Narrating the Self and Nation in Kenyan Autobiographical Writings


Dr. Samuel Ndogo

Research Area:


This study is an analysis of selected autobiographical works from Kenya – Jaramogi Oginga Odinga’s Not Yet Uhuru (1967), Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s Detained: A Writer's Prison Diary (1981), Wangari Maathai’s Unbowed: A Memoir (2006), Bethwel Ogot's My Footprints on the Sands of Time (2003); The Illusion of Power: Reflections on Fifty Years in Kenya Politics (2001) by G. G. Kariuki; Passbook Number F.47927: Women and Mau Mau in Kenya (1999)by Muthoni Likimani – with specific focus on how memory is utilized, not merely as a tool for remembering the past but also as narrative strategy and trope. As such the study examines the construction of self and consequently the extent to which this is used in interrogating or even inventing Kenyan nationhood. In diverse ways, these writers engage with the “official” history or the grand narrative of the nation by intertwining personal experiences. In essence, these narratives not only deconstruct that history, but they also invent versions of self by inserting personal histories in the grand narrative of the post-independent Kenya.