Empire, repetition, and reluctant subjects in British home movies of Kenya 1928-1972

Grandy, Christine (2018) Empire, repetition, and reluctant subjects in British home movies of Kenya 1928-1972. The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 46 (1). pp. 121-143. ISSN 0308-6534

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This article examines the ‘home movies,’ or amateur film, made by a range of British visitors to Kenya from 1928 to 1972, and attempts by Kenyans to navigate and influence this production. By bringing cine-cameras to Kenya to record images to be consumed back in the metropole by family and friends as ‘holiday films,’ these British visitors laid bare what a number of historians have identified as the ‘imperial gaze’ that defined both colonial and post-colonial conceptions of Africa. Colonialism’s obsession with ordering and positioning bodies within a projected image of power and control made cinema the perfect vessel for such an exercise, while amateur film, with its often clumsy framing and highly personal interaction between the filmmaker and the film subject, grants us unique insight into the sometimes painful efforts involved in projecting such an image. The interplay between film-maker and subject, violent, coerced, reluctant, and also sometimes shrewdly navigated, is much more evident in a study of amateur film than in related studies of the photography of empire. The amateur films that sit at the centre of this article, produced by British visitors to Kenya both before and after independence, offers us the opportunity to examine the wide range of behaviours of both the filmmaker and the filmed which underpinned the production of repetitive imperial image-making in colonial and post-colonial Kenya.

Keywords:20th century British history, Film history, British empire
Subjects:V Historical and Philosophical studies > V140 Modern History
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V210 British History
Divisions:College of Arts > School of History & Heritage > School of History & Heritage (History)
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ID Code:26928
Deposited On:07 Apr 2017 11:12

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