Green Grabbing and the Contested Nature of Belonging in Laikipia, Kenya: A Genealogy

Global demand to protect endangered wildlife at any cost has corresponded to increasingly more Large-Scale Land Acquisitions being carried out for conservation purposes. This dissertation focuses on how and why different rural groups have such diverse experiences with, and reactions to, this phenomenon (i.e. green grabbing). Recent studies emphasize the need to depart from stereotypes of rural groups as either passive victims or unified resistors of green grabbing. Such studies show that green grabs have differentiated impacts and are met by variegated political reactions from below – including resistance, acquiescence, and incorporation. While making important contributions to the literature, these insights lead to additional questions. For example, how do the political reactions of certain rural groups align or depart from those of others and why? In responding to such questions, this dissertation makes green grabbing a subject of ethnographic and historical analysis in Laikipia, Kenya. Through a genealogical approach to studying green grabbing, this dissertation brings literature on ethnicity and belonging in Laikipia into dialogue with recent green grabbing literature. The findings suggest that in settler societies, certain aspects of green grabbing may be understood as acts of white belonging. Likewise, green grabbing presents other rural groups with opportunities – however marginal – to re-assert different notions of belonging in the landscape through resistance, acquiescence, or incorporation. Based on these findings, this dissertation argues that green grabbing is central to longstanding contestations over belonging in Laikipia. The phenomenon has been made possible by, but has also re- produced, ethno-spatial divisions rooted in colonial expansion. By tracing the shifting contours of these divisions in time, this dissertation contextualizes how and why different rural groups experience and react to green grabbing. In doing so, it builds a case for ethnographic and historical analyses of green grabs in other places, spaces, and times.