For white Kenyans descended from colonial settlers, the question of how to establish their right to belong in Kenya provokes considerable anxiety. Some whites attempt to suture themselves to Kenya through kinship narratives that reach backward in time, as well as laterally across races. Whites’ relationship to colonial ancestors indexes a bloodline on Kenyan soil, a version of autochthony that some hope will establish entitlement to land or broader legitimacy as cultural citizens. Many also posit a kind of kinship with their Afro-Kenyan domestic staff based on affective ties and, sometimes, the time-depth of their families’ association. Both narratives invoke white Kenyans’ sense that they are important stewards or patrons in Kenya, aspiring to write their belonging into Kenyan history and establish themselves as part of the nation. Yet both kinship narratives re-invoke problematic racial hierarchies.


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pp. 251-280
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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