Kenya's Complex Tango: An Uneasy Return to a Critical Past and its Implications.” In Dedan Kimathi on Trial: Colonial Justice and Popular Memory in Kenya's Mau Mau Rebellion. Julie MacArthur, ed. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2017.

            11. Glassman, J. Feasts and Riot: Revelry, Rebellion, and Popular Consciousness on the Swahili Coast, 1856-1888. London: 1995.

            12. Gold, Daniel M. “Review: ‘Hyena Road’ Follows a Sniper Team in Afghanistan.” The New York Times, 10 March 2016.

            13. Hargreaves, John D. “West African States and the European Conquest.” In The History and Politics of Colonialism, 1870-1914. L.H. Gann and P. Duignan, eds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969.

            14. Haugaard, Mark. “Power, Ideology and Legitimacy.” In Power in Contemporary Politics: Theories, Practices, Globalizations, Henri Goverde et al., eds. London: Sage, 2000.

            15. Lonsdale, John. “Kenya's History from Cambridge by Candlelight.” In A History of Independent Kenya, 1963-2013: A Celebration of Kenya's Fiftieth Independence Anniversary. W.R. Ochieng, ed. Kisumu: Lake Publishers, 2013.

            16. Lonsdale, John. “The Moral Economy of Mau Mau: Wealth, Poverty and Civic Virtue in Kikuyu Political Thought.” In Unhappy Valley: Conflict in Kenya & Africa II, Violence & Ethnicity. Bruce Berman and John Lonsdale, eds. Oxford: James Currey, 1992.

            17. Lonsdale, John. “Kenya's History from Cambridge by Candlelight.” In “Mau Mau's Debates on Trial.” In Dedan Kimathi on Trial: Colonial Justice and Popular Memory in Kenya's Mau Mau Rebellion. Julie MacArthur, ed. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2017.

            18. Martin, Luther H. et al. Technologies of the Self: A Seminar with Michel Foucault. Amherst: Massachusetts Press, 1998.

            19. Maxon, Robert. Conflict and Accommodation in Western Kenya: The Gusii and the British, 1907-1963. New Jersey: Associated University Presses, 1989.

            20. Mbwiliza, J.F. “Resistance and Collaboration or the Struggle and Unity of Opposites: The Dilemmas of the Comprador Class at Sancul, 1750-1850.” The African e-Journals Project (Michigan State University) (n.d.).

            21. Parsons, Neil. King Khama, Emperor Joe, and the Great White Queen: Victoria Britain through African Eyes. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.

            22. Ranger, Terrence O. “Connexions between ‘Primary Resistance Movements’ and Modern Mass Nationalism in East and Central Africa.” Journal of Africa History 9 (1968).

            23. Ranger, Terrence O. “Resistance in Africa: From Nationalist Revolt to Agrarian Protest.” In Resistance: Studies in African, Caribbean and Afro-American History. G.Y. Okihiro, ed. Amherst, 1986.

            24. Ranger, Terrence O. “The People in African Resistance: A Review.” Journal of Southern African Studies 4 (1977).

            25. Ranger, Terrence O. “African Reaction to the Imposition of Colonial Rule in East and Central Africa.” In The History and Politics of Colonialism in Africa. L. H. Gann and P. Duignan, eds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969.

            26. Rotberg, Robert I. and Ali Mazrui. Protest and Power in Black Africa. New York: Oxford University Press, 1970.

            27. Scott, James C. Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008.

            28. Shepperson, G. and T. Price. Independent African: John Chilembwe and the Origins, Setting and Significance of the Nyasaland Native Rising of 1915. Edinburgh, 1958.

            29. Steinhart, Edward I. Conflict and Collaboration: Kingdoms of Uganda. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977.

            30. van Walraven, Klaas et. al (eds.) Rethinking Resistance: Revolt and Violence in African History. Leiden: Brill, 2003.

            31. Vandervort, Bruce. Wars of Imperial Conquest in Africa 1830-1914. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998.


            Comment on this article