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Seminar: Cultural Rights and Kenya’s New Constitution

November 6, 2014

Date: Tuesday, 11 November 2014
Time: 11 am
Venue: British Institute In Eastern Africa, Kileleshwa NAIROBI
For more information and to RSVP please contact


This three-year ESRC-funded research project will document and analyse the impact of the new constitution’s cultural rights provisions on Kenyan society.
Kenya’s 2010 constitution (katiba in Kiswahili) enshrines rights to culture and cultural heritage, which Kenyans have never previously enjoyed. They include for example rights to ‘ancestral’ land, protection for endangered languages, indigenous knowledge, and the right to ‘enjoy’ one’s culture.  As soon as the constitution was passed, following a national referendum in August 2010, different groups of citizens – especially indigenous and minority communities – began saying they planned to claim their cultural rights.
Cultural rights claims could have far-reaching implications for peace and social unification, and there is a risk of cultural rights clashing with human rights, especially those of women and children. The research will explore how cultural rights claims could affect social cohesion and peace building. We will investigate how Kenyans are exercising new constitutional rights to culture through a series of case studies tracking the ‘social lives’ of rights claims. We will also be examining how devolution to new county governments is affecting how people engage with culture, and changes in heritage management, at a local level.
In this seminar, members of the research team will introduce the project and discuss the questions they will be exploring over the next three years. 

Research Team

Lotte Hughes, The Open University, UK (Principal Investigator). Lotte is a historian of Africa, empire and postcolonial issues, who specializes in Kenya. She previously led the AHRC-funded research project ‘Managing Heritage, Building Peace: Museums, memorialization and the uses of memory in Kenya (2008-2011). This resulted in the book Managing Heritage, Making Peace: History, Identity and Memory in Contemporary Kenya, co-authored with Annie E. Coombes and Karega-Munene (I.B Tauris, 2014)
Zoe Cormack, The Open University, UK (Research Associate). Zoe is a historical anthropologist who has worked mainly in South Sudan and Kenya. Her PhD, recently completed at Durham University, was a study of historical memory in a Dinka community in South Sudan.
Steve Ouma Akoth, Tangaza University Co, Kenya (Project Consultant). Steve Ouma is a legal anthropologist, with a PhD from the University of the Western Cape, South Africa. He is a former Director of Programmes and Deputy Director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC). He teaches at Tangaza University College, Nairobi.
Gordon Omenya, Pwani University, Kenya (Project Consultant). Gordon works as an Assistant Lecturer in History at Pwani University. He is also currently completing his PhD at the Universite de Pau in France. His thesis is titled The Relations Between Asian and African Communities: A comparative study of Western and Nyanza Provinces of Kenya.