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New pastoral commons in postcolonial Kenya

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Extensive processes of land enclosure currently unfold in Southwest Kenya largely driven by Maasai land users. Across areas previously held as common land, fences are spreading at an unpredictable scale that radically reconfigure the socio-ecological landscape. Paradoxically, although historically, privatization of common land has been associated with state dominance – today, many Maasai land users see enclosure as delineating new horizons of prosperity and autonomy.

We explore the nexus between enclosure and its lodging in layers of political pasts and how preceding forms of governance continue to influence the organization of land tenure across time frames. For this purpose, we present three case studies of land fencing and (de)fencing
from the Rift Valley region of Kenya. We build on ethnographic fieldwork in the region undertaken between 2014-2016 with more than 80 interviews, combined with archival resources from The National Archives in Kew and new geospatial mappings of the fencing expansions.

The cases provide insight into the ways in which enclosure co-produces plural and ambiguous land tenure relations, elsewhere referred to as new commons. Moreover, we focus on what drives pastoralists to (de-)fence in contradiction to interests in sustaining common pastures, and how the binding of land becomes its own political deliberation.
Original languageEnglish
Publication year2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020
EventInternational Association for the Study of the Commons: African Commons - Web conference
Duration: 13 Jul 202027 Jul 2020


ConferenceInternational Association for the Study of the Commons
LocationWeb conference
Internet address

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