John Lonsdale says in his introduction:
“This is the oral evidence of the Kikuyu villagers with whom Greet Kershaw lived as an aid worker during the Mau Mau ‘Emergency’ in the 1950s, and which is now totally irrecoverable in any form save in her own field notes.
Professor Kershaw has uncovered long local histories of social tension which could have been revealed by no other means than patient enquiry, of both her neighbour’s memory and government archives…
Nobody, whether Kikuyu participant, Kenyan or European scholar, has provided such startlingly authoritative ethnographic insights into the values, fears and expectations of Kikuyu society and thus of the motivation of Kikuyu action…
Her data suggests, as other scholars have also accepted, that there never was a single such movement and that none of its members, even those who supposed themselves to be its leaders, ever saw it whole, not because they did not have a political aim, but because that agenda was contested within different political circles over which they had no control and of which they may scarcely have had any knowledge.
And why is this finding important? It is because others, including almost all the movement’s enemies, did see Mau Mau whole in order to try to comprehend it, a first step towards defeating it.”
Greet Kershaw was formerly a professor of anthropology at California State University, Long Beach.
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