Peasant maize cultivation as an assemblage: an analysis of socio-cultural dynamics of maize cultivation in western Kenya

Kimanthi, Hellen


This thesis explores the practices of peasant farmers in maize cultivation in situations of increased maize technological interventions or deterritorialisation forces in western Kenya. Deterritorialisation forces have been in existence in the area since the colonial times with increased intensity in the recent years advocating for use of maize technologies. However, the peasant farmers have continued to use local resources (local maize- nyaluo maize and manure) in maize cultivation. The research sought to understand the socio-cultural dynamics of maize cultivation that included disassembling of the complex ways in which the peasant farmers interact with deterritorialisation forces/interventions. Data for this research was collected using ethnographic methods. Theoretically, the data was analysed through assemblage lens. The research focused on four main areas; the historical processes of assembling maize in (western) Kenya, peasant farmers’ interactions with the recent maize technology interventions, the dynamics in maize exchanges/marketing and gender relations in maize cultivation. The analysis of the peasant maize cultivation shows endless connections that are diverse, non-linear, complex and continuously emerging and changing and that involve various actors and actants. This makes categorization of peasant farmers’ practices insufficient. On the other hand, the peasant maize cultivation is permeable as it allows external elements to influence it to some extent. Assemblage thinking offers a new way of conceptualizing peasant agriculture as it allows for consideration of all elements that play a role in peasant agriculture as well as tracing how changes occur through the interactions of these elements. Peasant maize cultivation is an important assemblage that cannot be reduced to unified ways of practices. To engage with this assemblage calls for open-mindedness, flexibility and treatment of peasant farming practices as diverse, heterogeneous, dynamic, constantly changing and open-ended.