Kara Moskowitz, "Seeing Like A Citizen" (Ohio UP, 2019)

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Kara Moskowitz, Assistant Professor of African History as the University of Missouri-St. Louis. has written a terrific book, Seeing Like A Citizen: Decolonization, Development and the Making of Kenya, 1945-1980 (Ohio University Press).

Kara’s book is rigorously researched and beautifully written. She draws on both archival and life history methods to center rural Kenyans, living (or who have lived) in the Rift Valley Highlands of western Kenya, as agents of both development and decolonization.

Both of these concepts – development and decolonization—are central to Kara’s argument: that state-led processes of development defined post-colonial citizenship, which in turn dictated access to land and other state-controlled resources.

It’s a fascinating book that raises important questions about the postcolonial state as an object of international development initiatives, the developmental logic of the Kenyan state and the ways in which rural Kenyans sought to manage development to their advantage, by imploring local officials to advocate on their behalf.

In examining state-led processes from the bottom up, Kara’s work illustrates the need to study the late colonial and early colonial periods as a single period of transition, as well as the importance of learning from those subject to state-led development initiatives.

She suggests the following books for listeners wishing to learn more. Daniel Branch, Kenya: Between Hope and Despair, 1963-2011; Kenda Mutongi, Worries of the Heart: Widows, Family, and Community in Kenya and Matatu: A History of Popular Transportation in Nairobi; Priya Lal, African Socialism in Postcolonial Tanzania: Between the Village and the World, and Alden Young, Transforming Sudan: Decolonization, Economic Development, and State Formation. And, Kara Moskowitz summarizes her argument and evidence in this blog post on the Democracy in Africa site.

Kara Moskowitz is assistant professor of African history at the University of Missouri St. Louis.

Susan Thomson is associate professor of peace and conflict studies at Colgate University.

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