Grace Ahingula Musila F'11
African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships 2011
Kenyan and British Social Imaginaries on Julie Ward's Death in Kenya
Primarily focusing on the 1988 murder of 28-year-old British tourist Julie Ward in Kenya's Maasai Mara Game Reserve, this project examines the role of narrative in shaping social imaginaries and public memory in/on Africa. Through an analysis of the three true crime books about the case, media reports, court transcripts, and rumors about the murder mystery, it engages with questions such as the persistence of colonial imaginaries in mediating metropolitan relationships with Africa; public memory and amnesia; and the limits of modernity in understanding Africa, among other concerns. At the core of the project is the question: Why would the death of an ordinary tourist in the Kenyan wilderness become the subject of contested narratives across Britain and Kenya? It argues that Julie Ward's death took place in a particular landscape laden with conflicted discourses about state power during the Moi regime; Kenyan and British attitudes towards female sexual morality; tensions about tourism, wildlife conservation, and constructions of postcolonial whiteness; and Kenyan and British transnational interests, all of which influenced the public discourses on the death and ultimately colored the quest for truth and justice.