Seminar: "Questions of Sovereignty: Invention and Intervention on the Kenya-Somali Boarder" by Prof. Julie MacArthur.

Event Information
Event Date: 
Wednesday, 31 July 2013 - 3:00am

Questions of Sovereignty: Invention and Intervention on the Kenya-Somali Border

On 16 October 2011, the Kenyan army launched an invasion into southern Somalia across their northeastern border. The ongoing invasion, named Operation Linda Nchi, “Protect the Nation,” has been a thoroughly twenty-first century conflict, replete with wikileaks revelations, battles waged on twitter and invocations of the global “war on terror.” Whether lauded as a much needed intervention into a long history of regional insecurity or derided as an illegal action against a sovereign nation, the invasion provided the Kenyan government an opportunity to flex its U.S.-funded military muscle ahead of a contentious election year and to affirm its territorial sovereignty ahead of its fiftieth anniversary of independence and, coincidentally, of its first war over its northern frontier.

The border between Kenya and Somalia has long acted as a flashpoint for broader debates over sovereignty, citizenship and territoriality. Throughout the twentieth century, Somali partisans resisted various forms of governance and provided the alien “strangers” to colonial and postcolonial sovereignties in Kenya. In the era of decolonization, Kenyan nationalists sought to secure their colonial territorial inheritance and suppress the claims of Somali partisans through the monopoly of violence, territorial constructions of citizenship and performances of statehood along this notoriously ill-defined colonial frontier. The proposed establishment of a semi-autonomous “buffer zone” in Jubaland reflects a longer history of the territorialization and diffusion of sovereignty in Somali lands, the recasting of historical narratives of belonging and the alternative and strategic remappings of sovereignty in local, national and international discourses. The Kenyan invasion of Somalia marks another chapter in a long history of contestation and conflict, of invention and intervention, across this colonial frontier, revealing the seemingly irreconcilable disjuncture between state constructions of sovereignty in territory and popular notions of sovereignty in people.


Venue: MISR Seminar room-I

Time: 2:15-4:15pm.

Copies of the paper are available in MISR Library.

Attendance will be limited to 60. To reserve a seat, please email:



Event Venue
MISR Seminar Room 1

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