Book

Political violence in Kenya (2020)

land, elections, and claim-making

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Abstract

Examining a key puzzle in the study of electoral violence, this study asks how elites organize violence and why ordinary citizens participate. While existing theories of electoral violence emphasize weak institutions, ethnic cleavages, and the strategic use of violence, few specify how the political incentives of elites interact with the interests of ordinary citizens. Providing a new theory of electoral violence, Kathleen F. Klaus analyzes violence as a process of mobilization that requires coordination between elites and ordinary citizens. Drawing on fifteen months of fieldwork in Kenya, including hundreds of interviews and an original survey, Political Violence in Kenya argues that where land shapes livelihood and identity, and tenure institutions are weak, land, and narratives around land, serve as a key device around which elites and citizens coordinate the use of violence. By examining local-level variation during Kenya's 2007-8 post-election violence, Klaus demonstrates how land struggles structure the dynamics of contentious politics and violence.