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Oxfam in Kenya, 1963-2002

Morris, James (2015) Oxfam in Kenya, 1963-2002. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

The following thesis examines the role that Oxfam played in Kenyan development between 1963 and 2002. Academic studies of NGOs and their place in the development apparatus have, of course, been numerous and prominent, but to date they have often lacked the historicism and empiricism necessary to fully articulate the variegated functions that NGOs perform in the ‘global south’. For this reason, the following thesis concentrates on documenting the shifting mechanisms, dynamics and discourses of Oxfam’s work in Kenya. In its first case study chapter, the thesis argues that Oxfam offered its support to the Kenyan state apparatus and its seemingly exclusivist development ideology in the 1960s, but that such support was predicated on the Kenyan government behaving in a way that would reduce exploitation and promote equality. Thus, when such an approach was seen to be ineffective, Oxfam disengaged from the Kenyan state. In its second case study chapter, the thesis shows how Oxfam, emboldened by a shift in ideology towards ‘conscientisation’, sought instead to empower Kenya’s most marginalised citizens. However, Oxfam’s commitment to ‘conscientisation’ was challenged in the 1980s both by the hostility of the Moi regime to ‘foreign’ ideologies, and by the terrible drought and starvation unfolding in the north of the country. The chapter sheds light on Oxfam’s response, which was to use an outwardly technical approach to development to allow for ‘transformation by stealth’. The third case study chapter focuses on the 1990s, by which time Oxfam had come to fear that older political logics would not disappear just because the authoritarian Moi regime was challenged from below. Accordingly, its staff felt that momentum for change needed to be maintained at the highest levels of government. Yet as Oxfam sought to re-engage with the state, Moi was attempting to informalise Kenya’s institutions, and thus Oxfam projects and personnel were drawn into the political machinations of the Moi regime. The thesis concludes that historicised in such a way, development interventions take on a much messier appearance than overarching theories of development suppose. As such, the thesis forms part of a wider endeavour to test the predominant theories of social science as regards NGOs and development empirically and, above all, historically.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: History, Development, Kenya, Oxfam, NGOs
Academic Units: The University of York > History (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.680619
Depositing User: Mr James Morris
Date Deposited: 15 Mar 2016 12:42
Last Modified: 24 Jul 2018 15:21
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/11922

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