Reimagining Science and Statecraft in Postcolonial Kenya: Stories from an African Scientist, 1st Edition (e-Book) book cover

Reimagining Science and Statecraft in Postcolonial Kenya

Stories from an African Scientist, 1st Edition

By Denielle Elliott


240 pages | 22 B/W Illus.

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This book examines the development of medical sciences in postcolonial Kenya, through the adventures and stories of the controversial Kalenjin scientist Davy Kiprotich Koech. As a collaborative life story project, it privileges African voices and retellings, re-centring the voice of African scientists from the peripheries of storytelling about science, global health research collaborations, national politics, international geopolitical alliances, and medical research.

Focusing largely on the development of the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) and its collaborations with the US Centers for Disease Control, the Walter Reed Project, Japan’s International Cooperation Agency, the Wellcome Trust, and other international partners, Denielle Elliott and Davy Koech challenge euro-dominant representations of African science and global health in both the contemporary and historical and offer an unconventional account which aims to destabilize colonial and neo-colonial narratives about African science, scientists, and statecraft. The stories force readers to contend with a series of questions including: How do imperial effects shape contemporary medical research and national sovereignty? In which ways do the colonial ghosts of early medical research infuse the struggles of postcolonial scientists to build national scientific projects? How were postcolonial nation-building projects tied up with the dreams and visions of African scientists? And lastly, how might we reimagine African medicine and biosciences?

The monograph will be of interest to students, educators, and scholars working in African Studies, Science and Technology Studies, Postcolonial Studies, Global Health, Cultural Anthropology, and Medical Anthropology.


Stories attest to the profoundly relational nature of human experience and achievement. With these engaging tales from the life of one of Kenya’s most prominent scientists, Denielle Elliott’s book reveals the intricate web of relationship and heritage through which postcolonial citizens here and elsewhere pursue knowledge, negotiate statecraft, and navigate the promises and pitfalls of transcontinental connection.

Anand Pandian, Johns Hopkins University, USA

This book delivers a rare first-person account of international research by an African scientist. It is a book about experiments, by medical researchers facing a terrible plague, by an ambitious man in post-colonial Kenya, and by an anthropologist looking for new ways to narrate stories about African science. Davy Kiprotich Koech bravely recalled his memories of a sometimes controversial life in interviews with Denielle Elliott. Elliott’s sensitive framing of Koech’s testimony offers critical insight into the politics of knowledge in Africa, of power in Kenya, and of the ways that stories make selves.

Nancy J. Jacobs, Brown University, USA

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations


The Art of Storytelling / Stories of Science: An introduction

  1. Daudi
  2. Colonial Administration
  3. Soliat Primary School
  4. Growing up During Independence
  5. Hospitalization
  6. Student Life and Education Reforms
  7. Kericho Tea Hotel
  8. On Becoming a Scientist
  9. Siberia
  10. HLA tissue-typing and kidney transplants in Kenya
  11. Science and Technology Amendment Act
  12. Daniel arap Moi
  13. National Politics
  14. The Kenya Medical Research Institute
  15. Japan
  16. Division of Vector Borne Diseases
  17. Wellcome Trust
  18. Walter Reed Project / US Army Research Unit
  19. The US Embassy and the CDC
  20. The KEMRON Trial
  21. Saba Saba and the KEMRON Results
  22. Kinshasa and Racial Politics
  23. A Son’s Death
  24. Collaborative agreements and fiscal irregularities
  25. The Accusations
  26. Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission
  27. The Arrest
  28. Corporate executive
  29. Faith

Epilogue by Davy Kiprotich Koech

About the Author

Denielle Elliott is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Social Science and Anthropology at York University in Toronto, Canada with cross-appointments in the graduate programs of International Development Studies, and Science, Technology and Studies. She is a founder and co-curator of the Centre for Imaginative Ethnography, and writes on questions relating to social suffering, colonialism, morality, and the politics of medicine.

About the Series

Routledge Contemporary Africa

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / African American Studies
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Regional Studies