Censorship as Negotiation: The State and Non-European Newspapers in Kenya, 1930-54

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This article is concerned with the colonial state as a producer, consumer, and regulator of print. Propaganda and censorship may represent two extremes in the management of a colonial public sphere. Censorship was an interactive and negotiated process—one whose successful management was in the interest of both the censoring agents and those censored. One might think that censorship is a measure taken in order for communication to break down. If we imagine colonial print communication as a continuum suspended between partners that at one end desire full freedom of expression and at the other full control, absolute censorship does constitute silence, like that represented by the dramatic closure of the African press in Kenya with the Emergency of 1952. In a politicised colonial environment, like that in postwar Kenya, censorship may be understood as negotiation between colonisers and colonised on the limits of free speech. The article examines what changed in Kenya's late-colonial period in relation to the production, broadcasting, censoring, and suppression of non-European newspapers, and how the change affected the institutions and groupings that produced and received texts. More narrowly, it seeks to trace the dynamics of textual interfaces between the European print frameworks and those of the consolidated or emerging non-European publicists and publics. An examination that situates censorship in a broader context of management of discourse, of negotiation and dialogue, one that tests and goes beyond the dualism of suppression and resistance, may make it clearer why and to what extent a number of critical, anti-colonial publications were allowed to exist, and some were encouraged; and what the limits were, when opposition became unacceptable, and communication broke down.
Original languageEnglish
JournalItinerario: International Journal on the History of European Expansion and Global Interaction
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)391 - 411
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 17 Sept 2020


  • Censorship
  • Kenya
  • Press
  • Negotiation
  • State

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