Dala or Diaspora? Obama and the Luo Community of Kenya

Posted in Africa, Anthropology, Articles, Barack Obama, History, Media Archive on 2013-07-02 02:02Z by Steven

Dala or Diaspora? Obama and the Luo Community of Kenya

African Affairs
Volume 108, Issue 431 (2009)
pages 197-219
DOI: 10.1093/afraf/adp002

Matthew Carotenuto, Associate Professor History
St. Lawrence University, Canton, New York

Katherine Luongo, Assistant Professor of History
Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts

As members of the ethnic group to which the American President’s paternal family belongs, Luo people in Kenya and in the diaspora have been eagerly claiming Barack Obama as ‘their own’ since 2004. This embrace speaks to a range of ethno-political developments in Kenya throughout the twentieth century. Luo identity has been primarily constituted within a diasporic context, beginning with the large-scale labour migrations of the early twentieth century and continuing with the activities of the ‘dot.com’ generation into the present. Simultaneously, patrimonial politics constituted along ethnic lines have rendered Luos political outsiders and heightened the urgency of securing a powerful patron. Given these two trends, Luo people at home and abroad have reached into the diaspora with hopes of finding their biggest ‘Big Man’ in the figure of Barack Obama.

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