Fugitive Slaves and Community Creation in Nineteenth-Century Kenya: An Archaeological and Historical Investigation of Watoro Villages


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This dissertation investigates how people escaping slavery formed communities in nineteenth-century Kenya. Analysis centers on the economic insularity and cultural heterogeneity of runaway slave groups. First, the project explores the relative economic integration of such nascent groups into regional networks. Second, it investigates whether fugitive slaves developed homogenized sociocultural norms or maintained long-term cultural plurality. The above inquiries benefit from an archaeological and ethnohistorical comparison of fugitive slave groups and the coastal hinterland communities that neighbored them. These comparisons reveal the plasticity of ethnic identity for all hinterland groups and a concurrent need in runaway slave communities for both isolation from and connection to outsiders.