Race for distinction : a social history of private members' clubs in colonial Kenya
Title: Race for distinction : a social history of private members' clubs in colonial Kenya
Author: CONNAN, Dominique
Citation: Florence : European University Institute, 2015
Series/Number: EUI PhD theses; Department of History and Civilization
This thesis explores the institutional legacy of colonialism through the history of private members clubs in Kenya. In this colony, clubs developed as institutions which were crucial in assimilating Europeans to a race-based, ruling community. Funded and managed by a settler elite of British aristocrats and officers, clubs institutionalized European unity. This was fostered by the rivalry of Asian migrants, whose claims for respectability and equal rights accelerated settlers' cohesion along both political and cultural lines. Thanks to a very bureaucratic apparatus, clubs smoothened European class differences ; they fostered a peculiar style of sociability, unique to the colonial context. Clubs were seen by Europeans as institutions which epitomized the virtues of British civilization against native customs. In the mid-1940s, a group of European liberals thought that opening a multi-racial club in Nairobi would expose educated Africans to the refinements of such sociability. The United Kenya Club only highlighted the strength of racial prejudice. It gave rise to much discomfort and awkwardness among its members, which reflected the contrast between European will to promote moderate, educated Africans and the brutality by which Kenya's most radical nationalists were crushed during the Mau Mau War. If Africans eventually took interest in joining European clubs, it was because these institutions had become entwined with state power. Settlers and officials met in clubs to discuss politics, within an Empire of which decorum, epitomized during official visits, almost recognized European clubs as official buildings. Africans eventually became members, torn between a nationalist rejection of the colonial past and the will to join institutions that conferred prestige and afforded connections. They abandoned Gilbert & Sullivan operas, yet they took over golf. On Kenya's fairways, white domination was challenged by black triumphs, while African elites appropriated clubs as an attribute of class, and no longer race, distinction.
LC Subject Heading: Kenya -- History -- To 1963; Kenya -- Colonial influence; Great Britain -- Colonies -- Africa -- Race relations -- History -- 20th century; Great Britain -- Colonies -- Africa -- Administration -- History -- 20th century
Defence date: 9 December 2015; Examining Board: Professor Stephen Smith (EUI Supervisor); Professor Laura Lee Downs, EUI; Professor Romain Bertrand, Sciences Po; Professor Daniel Branch, Warwick University.
Type of Access: embargoedAccess