The struggle for self-determination and grassroots liberation from neocolonial NGO-ism: perspectives from Kenya
Grassroots Liberation group (Kenya) and Dr Thomas Jeffrey Miley (University of Cambridge)
Public Seminar Series
Wednesday, 04 May 2022, 3pm to 4pm
Online via Zoom
Hosted by Refugee Studies Centre
Public Seminar Series Trinity term 2022
'Resistance, Justice, Liberation: Critical Approaches to Knowledge Production on War, Violence and Colonization'
Convened by Dr Dilar Dirik (Joyce Pearce Junior Research Fellow)
Download the series poster
About the seminar
In this seminar, we will center the work of the Grassroots Liberation Movement (GLM), which is based in Nairobi, Kenya. The GLM is dedicated to the struggle for self-determination, or “people power,” across the city’s informal settlements, home to approximately 70% of the population. These settlements are characterised by a lack of clean water, sanitation, clinics, schools, roads, or adequate housing, as well as by periodic forced evictions and systemic extra-judicial police murders. They are sites and symbols of severe deprivation and state violence, spaces where the wretched of the earth dwell. Over the past decade, a network of social justice centers has established the infrastructure for the defense of human rights, for local assembly discussions, and for documentation of grassroots struggles for community empowerment. This network has in turn become a key field of struggle between a more domesticated agenda, advanced by NGOs, on the one hand, and more radical, anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist aspirations for self-determination, on the other. Representatives from the GLM will sketch the contours and content of their struggle for self-determination, against both the brutal neo-colonial state, with the extractive model of capitalist development which it is imposing, as well as against creeping NGO-ism within the ranks of the network of social justice centers. For his part, Dr Miley will address his recent experience grounding with the GLM. He will highlight the imperative for internationalist solidarity, and will discuss strategies for decolonizing research, for avoiding extractivism, and for transcending the neo-colonial dialectic of charity and dependence.
About the speakers
The Grassroots Liberation Project is born of a commitment to social justice through documenting of the social and ecological movement’s struggles. It seeks to empower community activists in the ghettos of Nairobi in their valiant struggle against the many gross human rights violations being perpetrated by the postcolonial state and the brutal, extractive model of capitalist development it is imposing. The Project aims to embody and advance an ethos of true international solidarity, to struggle with and alongside affected communities, to help them empower themselves, and in so doing to transcend – indeed, to burst asunder – the narrow confines and neo-colonial dialectic of charity and dependence.
Joining the event will be:
- Gacheke Gachihi is the Coordinator of Mathare Social Justice Center, a member of the Social Justice Centers Working Group Steering Committee, and a member of the Grassroots Liberation Movement in Nairobi, Kenya. He is also involved in regional social movements and politics.
- Brian Mathenge is a Community Organizer, from the Young Communist League, a member of Githurai Social Justice, the Social Justice Centers Working Group, the Grassroots Liberation Movement, and the Communist Party of Kenya.
- Waringa Wahome is an organizer, political theorist, social justice and human rights lawyer, a member of Mathare Social Justice Center, the Grassroots Liberation Movement, the Communist Party of Kenya as well as the Kenyan Organic Intellectuals Network.
- Don Wahenga is an artist, social justice activist, and Secretary General of the Wahenga Youth Group in Kayole, Nairobi.
Dr Thomas Jeffrey Miley is an Associate Professor of Political Sociology at the University of Cambridge. His work focuses on struggles for self-determination in the 21st century. He is co-editor, with Dr. Federico Venturini, of Your Freedom and Mine: Abdullah Ocalan and the Kurdish Question in Erdogan's Turkey (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 2018). He is a member of the executive committee of the EU-Turkey Civic Comission (EUTCC) and a patron of Peace in Kurdistan.
The video of this seminar is available to watch on YouTube.