Kenya's new indigenes: negotiating local identities in a global context



ABSTRACT. This article examines the proliferation of communities that self-identify as indigenous peoples by looking at the Ogiek, Sengwer, Endorois and Pokot of western Kenya. It shows how community leaders have self-consciously employed a global discourse of indigeneity – and associated ideas of territorial association, marginalisation and especial vulnerability – to strengthen moral and legal claims to land and resources, to access new domains of action and cultivate new channels of patronage. The analysis also highlights how this process, together with similar developments across Africa, Asia and the Middle East, has prompted a re-evaluation and stretching of this global signifier at the supra-state level. Finally, the article reveals how the emergence of a new global space has provided new opportunities and strong incentives to renegotiate local “nationalisms” in a struggle for ownership and control of communal terroir, while factionalism has fed into, supported and fundamentally altered supra-national definitions.