Violent place-making: How Kenya's post-election violence transforms a workers' settlement at Lake Naivasha

  • Lang B
  • Sakdapolrak P
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Abstract

Violent events significantly influence the identity of places. Post-conflict areas evoke specific meanings and emotions, and the narratives of violent events have profound effects on the individual and collective interpretations of the venues of violence. This paper addresses the interdependent relationship between violence and place, considering the structural and multi-scalar conditions of a relational and discursive making of places. By linking them with an empirically grounded analysis of the materialisation of violence, we follow Gearóid Ó Tuathail's (2010) call for a more grounded study of place-specific causes for violent conflict. We focus on an empirical example - the post-election violence in Kenya 2007/08 - and look into one of its venues, a poor and heterogeneous workers' settlement at Lake Naivasha in Kenya's Rift Valley. Considering the specific socio-political setting in Kenya, we first examine the factors that explain why the violence broke out at that place in particular. We combine an exploration of the structural conditions that determined the violence, and which still regulate social life at present, with a presentation of the individual accounts of people directly or indirectly involved in the violence in Naivasha. We then investigate how the experience of violence has influenced the imaginations of the place, and whether these localised imprints of violence in Naivasha continue to regulate social and spatial (re)organisation after the events themselves. The study reveals that politically instigated societal divides continue to exist, and that memories of the violence induce intensified processes of segregation in the surveyed settlement during times of political uncertainty.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Empirical fieldwork
  • Imaginative geographies
  • Place
  • Post-conflict Kenya
  • Territorialisation
  • Violence

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