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Matt Caratenuto Book

matt_0Matthew Carotenuto is an Associate Professor of History and the Coordinator for our African Studies program, and he has co-authored a book with Katherine Luongo, an Associate Professor of History at Northeastern University, titled: Obama and Kenya: Contested Histories and the Politics of Belonging.  Matt summarizes the book this way:

“The origins for this book are actually linked to St. Lawrence. In the spring of 1998, as a student on the Kenya Semester Program, I got my first taste in oral historical research. Tasked with a month long oral history project with fellow student Samantha Schroeder, we spent our days stumbling around the shores of Lake Victoria interviewing members of the Luo community, not more than a few miles from where Barack Obama’s father grew up. Ever since my initial experiences in western Kenya, my work has focused on notions of identity and belonging within the Luo community.

I would have never thought though, that six years after my study abroad experience I would begin fielding questions from Kenyans about “that boy from Chicago” in the midst of dissertation field work on colonial history. However, specializing in region of Obama’s Kenyan paternal heritage, my work since 2004 (and especially 2008) has had to contend with the rise of “Obamamania” in Kenya and the ways the Obama and Kenya story provides insight into the historic politics of belonging.

In the book we argue that, Barack Obama’s political ascendancy has focused considerable global attention on the history of Kenya generally and the history of the Luo community particularly. From politicos populating the blogosphere and bookshelves in the U.S and Kenya, to tourists traipsing through Obama’s ancestral home, a variety of groups have mobilized new readings of Kenya’s past in service of their own ends. We argue that efforts to cast Obama as a “son of the soil” of the Lake Victoria basin provide sharp insights into both the global politicized uses of Kenya’s contested past and the local politics of belonging. Speaking to a broad audience interested in world affairs and ideally suited for classroom use, Obama and Kenya provides an important counterpoint to the proliferation of popular, inaccurate texts about Kenya’s history as well as focused, thematic analyses of contemporary debates about ethnic politics, “tribal” identities, postcolonial governance and U.S. African relations.

~ by pdoty on .

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