restricted access 9. Politics as Performance: Disposession, Elite Transition and the Performative Exercise of Power
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148 (Re)claiming Performance Space in Kenya CHAPTER NINE Politics as Performance: Disposession, Elite Transition and the Performative Exercise of Power Kiama Kaara & Amadi kwaa Atsiaya Introduction Performance is generally taken to be a measure of the net output of an action pegged or commensurate to the highest degree of a perceived expectation. Resultantly, the drive to perform has emerged as one of the leading push and pull factors of today’s world. Taken literally, in a highly competitive and efficient capitalist system, performance is the benchmark around which we are all measured, be it in our work, social life, education, or any other social interaction. On the other hand, performance could be looked at from the artistic and highly aesthetic angle, whereby it is not just one of the factors that determine our course of existence as a human race, but rather an integral part of our being human. Thus, performance becomes part of our animated self, best exemplified by the so called professional performers, but who mirror our daily life, whether in the realm of politics, education, religion or health. The first part of this chapter elucidates the Kenyan society from the perspective of a political discourse, where it endeavours to postulate that it makes sense to evaluate performance on two main dynamics: efficient resource utilization and the perceptions. This is because, within the body politic, decision making is not a “natural” happenstance but is threaded within the whole process itself. Essentially, a relation of power is evident in this process. In most if not all contemporary societies, it revolves around those who wield power and those on whom power is exercised. Exercise of power, dependant on the end achieved, resonates on whether it serves to empower and uplift the standards, aspirations and expectations of the people or if it emasculates, disempowers and dispossesses the same people on whose behalf it is exercised.1 The second Getting Heard 149 part of the chapter shall look at performance as an artistic expression, and how it manifests and is utilized by those who have politics as their main forte. A nation unravels The events unfolding in Kenya after the much criticized and controversial elections of 27th December 20072 have exposed the planned failures of our nascent democracy and with it, both the ideological rot and inadequacy across the Kenyan body politic. While this has left many wondering what actually went wrong, we posit that an ideologically bankrupt political process that revolves around access to power, its consolidation and use to accumulate wealth is a recipe for failure. A bastard political economy founded on self preservation ushers in not only a ‘bandit’3 economy but a flawed political process that at one hand is divorced from the aspirations of the citizenry (based on a ‘social contract’4 typology) and appended to the global capital class typically for its service and to act as a transmission line for resource extraction and capital flow best espoused by Walter Rodney in “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa.”5 With relative calm and stability since independence and ground gained as the economic powerhouse and beacon of peace on this eastern sea board of Africa, Kenya has attained and played a significant strategic role within the global political, financial and economic architecture. It is arguably the most dependable and consistent gateway to Anglo-American imperialist interests on these shores. Kenya’s unraveling has confounded many and drawn varied reactions.6 The aftermath of the December 2007 elections, has shown that “calm doesn’t necessarily mean peace”7 and that suspicion, mistrust, competing, contested and contentious interests especially on the question of access to resources and ability to secure livelihoods is a glaring innate conflict that threatens to tear the social fabric of the Kenyan nation apart. Commentators and observers alike are differentiated in their approach to the analysis of the underlying issues and the emergent aftermath (albeit all too often based on their persuasions along the warring sides). But across board, all are united in the fact that this was not just a one off affair and the effects while tangible in the number of deaths, internally displaced persons (IDPs), razed houses, forced displacements and forced occupations, 150 (Re)claiming Performance Space in Kenya collapsed businesses8 and infrastructure, lawlessness, rape, animosity, mutual suspicion and the general rapture of the social fabric will have a wide ranging effect, with monumental influence on the character, pace and nature of the emergent Kenyan body politic.9 The Crisis of Social Development In...