SOAS University of London

Department of History

BUSHIDI Cecile Feza

BA (SOAS) African History and African Studies; MSc (Oxon) African Studies
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Bushidi Cecile Feza
Ms BUSHIDI Cecile Feza
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Thesis title:
’Dance, Socio-cultural Change, and Politics among the Kikuyu Peoples of Kenya, 1880s-1963’.

PhD Research

This thesis examines the history of various dance genres among the Kikuyu peoples of Kenya between the 1880s and 1963. I use archival sources and oral interviews to contend that during this period dance empowered many Kikuyu to negotiate a variety of forces that shaped their world. I take dance as an event and as an aesthetic and physical practice to examine inter-generational conflict among the Kikuyu; to shed new light on the politics of labour recruitment by the capitalist colonial state; to explore the impact of ‘modern’ dancing styles upon the Kikuyu; to illuminate aspects of the cultural politics of the colonial welfare state; and to highlight the role of dance in Africans’ anti-colonial and nationalist expressions. This historical ethnography inserts dance within the dialogues between Kikuyu grassroots politics and culture and the evolving colonial state. As a theoretical thread running throughout the entire project is the overlapping relationship between ‘high’ and ‘low’ politics. Governmental prohibition of popular dances impinging upon state objectives has historically accounted for their salience and popularity among the masses. Dance practices belong to the everyday life of ‘low politics’, performance reveals the cultural, ideological and moral components of the interactions between and within all the actors of the colonial state.


'The politics of music recording and collection in Kenya from the colonial period to the late 1970s', paper presented at Mapping the Field, second ESSA Conference, University of Copenhagen (June 2014).

’Social dance and the politics of intimacy: the case of mwomboko dance’, paper presented at Making a Scene: Network of Intimacy, the Institute for Psychoanalysis, London (July 2013).  

’Danse, histoire, et méthodologie: le cas de mwomboko’, paper presented at Figures du geste dansé: mythes, identités, interprétations, CEHTA/EHESS, Paris (May 2013).

’Researching dance in African history: ethics, constraints, and possibilities’, paper presented at Afnet Africa Research Day, SOAS/University of London (April 2013).