Hannah McLean

University of Glasgow

Memory and materiality in British-colonial detention camps in Kenya

Supervised by Professor Tony Pollard, Dr Erin Jessee & Dr Iain Banks

Following the end of the Mau Mau Uprising, the British-colonial government in Kenya dismantled over one hundred detention camps used to detain Mau Mau suspects, only a handful left standing to be repurposed as prisons and schools. In this process of transformation, confinement cells have been repurposed as student dormitories and storage rooms, and barbed wire and brick kilns left abandoned as waste. With thousands of files destroyed or concealed, the realities of the camps are now largely restricted to the memories of the few, aging survivors: there is an urgency to document and confront this past before it slips from living memory. My project examines the remains of these detention camps as lived heritage sites through archaeological survey methods and a community-based heritage mapping project. The significance of the sites will be considered within a broader theoretical framework grounded in critical heritage studies and memory studies. The project will lead to the expansion of public knowledge on anti-colonial heritage in Kenya and beyond, through collaboration with the Museum of British Colonialism (MBC), and universities and heritage organisations in Kenya and the UK.

Email: h.mclean.1@research.gla.ac.uk


Hannah McLean