UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

The meaning of violence : a journey of understanding through the Rift Valley of Kenya Bicknell, Joshua


On the 30th December 2007, following the disputed presidential election fought between Raila Odinga of the ODM Party and Mwai Kibaki of the PNU Party, violence erupted in the Rift Valley of Kenya. Focusing on the Kalenjin and Kikuyu ethnicities this paper takes a hermeneutical approach and argues that explanations of violence will always be incomplete without a prior understanding of what violence means for the different communities involved. It argues that this understanding comes from the dominant traditions of violence that people grow up in, which are constructed and held in narrative form. From this theoretical approach and building on five weeks of fieldwork conducted in the Rift Valley of Kenya in the September and October of 2010, the argument proceeds that in both the Kikuyu and Kalenjin communities storylines were constructed by the elites and opinion makers, building on existing narratives and framing events and experiences. These storylines were then reproduced at a local level and constructed violence as legitimate, necessary and directly led to fighting. From this conclusion, the final part of this paper suggests that by comprehending the compelling narratives leading to violence, persuasive counter-narratives can be introduced and strengthened, which might deconstruct violence as legitimate and make communities want peace. Overall, it is suggested that a hermeneutical approach to violence is valuable and must be pursued where the overriding goal is peace and human dignity.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International