(Un)even Cultural Productions: (Re)theorising Silences in the Kenyan Political Life writing


  • Stephen Mutie
  • Albert Rutere




This article examines how the Kenyan political self-writing (re)enacts silences while claiming to memorise the country’s past. The paper interrogates the self-writings as cultural productions ridden with interested (re)theorisings. The question to be answered in this article regards whether the Kenyan political self-writings, in the quest for nationhood in Kenya, silence particular strands of histories and other equally essential themes in the Kenyan political memory. To answer this question, the discussion was located within the post-colonial theory, with particular emphasis on the strand that articulates resistance as a form of strategic calculation and interrogates the interest that inhabits the production of specific knowledges. The article examined the political autobiography chosen here as located from a place of privilege, often silencing particular themes while amplifying others. The biographical method was used to analyse Not Yet Uhuru by Jaramogi Odinga and The Flame of Freedom by Raila Odinga. Revealing the dangers of a single story in autobiographical works, the article argues that Kenyan political self-writing is imbued with rhetorical performances determined by the need to tell a compelling story. Hiding behind the romantic concept of speaking truth to power and using grandeur themes like nationhood and subalternity as survival tropes, the leaders examined here deliberately and conveniently elbow out other themes that do not serve their interests. Uhuru and Freedom are, therefore, public performances of deference and loyalty so crucial in power relations, especially in maintaining dynastic life and constructing a flattering self-image of their writers. In the final analysis, Uhuru and Freedom become cultural constructions, remembering the past with a slant.