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Cardiff scholar recognised in shortlist for African book prize

3 November 2021

Rachel Korir sits in front of her home in Kapcheboi, Kenya, 6 May 2019. Copyright Thomson Reuters Foundation/Dominic Korir.
Rachel Korir sits in front of her home in Kapcheboi, Kenya, 6 May 2019. Copyright Thomson Reuters Foundation/Dominic Korir.

A book written by a Professor of Land Law at the School of Law and Politics has been shortlisted for this year’s US African Studies Association (ASA) book prize.

Professor Ambreena Manji book, The Struggle for Land and Justice in Kenya is one of just five titles shortlisted for this year’s prize which recognises the most important scholarly work in African studies published in English during the preceding year. The US ASA is the flagship membership organisation devoted to enhancing the exchange of information about Africa.

Professor Manji’s book examines why legislation mandated by Kenya’s 2010 constitution has failed to address long standing grievances about unequal land distribution. Professor Manji argues that since 2010, land law in Kenya has been more concerned with the redistribution of bureaucratic power than with resolving unequal access to land for ordinary Kenyans.

The book has been a decade in the making and is the result of Professor Manji’s time as the Director of the British Institute in Eastern Africa between 2010 and 2014 when she researched and advised on Kenya’s land laws in 2012. There, she worked closely with Professor Yash Pal Ghai, Chairperson on the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission, to ensure that land bills conformed with the constitutional aspirations on land.

Speaking about her book, Professor Manji said, “I wanted to document the struggle for fairer land relations in a historical context and to work at the intersection of land law and constitutional law. The problems of unequal access to productive resources cannot be understood from the vantage point of one discipline. My book draws on a range of disciplines including history, political science, law, literary studies and anthropology to provide insights into citizens’ struggles for their livelihoods.”

On the shortlist, Professor Manji said “I am thrilled to be in the company of scholars whose work I admire. Mine is the only book by a legal scholar and I hope that it passes scrutiny by and is useful to my colleagues in other disciplines.”

Professor Manji’s book has been described by reviewers as, “'innovative and pathbreaking both in its multi-disciplinary examination of Kenya's land issue and its ultimate, experimental conclusions.”

At the School of Law and Politics, Professor Manji supervises a cohort of PhD students from Eastern and Southern Africa and teaches modules in Global Problems and Legal Theory; Discrimination and the Law; and Law and Literature.

The winner of the African Studies Association (ASA) book prize will be announced during this year’s annual meeting which takes place on 16 – 20 November 2021.

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