The complicity between Britain’s de-oathing campaign and its system of detainment attests to the importance of violence as means toward semiotic impoverishment, even as the British paved the way for softer forms of power. But soft power also seems to have played a role in persuading Kenyans to undertake the rituals of confession and de-oathing in the form of a massive program of land redistribution. Although detainees were not explicitly offered land as a direct incentive to confess, colonial administrators had clearly stipulated that KLFA members would be excluded from rights to land, and it was known that the colonial-loyalist chiefs who had been charged with the task of redistributing land were typically disposed to favor loyalists like themselves. The program of land redistribution was, like confession, seen by the administration as a crucial component of rehabilitation, despite the fact that only some families would be granted land titles.
Key to the five-year agricultural plan drafted by Swynnerton, as mentioned earlier, was the creation of a class of black cash-crop landowners to secure Kenya against the threat of further revolution. When Swynnerton was transferred from Tanganyika in 1949 to direct Kenya’s agriculture department, his intent was to abolish obstacles preventing black Africans from cultivating tea and coffee, so as to enlarge the colony’s tax base. There were, however, major impediments to the transformations he envisioned: first, colonial settlers had long fought to protect their monopoly on tea and coffee plantations through quasi-legal means; second, native agricultural settlement patterns favored dispersed land holdings, which the administration deemed unsuitable to cash-crop agriculture; and finally there was the issue of procuring labor to execute the vast projects of land improvement required to expand arable land for cash-crop production. In 1952, the advent of war and villagization eliminated these obstacles: by convincing colonial settlers of the need to make certain concessions; by denuding the Rift Valley of people and agricultural production and thus enabling a sweeping scheme of land consolidation and redistribution; and finally by providing armies of poorly remunerated labor to execute major projects of dam irrigation, afforestation, and terracing.
In his five-year plan, Swynnerton outlined the amount of arable land to be alienated, the projected financial yields of particular crops, and infrastructural projects that would need to be undertaken. According to Swynnerton’s calculations, the profits yielded by these changes should more than justify his request for a five-million-pound (later to become an almost eight-million-pound) development grant to Kenya. The plots were to be farmed according to the administration’s recommendations, which included planting methods, private enclosure of common pasturage, and terracing the land to minimize erosion. A large training corps assisted newly titled landowners in laying out their farms according to British norms. The agricultural work projects were photographically documented by the colonial propaganda office, ushering in a resurgence of something resembling an eighteenth-century pastoral-Georgic aesthetic, depicting terraced fields and neatly enclosed pastures. Drawing from such imagery, Elspeth Huxley’s popular books disseminated photos of picturesque landscapes in the Rift Valley, replete with “before” and “after” shots, showing the region’s transformation by Swynnerton’s plan. The images suggest a certain complicity between pastoral beauty and pastoral power.
According to Foucault, certain aspects of pastoral power were incorporated into methods of biopower; yet his lectures do not elaborate on the precise ways pastoral power is transformed or on how it might relate to movements he deemed crucial to the formation of biopolitics, such as the Physiocrats’ concepts of laissez-faire or laissez-passer. Implicitly there is a slippage between pastoral power and Physiocratic thought in the sense that governing humans (a pastoral construct) would depend on a thorough scientific knowledge of the nature of humans, since Physiocrats claimed to govern by allowing nature to function according to its own principles.
In the field of colonial power, however, the Physiocratic notion of governing according to nature is plunged into aporetic difficulties, which call for pastoral-aesthetic modes of resolution. The colonial construct of race raises the problem of different, irreconcilable versions of nature. Although the belief that different races possessed different natures provided a raison d’être of colonial governance, it also led to confusion concerning how to let a single dominant nature prevail amid other forms of nature that had to be upheld in order to be effectively governed (as can be seen with the urgent call to identify a properly “African medium”).
In late colonial Kenya, the “nature” of Africans, as gleaned from anthropological and ethnopsychiatric analysis, was clearly at odds with what British construed as economic nature. British agricultural-economic theory (based on Physiocratic ideology) posited the need for land consolidation and titled ownership, which clearly controverted forms of land use and tenure considered integral—natural—to the social stability of Kenyans. Land consolidation, by rendering many landless, led inexorably to the ultimate deviation from African “nature”. It led, that is, to urbanization. To transform anthropological nature in such a way as to render it amenable to economic nature—while appearing to not tamper with either one—was a complex process to be achieved largely through villagization, but the function of landscape aesthetics should also not be underestimated. Refurbishing eighteenth-century visual tropes, a neo-pastoralism helped render “natural” the violent transformations wrought by agricultural reform.
Art historians and literary scholars have often analyzed the ideological dimensions of eighteenth-century pastoral aesthetics and the related style of the picturesque, but without explicitly linking this ideology to Physiocratic doctrine. A dominant scholarly account of the pastoral, articulated by Raymond Williams, ascribes the rise of the genre to a mounting sense of urban-industrial estrangement from nature and a subsequent nostalgia for rustic simplicity. But it is not just any form of rusticity we encounter in pastoral scenes and poems. The binding motif of pastoral aesthetics—animal herding—can be read as emblematic of the principles of laissez-faire economics, which call for the unleashing of nature’s own principles and processes. The shepherd does not disrupt nature’s processes but simply enforces the ambit within which the herd will conduct its own innate processes. In this sense the pastoral genre speaks eloquently to the transition Foucault describes from pastoral power to Physiocratic conceptions of governing by nature.
For the theme of herding to appear so abundantly in European art, landscape, and literature at the moment of its economic demise attests, again, to more than simple nostalgia. Shepherding, although superseded by enclosure, becomes in pastoral imagery conceptually interchangeable with enclosure. The enclosed pasture—far from disrupting the pastoralist ideal, as might be imagined—constitutes an even more perfect demonstration of laissez-faire rule, replacing human care (the inheritance of pastoral power) with a subtle technological intervention, a “program” within which animals can self-regulate. Instead of interfering in nature’s processes, technologies of enclosure and related cartographies and bureaucratic procedures of land titling appear to support nature’s processes, instantiating the ideal of indirect, techno-bureaucratic rule.
Enclosure, in eighteenth-century England and its colonies, was one of the basic strategies of “improving” land (“improve” being etymologically derived from “profit”), of returning the land to nature’s intended state of productivity. The pastoral tropes of the eighteenth century underscored the connection between the improvement of nature—an expression that proliferates in European landscape and agricultural discourse at this time—and the conversion of land to private property. For enclosure to appear as a more economical and natural form of shepherding, pastoralist paintings such as those by Jean-Antoine Watteau depict a fluidity between the landowning and herding classes, their shared gaiety serving as a form of exchange, emblematic of the actual transferal of land occurring through the enclosures movement. In pastoral paintings, this transferal is purged of historical conflict, appearing as a consensual circumstance, as the triumph of nature.
A photograph of Kenya collected by the colonial propaganda office on the eve of independence undertakes a similar sleight of hand, except that in this image the ruling class and the ruled do not commune directly with each other; they commune through the medium of the landscape. Two white men, with their backs turned to the camera, lean on a fence, gazing masterfully over a sweep of neatly terraced hills, while two black men pass behind them, also glancing at the hills but without pausing to drink it in. In an inversion of eighteenth-century pastoral paintings, this photograph suggests a transferal of land—from those who initially seized it to a new class of black landowners—that nonetheless conserves the power of the transferee, insofar as the colonist renders the organization of land and labor dependent on its own technique.
There is an economic corollary here to how participation in circuits of information was seen in Malaya as a noncoercive substitute for martial rule. As one journalist in Kenya explained, the most recalcitrant of KLFA supporters, being excluded from opportunities for landownership, could be removed to “land settlements sufficiently remote from contact with tribal or farming areas to allow the substitution of an agricultural settlement in place of the barbed wire and large numbers of armed guards which the detention system requires.” In the move toward more mediated forms of neocolonial influence, the nature of humans, agriculture, and global markets would be governed in concert through technological and bureaucratic interventions. The link between pastoral aesthetics and pastoral power lies in the capacity of the aesthetics to collapse the putative differences between anthropological and economic nature, enabling the former to be intimately governed according to the laws of the latter. This is brought about through images that elide contradictions and conflicts and, on the other hand, through technological programs—semiotic, spatial, and agricultural—that subsume anthropological nature within the prerogatives of the economic.