Graduation Year


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

April Mayes

Reader 2

Sidney Lemelle

Reader 3

Phyllis Jackson

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From the advent of colonialism in Africa, railways functioned as technological arteries of imperial expansion particularly serving as pipelines for the movement and extraction of resources between the metropole and periphery. In Kenya, Sir Edward Grigg, a former governor, said that the railway was the beginning of all history in the former British colony. This is because contrary to many other regions where infrastructure was built to better facilitate entrepreneurial pursuits, the Uganda Railways preceded any form of British penetration into the hinterland. As a result, what we now consider to be Kenyan territory was imagined through the railway tracks. Arguably, while imperial political structures collapsed after 1964, my research asks, “What did Kenya do with the material ruins of the imperial technology left behind?” This is particularly relevant given the ongoing construction of the Standard Gauge Railway which acts as a replacement to the now defunct Kenya Railway system, connecting Kenya to other East and Central African countries. Accordingly, my thesis addresses the complexities surrounding the transformations in the social history of the railways up to the present time. So far, my research findings indicate that the eventual collapse of the initial railway system was a direct result of the incompatibility between imperial structures and post-colonial development agendas. Unfortunately, the unfavorable negotiation terms between the Kenyan government and its Chinese contractors on the Standard Gauge Railway demonstrate the inability of a nation to learn from its past.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.