Cover of War-Making as Worldmaking by Samar Al-Bulushi
War-Making as Worldmaking
Kenya, the United States, and the War on Terror
Samar Al-Bulushi

November 2024
274 pages.
from $25.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503639744
Paperback ISBN: 9781503640917


Excerpts and More

Since Kenya's invasion of Somalia in 2011, the Kenyan state has been engaged in direct combat with the Somali militant group Al-Shabaab, conducting airstrikes in southern Somalia and deploying heavy-handed police tactics at home. As the hunt for suspects has expanded within Kenya, Kenyan Muslims have been subject to disappearances and extrajudicial killings at the hands of U.S.-trained Kenyan police.

War-Making as Worldmaking explores the entanglement of militarism, imperialism, and liberal-democratic governance in East Africa today. Samar Al-Bulushi argues that Kenya's emergence as a key player in the "War on Terror" is closely linked—but not reducible to—the U.S. military's growing proclivity to outsource the labor of war. Attending to the cultural politics of security, Al-Bulushi illustrates that the war against Al-Shabaab has become a means to produce new fantasies, emotions, and subjectivities about Kenya's place in the world. Meanwhile, Kenya's alignment with the U.S. provides cover for the criminalization and policing of the country's Muslim minority population.

How is life lived in a place that is not understood to be a site of war, yet is often experienced as such by its targets? This book weaves together multiple scales of analysis, asking what a view from East Africa can tell us about the shifting configurations and expansive geographies of post-9/11 imperial warfare.

About the author

Samar Al-Bulushi is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Irvine.

"Samar Al-Bulushi's deeply researched, elegantly argued, and profoundly moving book shows the centrality of Kenya and African geographies in shaping our geopolitical present. War-Making as Worldmaking is essential reading for understanding global politics over the past two decades and in charting future alternatives to imperialism, state repression, and endless war."

—Penny Von Eschen, University of Virginia

"The war on terror's tentacles long ago spread beyond the Middle East. Crisscrossing local, national, global, and even familial borders, Samar Al-Bulushi's War-Making as Worldmaking turns a critical eye to its transformative effects across the African continent. This penetrating and interdisciplinary tome sheds overdue light on the worldmaking effects of imperial violence. A new and essential take on the war on terror as it stretches into its third decade."

—Zachariah Mampilly, CUNY Graduate Center

"How does one live in the strange, violent world made by twisting and stretching concepts like security and terrorism, war and democracy? That question has grown more pressing since the United States launched its war on terror. From an East African vantage, Samar Al-Bulushi's War-Making as Worldmaking gives us a clear-eyed analysis of the forces that are shaping lives around the globe."

—Daniel Hoffman, University of Washington

"How does the Kenyan Muslim become the subject of state violence? This book is a fascinating and troubling account of how the war on terror has offered allies and alibis for racialized policing and carcerality arising from existing political fissures in Kenya. Al-Bulushi's work is deeply researched and persuasively argued and will contribute greatly to our understanding of regionally particular forms of Islamophobia."

—Laleh Khalili, University of Exeter

"War-Making as Worldmaking is a path-breaking ethnographic account that rethinks the 'global war on terror' from the standpoint of East Africa, showing how the Kenyan state has played an active role in shaping that campaign in partnership with the United States, with dire consequences for Muslim populations in the region.—Darryl Li, University of Chicago