Experiments in governance and citizenship in Kenya’s resource frontier
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Over the past four years, natural resource exploration and development have rapidly expanded across northern Kenya and, as a result, the region is in the midst of a frontier-making project that may have seemed unimaginable a few years ago. In this dissertation, I use the concept of frontier as an analytical framework to examine processes that are transforming society, the economy, and landscape in northern Kenya. This dissertation contributes to scholarship on resource frontiers by analysing the specific governmental technologies used by both powerful and less powerful actors to produce, negotiate and contest the rules that govern landscapes and people in frontiers. In Article #1, I examine the use of novel technologies of governance in frontier spaces. I show how transnational corporations use voluntary standards — designed to regulate their social and environmental conduct — to legitimize and consolidate control over land and resources. In constructing my argument, I engage with two examples from Kenya’s northern resource frontier. I trace the specific technologies used by two corporations to secure access to land for the purpose of resource development, focusing specifically on their use of voluntary standards. I frame my analysis using Hall et al.’s (2011) ‘powers of exclusion,’ arguing that voluntary standards serve as one legitimising discourse that corporations can deploy to justify excluding other land users. In Article #2, I shift my focus to how frontiers are governed ‘from below’. This article focuses on the spectrum of different, sometimes competing, reactions to mega-infrastructure development in northern Kenya among rural land users. The central aim of this article is to examine how rural groups draw upon different forms of expertise — ranging from ecological science to international legal frameworks — to frame and legitimize their reactions to frontier-making projects. The analysis in this article contributes to wider debates about rural agency in frontier spaces, by demonstrating how rural land users can strategically deploy different forms of expertise to negotiate the rules that govern access to land and resources. In Article #3, my co-author and I analyse changing social and political relationships in northern Kenya in light of oil exploration and development. This article demonstrates how some northern Kenyans are seeking protection of their rights from oil companies, in light of the Kenyan government’s hands-off approach to governing northwestern Kenya. We argue that new expectations around corporate social responsibility are drawing oil companies and rural communities into an uneasy citizen-state-like relationship, altering the experiences and practices of citizenship in the region. This article contributes to discussions about new political spaces and new forms of political subjectivity in frontier spaces. Combined, these articles use northern Kenya as a case study to illustrate how the rules that govern access to land in resource frontiers are shaped through experiments in governance and innovative acts of citizenship. I frame my conclusions using recent literature on post-frontiers.
Cite this work
Charis Enns (2016). Experiments in governance and citizenship in Kenya’s resource frontier. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/11083