African Studies Seminar - Week 4

Burning Ambition: Education, Arson, and Learning Justice in Kenya’ (Book launch)

Convener: Prof Miles Larmer

Speaker: Elizabeth Cooper, Simon Fraser University


ec 2022 sunset


There is a discernible trend of secondary school students collectively attacking their schools with arson in Kenya. In her new book Burning Ambition, our seminar presenter Elizabeth Cooper makes the case that students deploy arson as moral punishment for perceived injustices and arson proves an effective tactic in their politics from below. Further, Cooper argues that Kenyan students’ actions challenge the existing complacency with the globalized agenda of “education for all,” demonstrating that submissive despondency is not the only possible response to the failed promises of education to transform material and social inequalities.


Elizabeth Cooper is an anthropologist and associate professor in the School for International Studies at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. She has conducted research concerning children and youth, education, violence, and inequality, with a primary focus on Kenya, since 2003. She received her DPhil in Anthropology from Oxford University in 2011.


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This presentation will be livestreamed on Teams, but it will not be possible for online attendees to participate in the discussion.