Journal of the History of Biology

, Volume 51, Issue 3, pp 535–562 | Cite as

Africanizing Science in Post-colonial Kenya: Long-Term Field Research in the Amboseli Ecosystem, 1963–1989

  • Amanda E. LewisEmail author
Original Research


Following Kenya’s independence in 1963, scientists converged on an ecologically sensitive area in southern Kenya on the northern slope of Mt. Kilimanjaro called Amboseli. This region is the homeland of the Ilkisongo Maasai who grazed this ecosystem along with the wildlife of interest to the scientists. Biologists saw opportunities to study this complex community, an environment rich in biological diversity. The Amboseli landscape proved to be fertile ground for testing new methods and lines of inquiry in the biological sciences that were generalizable and important for shaping natural resource management policies in Kenya. However, the local community was in the midst of its own transformation from a primarily transhumant lifestyle to a largely sedentary one, a complex political situation between local and national authorities, and the introduction of a newly educated generation. This article examines the intersection of African history and field science through the post-colonial Africanization of Kenyan politics, the broadening of scientific practices in Amboseli in previously Western-occupied spaces to include Kenyan participants, and an increasing awareness of the role of local African contexts in the results, methods, and implications of biological research. “Africanization” as an idea in the history of science is multifaceted encompassing not just Africans in the scientific process, but it needs an examination of the larger political and social context on both a local and national level.


Kenya Africanization Ecology Maasai Africa Conservation Pastoralism 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.SUNY-GeneseoGeneseoUSA

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