Skip to main content Accessibility help

The 2017 Shooting of Kuki Gallmann and the Politics of Conservation in Northern Kenya

  • Graham R. Fox


This article situates the shooting of white Kenyan landowner Kuki Gallmann within recent critiques of community-based conservation and the politics of whiteness in Kenya. I discuss how conservation has enabled white landowners to consolidate their influence over Laikipia County, as well as neighboring regions of Kenya via an organization called the Northern Rangelands Trust. The NRT is feared to be undermining regional livestock economies, while contributing to land shortages that have precipitated violence in Laikipia. I argue that the pastoralists implicated in these conflicts are subject to a maelstrom of livelihood stressors, some of which are aggravated by the efforts of white Kenyans to expand conservation throughout northern Kenya.

Cet article situe la fusillade d’une Kényane blanche Kuki Gallmann propriétaire de la réserve Laikipia Nature Conservancy au sein des critiques récentes sur la conservation communautaire et la politique blanche au Kenya. Je discute comment la conservation a permis aux propriétaires blancs de consolider leur influence sur le comté de Laikipia, ainsi que les régions voisines du Kenya via un organisme appelé Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT). La NRT est soupçonnée de compromettre les économies régionales du bétail, tout en contribuant aux pénuries de terres qui ont précipité la violence à Laikipia. Je soutiens que les éleveurs impliqués dans ces conflits sont soumis à un maelström d’agents stressants pour subvenir à leurs besoins, dont certains sont aggravés par les efforts des Kényans blancs pour étendre la conservation dans tout le nord du Kenya.



Hide All
Abrahamsen, Rita, and Williams, Michael C.. 2010. Security Beyond the State: Private security in international politics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
African Wildlife Foundation. 2008. “Land Trusts.”
Al Jazeera. 2015. “PR stunt hides a brutal truth about the ivory trade.” March 5, 2015, Doha.
Alexander, Jocelyn and McGregor, JoAnn. 2000. “Wildlife and politics: CAMPFIRE in Zimbabwe.” Development and Change 31 (3): 605–27.
Anderson, David and Grove, Richard, eds. 1989. Conservation in Africa: Peoples, Policies and Practice. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Berman, Bruce and Lonsdale, Jon. 1992. Unhappy Valley: Conflict in Kenya and Africa. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press.
Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo. 2012. “The invisible weight of whiteness: the racial grammar of everyday life in contemporary America.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 35 (2): 173–94.
Borona, Gloria Kendi. 2017. “Unpacking Agikuyu people-forest relationships: the case of the Nyandarwa forest in Kenya.” Paper presented at the conference of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences and the Canadian Anthropology Society, Ottawa, May 5.
Büscher, Bram. 2010. “Anti-politics as political strategy: Neoliberalism and transfrontier conservation in southern Africa.” Development and Change 41 (1): 2951.
Büscher, Bram, and Fletcher, Robert. 2015. “Accumulation by conservation.” New Political Economy 20 (2): 273–98.
Business Daily. 2016. “Turkana declares six conservancies illegal over permit.” January 21, 2016, Nairobi.
Cooper, Frederick and Stoler, Ann. 1997. Tensions of Empire: Colonial Cultures in a Bourgeois World. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Crapanzano, Vincent. 1985. Waiting: The Whites of South Africa. New York: Vintage.
Daily Nation. 2013. “Laikipia ranchers are under pressure to start paying taxes.” June 10, 2013, Nairobi.
Daily Nation. 2017. “Lodge closed after herders invade ranch in Laikipia.” Jan. 31, 2017, Nairobi.
Daily Nation. 2017. “Lempurkel says his arrest political.” March 9, 2017, Nairobi.
Doro, Marion. 1979. “Human Souvenirs of Another era: Europeans in Post-Kenyatta Kenya.” Africa Today 26 (3): 4354.
Douglas-Hamilton, Iain. 1987. “African elephants: population trends and their causes.” Oryx 21 (1): 1124.
Duffy, Rosaleen. 1999. Killing for Conservation: Wildlife policy in Zimbabwe. Oxford: James Currey.
Duffy, Rosaleen. 2014. “Waging a war to save biodiversity: the rise of militarized conservation.” International Affairs 90 (4): 819–34.
Evans, Lauren and Adams, William M.. 2016. “Fencing elephants: The hidden politics of wildlife fencing in Laikipia, Kenya.” Land Use Policy 51: 215–28.
Ferguson, James. 2006. Global Shadows: Africa in the Neoliberal World Order. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.
Fox, Graham. 2014. “Commitment Issues: Security and belonging in a white Kenyan household.” Canadian Journal of African Studies 48 (2): 353–72.
Fratkin, Elliot. 2015. “The Samburu laibon’s sorcery and the death of Theodore Powys in colonial Kenya.” Journal of Eastern African Studies 9 (1): 3554.
Gadd, Michelle. 2005. “Conservation outside of parks: attitudes of local people in Laikipia, Kenya.” Environmental Conservation 32 (1): 5063.
Galaty, John G. 1994. “‘Ha(l)ving land in common’: The subdivision of Maasai group ranches in Kenya.” Nomadic Peoples 34 (35): 109–22.
Gallmann, Kuki. 1991. I Dreamed of Africa. New York: Penguin.
Garland, Elizabeth. 2008.“The elephant in the room: confronting the colonial character of wildlife conservation in Africa.” African Studies Review 51 (3): 5174.
Georgiadis, Nicholas J. 2011. “Introduction: Conserving Wildlife in Kenya’s Ewaso landscape.” In Conserving Wildlife in African Landscapes: Kenya’s Ewaso Ecosystem, edited by Georgiadis, N. J., 110. Washington DC: Smithsonian Institute Scholarly Press.
Goldman, Mara. 2011. “The Politics of Connectivity Across Human-Occupied Landscapes: Corridors near Nairobi National Park, Kenya.” In Knowing Nature: Conversations at the intersection of political ecology and science studies, edited by Goldman, Mara, Nadasdy, Paul and Turner, Matt, 186202. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Graham, Max, Adams, William M., and Kahiro, Gabriel N.. 2012. “Mobile phone communication in effective human elephant-conflict management in Laikipia County, Kenya.” Oryx 46 (1): 137–44.
Greiner, Clemens. 2013. “Guns, land, and votes: Cattle rustling and the politics of boundary (re) making in Northern Kenya.” African Affairs 112 (447): 216–37.
Gressier, Catie. 2011. “Safaris into subjectivity: White locals, black tourists, and the politics of belonging in the Okavango Delta, Botswana.” Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power 18 (4): 352–76.
Guardian. 2017. “Author Kuki Gallmann shot by raiders on her ranch in Kenya.” April 24, 2017, London.
Guardian. 2017. “Who shot Kuki Gallmann? The story of a Kenyan conservationist heroine.” June 18, 2017, London.
Hall, Ruth. 2011. “Land Grabbing in Southern Africa: The Many Faces of the Investor Rush.” Review of African Political Economy 38 (128): 193214.
Holtzman, Jon. 2009. Uncertain tastes: memory, ambivalence, and the politics of eating in Samburu, Northern Kenya. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Hughes, David McDermott. 2005. “Third Nature: Making Space and Time in the Great Limpopo Conservation Area.” Cultural Anthropology 20 (2): 157–84.
Hughes, David McDermott. 2006. “Hydrology of hope: farm dams, conservation, and whiteness in Zimbabwe.” American Ethnologist 33 (2): 269–87.
Hughes, David McDermott. 2010. Whiteness in Zimbabwe: Race, Landscape and the Problem of Belonging. New York: Palgrave.
Hughes, David McDermott. 2011. “Whites lost and found: Immigration and Imagination in Savanna Africa.” In Environment at the margins: Literary and environmental studies in Africa, edited by Caminero-Santangelo, Byron and Myers, Garth, 159–83. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press.
Hughes, Lotte. 2006. Moving the Maasai: a colonial misadventure. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Igoe, Jim. 2006. “Measuring the costs and benefits of conservation to local communities.” Journal of Ecological Anthropology 10 (1): 7277.
Igoe, Jim. 2010. “The spectacle of nature in the global economy of appearances: Anthropological engagements with the spectacular mediations of transnational conservation.” Critique of Anthropology 30 (4): 375–97.
Kennedy, Dane. 1987. Islands of White: Settler society and culture in Kenya and Southern Rhodesia, 1890–1939. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.
Laikipia Wildlife Forum. 2012. Wildlife Conservation Strategy for Laikipia County, 2012-2030.
Klopp, Jacqueline. 2000. “Pilfering the public: the problem of land grabbing in contemporary Kenya.” Africa Today 47 (1): 726.
Lengoiboni, Monica, Bregt, Arnold K., and van der Molen, Paul. 2010.“Pastoralism within land administration in Kenya—The missing link.” Land Use Policy 27 (2): 579–88.
Little, Peter D. 2014. Economic and Political Reform in Africa: Anthropological Perspectives. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press.
Lunstrum, Elizabeth. 2014. “Green Militarization: Anti-poaching efforts and the spatial contours of Kruger National Park.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 104 (4): 816–32.
Manji, Ambreena. 2015. “Whose land is it anyway? The failure of land reform in Kenya.” London: Africa Research Institute.
Mbaria, John and Ogada, Mordecai. 2016. The Big Conservation Lie. Seattle: Lens and Pens Publishing.
McIntosh, Janet. 2016. Unsettled: Denial and belonging among white Kenyans. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Neumann, Roderick P. 1998. Imposing Wilderness: Struggles over Livelihood and Nature Preservation in Africa. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Neumann, Roderick P. 2004. “Moral and discursive geographies in the war for biodiversity in Africa.” Political Geography 23 (7): 813–37.
Northern Rangelands Trust. 2017. “Misrepresentation and misinformation about NRT.”
Norton-Griffiths, Michael. 1996. “Property rights and the marginal wildebeest: an economic analysis of wildlife conservation options in Kenya.” Biodiversity and Conservation 5 (12): 1557–77.
Nyamnjoh, Francis. 2012. “Blinded by sight: Divining the future of anthropology in Africa.” Africa Spectrum 47 (2): 6392.
Parker, Ian. 2004. What I tell you three times is true: Conservation, Ivory, History and Politics. Moray, UK: Librario.
Povinelli, Elizabeth. 2011. Economies of Abandonment: Social Belonging and Endurance in Late Liberalism. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.
Rutherford, Blair. 2004. “Settlers and Zimbabwe: Politics, memory, and the anthropology of commercial farms during a time of crisis.” Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power 11 (4): 543–62.
Rutten, Marcel. 2002. “Parks beyond parks: genuine community-based wildlife eco-tourism or just another loss of land for Maasai pastoralists in Kenya?” IIED: London.
Schroeder, Richard. 2012. Africa after Apartheid: South Africa, Race, and nation in Tanzania. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press.
Shadle, Brett. 2015. The Souls of White Folk: White settlers in Kenya, 1900s–1920s. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Shaw, Carolyn Martin. 1995. Colonial Inscriptions: Race, Sex and Class in Kenya. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Smith, Robert J., Biggs, Duan, Freya St. John, Michael Sas-Rolfes, and Barrington, Robert. 2015. “Elephant conservation and corruption beyond the ivory trade.” Conservation Biology 29 (3): 953–56.
Spectator. 2017. “Remembering Tristan Voorspuy, one of the last stylishly mad people in Kenya.” March 11, 2017, London.
Standard Media. 2016. “This man Mathew Lempurkel: Why the MP is no stranger to controversy.” Nov. 25, 2016, Nairobi.
Standard Media. 2017. “Security force shoot 500 cows in Laikipia as herders protest.” March 30, 2017, Nairobi.
Steinhart, Edward. 2006. Black poachers, White hunters: A social history of hunting in colonial Kenya. Oxford: James Currey.
Straight, Bilinda. 2009. “Making sense of violence in the ‘Badlands’ of Kenya.” Anthropology and Humanism 34 (1): 2130.
Straight, Bilinda, Lane, Paul, Hilton, Charles, and Letua, Musa. 2016. “‘Dust people’: Samburu perspectives on disaster, identity, and landscape.” Journal of Eastern African Studies 10 (1): 168–88.
Sumba, Daudi, Warinwa, Fiesta, Lenaiyasa, Philip and Muruthi, Philip. 2007. “The Koija Starbeds Ecolodge: A Case Study of a Conservation Enterprise in Kenya,” African Wildlife Foundation Working Paper.
Sundaresan, Siva and Riginos, Corinna. 2010. “Lessons learned from biodiversity conservation in the private lands of Laikipia, Kenya.” Great Plains Research 20 (1): 1727.
Sunday Times. 2006. “Trigger-happy valley.” June 16, 2006, London.
Suzuki, Yuka. 2017. The Nature of Whiteness: Race, Animals and Nation in Zimbabwe. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
Telegraph. 2017. “‘I Dreamed of Africa’ author Kuki Gallmann shot and wounded at Kenya conservation park.” April 23, 2017, London.
Throup, David and Hornsby, Charles. 1998. Multi-party politics in Kenya: The Kenyatta and Moi states and the triumph of the system in the 1992 election. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press.
USAID. 2015. “A New Phase of Conservation Programs in Kenya.”
Uusihakala, Katja. 1999. “From Impulsive Adventure to Post-Colonial Commitment: Making white Identity in Contemporary Kenya.” European Journal of Cultural Studies 2 (1): 2745.
Van Zwanenberg, R. M. A. 1975. Colonial Capitalism and Labour in Kenya, 1919-1939. Nairobi: East African Literature Bureau.
Wade, Christopher. 2015. The Strategic Use of Private Property in a Rangelands Environment. The Political Ecology of Pastoralist Land Use Dynamics and Property Rights in Laikipia County, Kenya. MA Thesis, McGill University.
Wepundi, Manasseh, Nthiga, Eliud, Kabuu, Eliud, Murray, Ryan, and Frate, Anna Alvazzi del. 2012. Availability of small arms and perceptions of security in Kenya: an assessment. Geneva: Small Arms Survey.
Western, David, Groom, Rosemary, and Worden, Jeffrey. 2009. “The impact of subdivision and sedentarization of pastoral lands on wildlife in an African savanna ecosystem.” Biological Conservation 142 (11): 2538–46.


The 2017 Shooting of Kuki Gallmann and the Politics of Conservation in Northern Kenya

  • Graham R. Fox


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed