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Willis, Justin (1989) The Mijikenda and Mombasa to c. 1930. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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The Mijikenda are a group of nine peoples who live on the coast around, and in the immediate hinterland of, Mombasa. Their identity as the Mijikenda is a recent construct, and is structured around traditions of migration from a common place of origin in the north, called Singwaya. These traditions have also been employed by elder males within Mijikenda groups to explain and legitimate the institutions around which their power is based. Until the 1940s, all the Mijikenda peoples were called the Nyika, defined as such in opposition to the Swahili who live in the coastal towns. Individuals could and did change their identity from a Nyika one to a Swahili one, and the two identities, while they were in opposition, were parts of a single paradigm. Ties of kin cut across the boundary between the two identities. This fluidity of identity on the coast gave the hinterland people a considerable ability to avoid the demands of the colonial state. In the context of a labour shortage on the coast, the permeability of Swahili identity was perceived as a considerable problem by colonial authorities. They instituted a number of measures intended to reduce the influence of the Swahili and Arabs over hinterland people and to redefine ethnicity. These policies and economic changes in Mombasa transformed relationships on the coast, and in particular they changed the way in which migrants moved to Mombasa. A Mijikenda identity grew out of these changes, following but essentially paralleling the use by some Swahili of the Twelve Tribes title as an exclusive identity which denied membership of the group to more recent immigrants.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2020 17:37

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