Untold Stories of Everyday Resistance to ‘Violent Extremism’ in Kenya

Violent extremism is a controversial concept partly because there is no globally accepted definition on what it means. States often used violent extremism to refer to groups with violent Islamist agenda. The power to label and define groups as violent extremist generally lies with States and particularly the powerful ones. In Kenya, violent extremism has been largely framed by the State as a problem of Al-Shabaab and other Islamist terrorist groups such as Al Qaida and ISIS.

This project seeks to understand and redefine violent extremism from the ground up based on community’s understanding and experiences of this phenomenon. The research uses both gender and intersectionality perspectives in order to explore how gender and other identity markers influence experiences and perceptions of violent extremism. Narratives about violent extremism tend to emphasize victimization, radicalization and violence but stories of resistance to violent extremism are rarely heard. In this project, we focus on how men and women from local communities are engaged in a process of everyday resistance to violent extremism. 

Gender and Resistance to Violent Extremism

The choice of the framework of everyday resistance is largely dictated by our bottom up approach to understanding violent extremism as a phenomenon. Unlike, the more widely used concept of resilience, resistance captures power relations and struggle against oppression. Resistance only exists in relation to power and not in a vacuum. The framework of every resistance is also appropriate because it includes mundane, subtle, ordinary and often personal acts of resistance.

This project is a collaboration between academics from the University of Leeds University and Coventry University in the UK and The Technical University of Mombasa and Art2Be in Kenya. The project uses body mapping as a participatory art-based method to understand men and women experiences of violent extremism and resistance to it in the everyday.

Sponsors & Partners

Gender and resistance to violent extremism is a two- year interdisciplinary project funded by the British Academy Tackling UK International Challenges Programme (TUKIC)

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