The Relationship Between Politics, Media and Ethnicity in Kenya

Student Author(s)

Catherine Namwezi

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Virginia Beard

Document Type


Event Date



In many emerging democracies, ethnic affiliation remains an important public identity maker. What factors perpetuate this politicized ethnicity? How people understand politics and themselves is largely shaped by and reflected in the vehicles through which they access information. These vehicles include media outlets such as radio, newspaper, television, and more recently, internet-based social media. This paper asks how and in what ways media affects and reflects ethnicity as an organizing category for how people interface with the public arena. Using Kenya as a case study, this project proposes to explore questions surrounding how media and politics interact. This project uses an original dataset of media content analysis—from newspaper, internet, and radio station sources—alongside public opinion survey data and insights from participant observation to ascertain if and how ethnicity remains a salient public identity and what these findings suggest for the future of political stability and democracy in the country, and thus other emerging democracies. Thus, this project asks if ethnicity is a politicized identity that trumps other public consideration and if it fills such role, how ethnicity as a political identity is created, reinforced and disseminated with a focus on the role of media as a democratic institution.

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