The Power of the Oath

The Power of the Oath

Mau Mau Nationalism in Kenya, 1952-1960

Mickie Mwanzia Koster


University of Rochester Press



Opens a fresh conversation on the study of the Mau Mau rebellion and Kenyan history by arguing that Mau Mau was a nationalist movement rather than a Kikuyu war.
Through a critical examination of the Mau Mau oath used to initiate and unite fighters, The Power of the Oath opens a fresh conversation on the study of Mau Mau and Kenyan history. It argues for a historiographical shift in the framing of the Mau Mau rebellion as a Kikuyu war. Instead, Mickie Mwanzia Koster suggests that Mau Mau was a nationalist movement, embraced by non-Kikuyu communities like the Kamba ethnic group. Incorporating a creative blend of primary sources, including testimonies from ex-Mau Mau participants, survey analysis, archival data, Mau Mau court cases, ceremonial reenactments, and folklore, The Power of the Oath demonstrates how and why the movement was spread, embraced, and internalized. Mwanzia Koster traces the evolution and structure of the Mau Mau oath, examining the British criminalization of the oath, its gendered use, and the purification associated with it, in order to reveal how Mau Mau unfolded in Kenya.

Mickie Mwanzia Koster is associate professor of history at the University of Texas, Tyler.


12 black and white illustrations
262 pages
9x6 in
Rochester Studies in African History and the Diaspora
Hardback, 9781580465465, June 2016
eBook, 9781782046523, June 2016
University of Rochester Press
BISAC HIS001020, POL053000, SOC002010
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Discoursing Mau Mau and the Mau Mau Oath
The Evolution of the Mau Mau Oath
The Mau Mau Oath Process and Architecture
Shifting from Lawful to Unlawful: Mau Mau Oath Criminalization
Gender and the Mau Mau Oath
Mau Mau Oath Purification
Appendix A: Field Notes
Appendix B: Mau Mau Freedom Fighters, Prisons, and Concentration Camps in Ukambani
Appendix C: Survey Ritual Analysis 2008 and Mungiki Survey Analysis 2011

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