Borders and Migration

The ‘pure apples’: Moral bordering within the Kenyan police

This article analyses various police reform initiatives in Kenya as a form of ‘moral bordering’. Drawing from ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Nairobi between 2017 and 2018, I analyse how police officers differentiate themselves from other police officers along (moral) ideas of reform and how this occurs in two divergent, yet interconnected, directions. The first is a process of bordering in: moral bordering occurs internally within the police and reform efforts aim to break down borders among police officers. The second is a process of bordering out: reform initiatives are designed in the urban centre and are aimed at spatially pushing the border externally, away from Nairobi. My approach to reform as moral bordering shows how borders can simultaneously take on disparate dimensions: with bordering in, borders are primarily social and symbolic, and with bordering out, borders take on a more spatial nature. This duality encapsulates the inherent friction that results from reform initiatives simultaneously moving in distinctive directions and differs from much of the (anthropological) work on the state police that analyses how the police themselves either enact borders or act as borders.

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Volume 38 Issue 3

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