The Souls of White Folk: White Settlers in Kenya, 1900s-1920s
Oxford University Press, 2015 - 180 pages
The souls of white folk offers a striking new interpretation of white settlement in early colonial Kenya. Kenya's white settlers have long captivated observers. They are alternately celebrated and condemned, painted as romantic pioneers or hedonistic bed-hoppers or crude racists. If we wish to better understand Kenya's tortured history, however, we must examine settlers not as caricatures, but as peopleinhabiting a unique historical moment. We must ask, what animated their lives? What comforted them and what unnerved them, to whom did they direct love, and to whom violence? The souls of white folk takes seriously - though not uncritically - what settlers said, how they viewed themselves and theirworld. It argues that the settler soul was composed of a series of interlaced ideas: settlers equated civilisation with a (hard to define) whiteness; they were emotionally enriched through claims to paternalism and trusteeship over Africans; they felt themselves constantly threatened by Africans, bythe state, and by the moral failures of other settlers; and they daily enacted their claims to supremacy through rituals of prestige, deference, humiliation, and violence. The book explains how settlers could proclaim real affection for their African servants, tend to them with intimate medical procedures, as well as whip, punch and kick them - for these were central to the joy of settlement, and the preservation of settlement. It explains why settlers could be asequally alarmed by an African man with a fine hat, Russian Jews, and a black policeman, as by white drunkards, adulterers, and judges - all posed dangers to white prestige. The souls of white folk will appeal to those interested in the histories of Africa, colonialism, and race, and can be appreciated by scholars and students alike.
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