Relative distance: kinship, migration, and Christianity between Kenya and the United Kingdom

Leslie Fesenmyer

My recent publications reflect my ongoing research interest in justice in Africa. What does “justice” mean? How does it travel as a concept? And how can we study it as anthropologists and scholars of Africa in a way that is sensitive to local categories, concerns, and priorities?

The socio-economic and political uncertainties of Kenya in the 1990s jeopardized what many saw as the promises of modernity. An increasing number of Kenyans migrated, many to Britain, a country that felt familiar from Kenyan history. Based on extensive fieldwork in Kenya and the United Kingdom, Relative Distance provides a rich, historically-nuanced study of the kinship dilemmas that underlie transnational migration and explores the dynamic relationship between those who migrate and those who stay behind.  Rather than focusing on changing modes of economic production, ‘push-pull’ factors, and globalization as drivers of familial change and transformation, Leslie Fesenmyer focuses on the micro-spaces of transnational familial life. Through quotidian interactions, exchanges, and practices, she traces how migrant and nonmigrant kin stay engage in what she refers to as moral economies of transnational kinship. The book argues that the distance migration opens up between kin is where they express, negotiate, and transform what being related entails. Through the prism of intergenerational care, Fesenmyer reveals that the question, who is responsible for whom, is not only a familial matter, but is at the heart of relations between individuals, societies, and states.