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Peter Lockwood (2015)

Peter Lockwood (2015)

Research Title: The Promise of Prosperity: Households, Generations and the Moral Economy of Wealth in Central Kenya

Supervisor: Prof Harri Englund


I am an anthropologist from Essex in the UK. My undergraduate studies were in History (Clare College, University of Cambridge) and I converted to Anthropology in 2013 when I attended University College London for an MSc in Social and Cultural Anthropology.

My doctoral research has seen me return to Kenya, where I worked briefly for UNHCR and then UNESCO between 2011 and 2012. I returned again as a Graduate Attaché at the British Institute in Eastern Africa (BIEA) in 2015, where I later affiliated for my fieldwork (November 2016 – July 2018, August 2019).

My research primarily took place on the peri-urban outskirts of Nairobi in southern Kiambu County and explores the social effects of an ongoing and sustained process of urbanisation. In particular, I am interested in local moral debate about economic practices – from the sale of ancestral land to petty crime. My research discusses how Kenyans understand what constitutes ‘good’ and ‘bad’ economic activity, the various types of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ money that such activity produces, and how such activity informs understandings of what counts as moral (and indeed, immoral) personhood. Spanning a range of spaces and demographics – from rural households to unemployed urban youth – my thesis contributes to contemporary debates about rising aspirations on the African continent in an era of ‘jobless growth’, a paradoxical state of affairs which continues to make life precarious for all but the most wealthy.

Pursuing fieldwork in the midst of Kenya’s 2017 elections has also allowed me to develop insights into the country’s local and national politics, and my published and forthcoming work engages with the rich regional literature on the country’s politics from an anthropological perspective.

In the 2019-2020 academic year I will be supervising first and second year undergraduates in the department and third year students in African politics.

Research Interests

Kenya and eastern Africa; economy; history; historical anthropology; money; land; kinship; morality; moral economy; labour; unemployment; informal economy; exchange; social relations; dependence; value; values; youth; crime; consumption.


Research Supervision

Undergraduate Supervision

SAN1 – Social Anthropology: The Comparative Perspective

SAN2 – Social Anthropology: The Foundations of Social Life

POL15 – The Politics of Africa (via POLIS).

Key Publications

Peer reviewed articles

Forthcoming 2020. Impatient Accumulation, Immediate Consumption: Problems with Money and Hope in Central Kenya. Social Analysis 64 (1).

2019. ‘Before there is power, there is the country’: Civic nationalism and political mobilisation amongst Kenya’s opposition coalitions, 2013-2018. Journal of Modern African Studies 57 (4): 541-561.

2019. The Buffalo and the Squirrel: moral authority and the limits of patronage in Kiambu County’s 2017 gubernatorial race. Journal of Eastern African Studies 13 (2): 353-370.

2015. 'The Solitude of the Stance: The Bodily Autology of Gym-work and Boxing in an Essex Town'. Suomen Antropologi: The Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society 40 (4): 5-28.

Book Chapters

Forthcoming, with Constance Smith. Economic Anthropology. In Oxford Bibliographies in African Studies. Ed. Paul Zeleza. New York: Oxford University Press.

Book Reviews

2019. Review of The Middle Class in Mozambique: The State and the Politics of Transformation in Southern Africa by Jason Sumich. Journal of Southern African Studies 45 (6): 1186-1188.

2017. Review of The politics of distinction: African elites from colonialism to liberation in a Namibian frontier town by Mattia Fumanti. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 23 (2): 422-451.

Blog posts

2017. A year of two elections. Allegra Lab: Anthropology, Law, Art, World (Accessed 23 March 2018).

2015. The Material Culture of the Boxer – a post-fieldwork reflection. Material World: A Global Hub for Thinking About Things

(Accessed 18 October 2019).