The elusive resources of Kitui, postscripts of a colonial crisis
Maarten Onneweer (Leiden University)
In the 1930s, driven by the world crisis and the need for export, the Kenyan colony's agricultural officers reassessed the Kitui district's resources for improvement schemes. In the districts first totalizing vision, Kitui's soil, grazing, water and forests received new economic roles and was organizationally separated from the local inhabitants influence. While only few schemes successfully materialised, they did provoke a genre of narratives among the inhabitants in which Europeans fail to harness tremendous material wealth. Present day development projects encounter similar narratives in which hills and springs - the sites of 'natural' resources like water and the imaginary red mercury - become a sanctuary of certain powers resisting extraction by elites. In what seems a Latourian logic turned feral, these sites of 'natural' resources are known as "the culture" of the landscape. My presentation reconsiders the 'natural' of resources and the 'cultural' of opposition to development projects.
Engaging resources: anthropological perspectives on the formation and contestation of natural resource environments