CRES Graduate Spotlight--Christian Alvarado (History of Consciousness)

January 13, 2020

An interview with Jane Komori , a CRES DE in the Department of History of Consciousness

JK: You're a PhD candidate in the History of Consciousness Department with a Designated Emphasis in CRES. What does this interdisciplinary formation offer you that you might not have in a more traditional academic setting?

CA: The interdisciplinary formations that I have been able to work within through my embeddedness in both HistCon and CRES allow me to traverse exceptionally diverse constellations of thought in my research. As someone with a disciplined historical background, the multiplicity of intellectual traditions that inhabit these programs has broadened my work in a way that studying in a more traditional setting would have precluded. As a historian of Africa, education, and gender (three relatively marginalized fields within the historical discipline), I’ve been able to ask questions and pursue lines of inquiry that would likely have been either structurally or disciplinarily impossible elsewhere.


JK: You recently completed your Qualifying Exams. Congratulations! What did your writing for the exams include? And what's next for you and your research?

CA: Thanks! My exams included an introduction to the project, two draft dissertation chapters, and a prospectus. The first chapter explores the academic work of Jomo Kenyatta in relation to two things: the rise of the Kikuyu Independent School network (which operated as a grassroots alternative to mission education in central Kenya during the 1920s) and contemporary anthropological thought in Great Britain. I examine the manner in which Kenyatta’s articulation of education as both idea and structure drew from each of these as he narrativized life in precolonial Kenya. The second chapter looks at the “Rehabilitation” camps and educational programming created during the suppression of the Mau Mau rebellion. I examine the pedagogical arrangements deployed by the British counter-insurgency as well as the logics through which particular populations were deemed “(un)educatable” within the broader Rehabilitation project. My next piece of research will examine the memoirs and autobiographies of former insurgents, many of whom went on to attain notable places in the Kenyan state apparatus while fashioning a militant form of masculinity predicated in large part on their political education during the Mau Mau era.


JK: You completed archival research in Kenya in 2018. Do you have other research that's going to take you outside of the university on the horizon?


CA: I certainly hope so! I’m currently rolling the dice on trying to secure grants to travel to key sites for my research. I hope to not only return to Kenya (where I’ll have a much better idea of what I’m doing this time), but also visit the so-called “migrated archives” in London. This collection consist of material extracted from Kenya immediately before national independence and contains documents that deeply trouble the official colonial (and, indeed, postcolonial) narrative. One of the things that has been particularly compelling about researching the educational dynamics of this movement and their place within the historiography of this event is the relative sparsity of research that has turned an eye to it. Yet the records of educational ministries, missionary organizations, and so forth have so far been exceptionally rich resources for understanding both the struggle itself and historical articulations of it.


JK: How does CRES inform your place-based, interdisciplinary historical research about education in (post)colonial Africa? Has CRES shaped your research questions, methods, or reading practices?