Kenya: indigenous knowledge systems for peace and flourishing in Kenya's North Rift

Kenya: indigenous knowledge systems for peace and flourishing in Kenya's North Rift

Tuesday, 28 February 2023 - 5:00pm
Pavilion Room, St Antony's College
Dr Susan Kilonzo, Maseno University
Education, Purpose and Human Flourishing in Uncertain Times

This seminar is part of the Education, Purpose and Human Flourishing in Uncertain Times research programme.

Theme 3: History and Politics

This series explores how we might better understand the ‘idea’ or indeed the ideal of flourishing, and the importance of education as a pathway to it. Previously, we first examined a variety of important concepts concerning personhood and society as it relates to flourishing, such as character and virtue, and asked whether flourishing lies in the development of these. In the second seminar series, we turned our attention to other notions interdependently related to flourishing, specifically the notions of culture and context. We asked whether and how the development of mind and socio-emotional qualities such as character, virtue, open-mindedness, resilience, and actualisation are differently, but no less meaningfully, shaped by history and culture across world contexts. In this third series, we are turning to the impact of history and politics on pathways and understandings of human flourishing. We ask to what extent we should consider enabling and disabling historical factors in national and international contexts, and point towards examples of collective endeavour and struggle in response to adversity.

These seminars are open to the public and can be joined in person, or virtually on the following MS Teams link: Click here to join the meeting.

Recordings of past seminars can be found at this link.


This paper will examine how the Indigenous Knowledge System (IKS) is used as a tool to educate and communicate peaceful co-existence, how it acts as a vehicle of education for conflict resolution, and its place in resolving conflicts and promoting human flourishing among indigenous communities in Kenya’s North Rift. 

The presentation will show that in a number of pastoral ethnic communities living in the North Rift and largely affected by climate change, IKS is a vehicle through which knowledge on harmonious co-existence is transmitted. The argument made is that although IKS has a limited provision within Kenya’s formal education system, indigenous communities value its contribution to their meaning and purpose, especially in resolving conflicts. The paper will engage with the role of youth ‘community warriors’, the elders, and Church leaders who act as mediators during conflicts. It will also explore how the government positions itself within IKS as an institution that educates for conflict resolution.


Susan Kilonzo is an Associate Professor of Sociology of Religion at Maseno University, Kenya. She has held research fellowship positions at The Open University, UK; New Europe College, Bucharest; and University for Peace (UPEACE). Besides teaching at the University, she has researched, worked with, and consulted for diverse organizations including Partnership for African Social Governance Research (PASGR), Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU)-UK, Faith to Action Network; All African Theological Education and Extension Association (AATEEA), World Vision Kenya (WVK), Africa Medical Research Foundation (Amref), IMPACT-USA, among others. Susan’s work cuts across theory and practice. Her passion is researching and working with communities, specifically on the place of Religious/Faith Based Organizations in community development in Africa.