Abstract

Whites in colonial Kenya deeply held to what was among the most bourgeois of sentiments, that of preventing cruelty to animals. Settlers and administrators alike witnessed what they considered heartless cruelty to animals perpetrated by Africans. Through the 1920s and 1930s, whites insisted that only the infliction of physical violence on African bodies could teach Africans not to be cruel to animals. Magistrates and private individuals punched and flogged Africans who were found acting cruelly to dumb beasts. In later years, some whites considered the possibility that Africans, like whites, could be taught to empathize with animals. The East Africans Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals published booklets in which anthropomorphized animals spoke to Africans—a tried and true strategy of anti-cruelty advocates, but one hitherto not directed toward Africans. During the 1950s, however, settlers and the government used Mau Mau attacks on animals to highlight the savage nature of the rebels, and to demand the infliction of corporal punishment on Africans. When whites tried to fix other "problems" in African societies—forced marriage, insobriety, excision— they used violence, logic, material inducements, but not empathy. It would appear that only in relation to cruelty to animals that whites attempted to inculcate empathy into African hearts. This implied that the distance between whites and Africans was not insuperable. Yet by emphasizing the need to teach Africans empathy, whites reinforced Africans' lack of civilization, and whites' duty to continue their civilizing mission.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-1897
Print ISSN
0022-4529
Pages
pp. 1097-1116
Launched on MUSE
2012-06-25
Open Access
No
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