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Mau Mau’s Children

The Making of Kenya’s Postcolonial Elite

David P. Sandgren; Foreword by Thomas Spear

Publication Year: 2012

In 1963 David P. Sandgren went to Kenya to teach in a small, rural school for boys, where he remained for the next four years. These were heady times for Kenyans, as the nation gained its independence, approved a new constitution, and held its first elections. In the school where Sandgren taught, the sons of Gikuyu farmers rose to the challenges of this post colonial era and, in time, entered Kenyan society as adults, joining Kenya’s first generation of post colonial elites.
    In Mau Mau’s Children, Sandgren has reconnects with these former students. Drawing on more than one hundred interviews, he provides readers with a collective biography of the lives of Kenya’s first postcolonial elite, stretching from their 1940s childhood to the peak of their careers in the 1990s. Through these interviews, Mau Mau’s Children shows the trauma of growing up during the Mau Mau Rebellion, the nature of nationalism in Kenya, the new generational conflicts arising, and the significance of education and Gikuyu ethnicity on his students' path to success.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xvi

Both the Mau Mau struggle against British colonial rule in Kenya during the 1950s and the transition to independence in the 1960s have been the subject of considerable academic study and debate, but the experiences of ordinary Kenyans during and after the struggle for independence have...

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pp. xvii-xxi

Our understanding of Africa has frequently been limited to the general perceptions of our time: crisis, catastrophe, poverty, violence, and most recently the destruction brought about by HIV/AIDS. Such perceptions are occasionally balanced by the more positive images of Africa’s...

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pp. xxiii-xxiv

Both individuals and institutions have assisted in bringing this book to completion. Foremost among them have been my former Kenyan students who have been my primary research subjects. Of course back in 1963, I did not know how the three classes I would teach at Giakanja...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xxv

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pp. 3-17

My own journey to Giakanja started in February 1963, when as a senior in college I saw a poster advertising opportunities to teach in East Africa. There was a tear-off postcard that I sent in. The packet of information that came in response informed me of a shortage of high school...

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1. Late Colonial Childhoods

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pp. 18-39

Kenya is an East African country approximately the size of Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota combined. It straddles the equator and has the Indian Ocean as its eastern border. The geographic area that we now call Kenya has had a long and venerable history...

2. Entering Secondary Education

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pp. 40-55


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pp. 56-62

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3. Confronting the Cambridge Exams

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pp. 63-78

The Cambridge School Certificate (CSC) was the ultimate credential: mandatory for getting a good job or entrance to higher education and the focus of all Kenyan secondary school students, especially in their last two years. Earning a good school certificate was a prerequisite to a good...

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4. Making a Career

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pp. 79-97

As students were finishing up their secondary schooling, waiting for their exam results, or trying out their first attempts at employment, what were their educational and occupational aspirations and how had their education influenced these aspirations? A questionnaire administered in...

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5. Entering an Economic Elite

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pp. 98-111

The postcolonial elite that emerged in the 1960s was not Kenya’s first. Historically, a small cadre of Kenyans from two earlier generations had composed an emergent elite during the colonial era that anticipated, at least in part, the pathway to economic prosperity that opened...

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6. Personal Life in Elite Circles

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pp. 112-131

In this chapter and the next, I will explore marriage and family for my cohort of former students. As we will see, their lives have been influenced by their cosmopolitan residence in Kenya’s cities, especially Nairobi; their professional careers, often in multiethnic workplaces; and their...

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7. Reflections on the Next Generation

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pp. 132-146

Generational conflict is not unique to the tensions arising between this cohort of former students and their children. Youth have frequently challenged their parents’ generation; indeed, the very structure of past African societies seems to reflect tension between the generations. John...

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Appendix: Cohort Profiles

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pp. 147-150

The profiles below represent approximately 10 percent of my former students. I have included them to reveal how their life patterns bear much similarity and yet are noticeably different, each life with its own trajectory....


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pp. 151-170


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pp. 171-178


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pp. 179-185

Further Reading, Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780299287832
E-ISBN-10: 0299287831
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299287849
Print-ISBN-10: 029928784X

Page Count: 184
Publication Year: 2012