The African Rank-and-file: Social Implications of Colonial Military Service in the King's African Rifles, 1902-1964
The African Rank-and-File explores why East Africans in the King's African Rifles (KAR) served a foreign power, which denied them the rights of full citizenship and was at best paternalistic and at worst openly oppressive. The KAR was a viable institution because it advanced, to varying degrees, the interests of the colonial state, the British military establishment, and African soldiers. These interests were quite often contradictory, and it took an ongoing process of negotiation and accommodation over the social status of the African soldiery to make the KAR work. Tensions such as these were not unique to the colonial military; the co-option of Africans as chiefs, policemen, teachers, and clergymen produced similar points of friction. Like other important intermediary classes, African soldiers performed a vital service for the colonial regime and sought to exploit its inherent weaknesses to enhance their position in colonial society. Their ability to do so exposed some of the most fundamental tensions and contradictions of British colonial rule.