Julie Morris is a University of Kansas doctoral candidate in human geography, working with Assistant Professor Abel Chikanda.
My research centers on the influences and exchanges at the contact zone between Western Christian Missions and the Pokot people, who reside in northwestern Kenya and eastern Uganda. These exchanges can be seen in the place and landscape of the Pokot.
As missionaries engaged and continue to engage with the place and the people of Pokot, they convey their perceptions in letters, newsletters and presentations to their supporters at home. These perceptions created an image of the place of the Pokot for a Western audience, which in turn affects the “mission” of those coming to Pokot.
October of this year, I traveled to London, England and the village (technically a sublocation of Kacheliba location) of Asilong in West Pokot, Kenya. In London, I examined archival letters and reports from the first missionaries, Lawrence and Annette Totty of the Anglican Bible Churchman’s Missionary Society, to the Pokot. Likewise, I interviewed their daughter who lives in Cheltenham, England.
In Asilong, I conducted four distinct interviews with groups of Asilong residents, learning the story of and perceptions about “well-wishers” as they have come to the place of Asilong. The place of Asilong in many ways tells a unique story about the recent experience of outsider involvement, rather than the decades long story seen in the contact zone places of larger towns in West Pokot.
My research will continue with archival and interview data gathering to piece together this aspect of place in relation to the contact zone in the place of the Pokot.
PHOTOS: Right, a beautiful sunset in Asilong, Kenya. Left, Julie conducting an interview. Photos by Julie Morris.