Murungi, Curtis

Grad Status: 

My research project arises out of a concern with how a particular response -- constitution-making -- to the particular manifestation of power around the idea of the State and the institutions and practices of Government in Kenya, and to the widespread social and economic inequalities in the country, appears to be closing off, in the name of democracy and democratic reform, the ways in which contingency, uncertainty, and disagreement shape democratic society. Based on sixteen months of fieldwork in Kenya, my doctoral dissertation The Letter and the Spirit: Politics, Intimacy, and Middle Class Constitution-Making in Kenya, is an anthropologically and ethnographically informed historical analysis of class as a political process that focuses on the interests, ideological beliefs, and socioeconomic and sociopolitical strategies of members of the reform movement. I argue that these beliefs and practices are tied to the ways Nairobi, the country's capital, is differentially accessed as a lived and symbolic space, and to the kinds of intimacy that are entered into by these reformers. I show how the reform movement is better understood not as a mass movement but as a small, closely-aligned group of individuals from a mostly cosmopolitan and professional background, who chose to focus on "human rights" and constitution-making because these reflected their class interests.