In This Review

Mau Mau and Nationhood: Arms, Authority, and Narration

Mau Mau and Nationhood: Arms, Authority, and Narration
By E.S. Atieno et al
320 pp, Ohio University Press, 2003

After 40 years of independence, Kenya still wrestles with the legacy of the Mau Mau revolt of the 1950s. Were its fighters the sole heroes of the anticolonial struggle, only some of the heroes, or just gangsters, as Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya's first president, once implied? Was Mau Mau a class war, a nationalist movement, or an ethnic rebellion, and if principally the last, what part should it play in the ongoing construction of Kenyan national identity? This excellent and expert collection offers samples of work from the burgeoning field of Mau Mau studies, dissecting the movement's socioeconomic foundations, recruitment and survival techniques, impact on British public opinion, interpretations in Kenyan fiction, and contested symbolism in post-independence Kenyan politics. Looking back on British official responses to the movement at the time, it is hard to avoid hearing eerie echoes of contemporary American attempts to analyze and pose solutions to the threat of international terrorism.