Mau Mau: The Face of International Terrorism in the 1950s in Contemporary Perspective


For more than 30 years until the end of the 1980s, Mau Mau in Kenya was to the Western world the terrifying face of African savagery. This image of Mau Mau was vigorously propagated by the British through the Western media, and was used to justify one of the first counter insurgency campaigns against anti-colonial terrorism. In contemporary perspective, what Mau Mau suggests is the shared origins of the far more violent and ideologically extreme movements from Boko Haram and al Shabaab to the Arab spring and ISIS in the catastrophic impact of capitalist modernity on the underclass of indigenous societies. What we can learn from Mau Mau is what one veteran told a visiting researcher, that he joined the movement "to get land and become an adult." At the same time, we can recognize the contemporary circumstances that have both made contemporary terrorism more ideologically extreme and violent while limiting the response of Western powers, in particular, to repression and destruction.

PDF iconMau Mau Lecture Poster.pdf