Prof. Jon D. Holtzman
Jon Holtzman is Professor of Anthropology at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan (USA). He has conducted ethnographic research in northern Kenya since 1992, predominantly with Samburu pastoralists, and more recently in multi-sited and multi-vocal research combining the perspectives of Samburu with neighboring ethnic groups with whom they regularly come into conflict. From that research resulted in his 2016 book, Killing Your Neighbors: Friendship and Violence in Northern Kenya and Beyond (University of California Press). This work is continuing with his current project “Contradictions of Peace” which focusses in particular on two ethnic groups who were actively engaged in armed conflict during the fieldwork for this recent book, but who now have returned to peace. Within this and other work there are major research themes of memory, ambivalence and ambiguity, seen both in his research regarding violence and also in Professor Holtzman’s research in his other best know area of expertise, the anthropology of food (e.g. his 2009 book Uncertain Tastes: Memory, Ambivalence and the Politics of Eating in Samburu, Northern Kenya (University of California Press). In addition to his principal work in Kenya he has also conducted secondary research in Japan, where he served for three years as Distinguished Visiting Professor at Kyoto University and has done research with Nuer (Sudanese) refugees in the U.S. (e.g. Nuer Journeys, Nuer Lives: Sudanese Refugees in Minnesota (2000; 2nd Ed. 2007).
- 2016 Killing Your Neighbors: Friendship and Violence in Northern Kenya and
Beyond. University of California Press: 2016
- 2016. Bad Friends and Good Enemies In Motoji Matsuda and Misa Hirano eds. Cultural Potential of Conflict Management in Africa. Kyoto: Kyoto University Press.
- 2009. Uncertain Tastes: Memory, Ambivalence and the Politics of Eating in
Samburu, Northern Kenya. University of California Press).
The current project focusses on conditions of peace between two northern Kenyan groups—Samburu and Pokot pastoralists—who were in recent years engaged in lethal warfare, but have now returned to peaceful and indeed quite friendly relations. In particular, I am concerned with the contradictions between public discourses and institutions that actualize and enforce peace, and the private sentiments that necessarily were created in the context of war, such as hatred and sadness among those who lost loved ones in the conflict, experienced first hand various forms of violence, or had significant loss of property or economic well-being. This case study is an outgrowth of issues and events engaged with in my most recent book, Killing Your Neighbors: Friendship and Violence in Northern Kenya and Beyond (2016: University of California Press). During the ethnographic fieldwork for that project Samburu and Pokot—both of whom I was working with on a personal, first hand basis, were engaged in active conflict, resulting in hundreds of deaths and significant loss of property. Since that time the two groups have returned to friendship and cooperation, their conflict having been consciously erased but needless to say not forgotten. In understanding and elucidating the particularities of this case study I aim, as well to develop theoretical and philosophical framework for understanding the tensions and contradictions of peace elsewhere in Africa and in human societies around the globe.