Burning Ambition: Education, Arson, and Learning Justice in Kenya (Hardcover)
Burning Ambition explores how young people learn to understand and influence the workings of power and justice in their society. Since 2008, hundreds of secondary schools across Kenya have been targeted with fire by their students. Through an in-depth study of Kenyan secondary students’ use of arson, Elizabeth Cooper asks why. With insightful ethnographic analysis, she shows that these young students deploy arson as moral punishment for perceived injustices and arson proves an effective tactic in their politics from below.
Drawing from years of research and a rich array of sources, Cooper accounts for how school fires stoke a national conversation about the limited means for ordinary Kenyans, and especially youth, to peacefully influence the governance of their own lives. Further, Cooper argues that Kenyan students’ actions challenge the existing complacency with the globalized agenda of “education for all,” demonstrating that submissive despondency is not the only possible response to the failed promises of education to transform material and social inequalities.
About the Author
Elizabeth Cooper is an assistant professor in the School for International Studies at Simon Fraser University and a social anthropologist who conducts research concerning children and youth, inequality, and violence, with a primary focus on Kenya.
“Cooper makes a valuable contribution to the existing literature, extending discussions of Kenyan political culture and moral economic relations into new and valuable spaces. The author convincingly helps us understand the active role that Kenyan youths take in forms of resistance. The voices of the students and the anecdotes illustrate the ways that their experiences are typical within this system and the inclusion of Kenyan intellectual perspectives helps us see how these issues are understood and debated within Kenya. This fine book presents rich ethnographic material that is expertly situated at an important theoretical juncture.”—Megan A. Styles, University of Illinois Springfield