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Title: Connecting past and present : the archaeology of the contemporary past in the glades of Embobut, Kenya
Author: Lunn-Rockliffe, Samuel
ISNI:       0000 0004 8502 8060
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2018
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At its most basic, this project aims to explore the recent archaeology and history of Sengwer communities and the Embobut Forest in the Cherangani Hills, Kenya, in order to better understand how they conceptualise their 'indigeneity'. Such work is especially relevant in Cherangani given recent attempts by Kenya's national government to move the Sengwer from the forest within the context of the 'National Resource Management Project' funded by the World Bank. These evictions resulted in a legal case hinged upon the issues of conservation and 'indigeneity', partly due to a change in the World Bank status of the Sengwer from 'Indigenous People' to a 'Vulnerable and Marginalised Group'. This alteration was rejected by the Sengwer not least because the term 'Indigenous People' is both a part of a much larger, international dialogue and alludes to a relationship between humans and their landscape in a way that 'Vulnerable and Marginalised Group' does not. Thus, the Sengwer have been attempting to re-assert their right to live in Cherangani by drawing upon a range of historical and cultural ideas that demonstrate the importance of the relationship they bear with their landscape. Unfortunately, realising this aim has been hindered by a lack of wider intellectual interest, since no academic studies have hitherto explored the history, archaeology or ethnography of the Sengwer in any detail. As such, I have worked with the Sengwer community in order to conduct a diachronic analysis of how they have constructed their landscape and engaged with their forest environment. In turn, a more rigorous understanding of the temporality and materiality of the Embobut landscape as understood from the ground up helps contextualise what has become a complicated and contested narrative of landscape modification over the past century. Indeed, different perspectives of deforestation and conservation as gleaned from government reports and activist documents illuminates how landscape change is multifaceted, not only being caused by shifting livelihoods of the people residing there, but also the imposition of conservation boundaries by the colonial Forest Department in the early twentieth century. Ultimately, then, my work aims to bring a more materially centred approach to help better comprehend how the Embobut Forest has changed in conjunction with different perceptions, understandings and experiences of the landscape.
Supervisor: Mitchell, Peter ; Davies, Matthew Sponsor: Wenner Gren Foundation ; British Institute in Eastern Africa ; Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Archaeology and history ; Social Anthropology