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African Internationalisms and the Erstwhile Trajectories of Kenyan Community Development: Joseph Murumbi’s 1950s

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JournalJournal of Contemporary History
DateAccepted/In press - 25 Mar 2021
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

This article sheds new light on the relationship between internationalism, decolonisation and ideas about development through a reassessment of an overlooked period in the life of Joseph Murumbi (1911-90), cultural collector and Kenya’s second vice-president. It follows Murumbi’s engagement with three internationalist spaces during the 1950s: in the Afro-Asian worlds of India and Egypt he honed his vision for community development and the practical coordination of internationalism; in London he pushed British activists to take a more internationalist approach to anti-colonialism in a case of ‘reverse tutelage’; disillusioned with the British Left, in Scandinavia and Israel he questioned the translatability of community development and the practical role of external sympathisers as Kenyan independence approached. Murumbi’s trajectory confirms the inseparability of internationalism and nationalism in 1950s Africa, reinserting internationalist thought into narratives of Kenyan freedom struggles and suggesting how alternative visions for post-colonial Kenya were lost. Moreover, we argue, this reassessment of Murumbi’s life advances the burgeoning scholarship on internationalisms in the decolonising world by showing that Murumbi’s internationalist practices and his interest in the supposedly ‘local’ question of community development drove one another. Murumbi thus shows us a particular set of entanglements between the ‘local’ and the ‘global’.

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