AbstractThe field of ethnic conflict studies is dominated by top-down approaches and elite-centric analyses that emphasise the social construction of group grievances, fears and hatreds, and that highlight the central role played by political entrepreneurs in the manipulation of ethnicity and the organisation of violence. Whilst offering valuable explanations of the macro-context of conflict, existing theories obscure local level agency and oversimplify the nature and dynamics of violence on the ground. The aerial perspective creates the illusion of homogenous ethnic groups waging battle along a clearly defined and stable cleavage line, and it fails to account for localised manipulations of, and individualised resistance to, the macro-ethnic divide.
This thesis offers a view of violence from below, complexifying, problematising, and nuancing existing theories through a close-grained, thick descriptive analysis of a particular case. A detailed ethnographic exploration of the localised dimensions of the 2007-2008 post-election crisis in Kenya reveals socio-spatial variations in violence dynamics, as well as localised and individualised contradictions in involvement and participation, that are not easily explained by the dominant perspective. It argues that territories with a clear ethnic majority experienced more intense violence than ethnically mixed spaces, which remained relatively calm and demonstrated greater levels of inter-ethnic cooperation. It further highlights the ambiguities of individual involvement, arguing that local level actors can transcend the meta-narrative of ethnic animosity for a variety of reasons and in a variety of ways.
The thesis concludes that cases of ethnic conflict are not marked by singularity and uniformity, but rather by multi-vocality and complexity. They are not coherent and singular conflicts but rather are constituted by multiple locally-ethnicised clashes. Thus, the thesis contributes to the broader project of generating more comprehensive and representative understandings of ethnic violence by exploring the localised proces
|Date of Award||17 Jan 2013|
|Supervisor||Patrick Finney (Supervisor) & Jenny Mathers (Supervisor)|