Roses from Kenya
Labor, Environment, and the Global Trade in Cut Flowers
- PUBLISHED: December 2019
- SUBJECT LISTING: Anthropology, Environmental Studies
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 256 Pages, 6 x 9 in, 7 b&w illus., 1 map, 2 charts
- SERIES: Culture, Place, and Nature
- ISBN: 9780295746500
Kenya supplies more than 35 percent of the fresh-cut roses and other flowers sold annually in the European Union. This industry—which employs at least 90,000 workers, most of whom are women—is lucrative but enduringly controversial. More than half the flowers are grown near the shores of Lake Naivasha, a freshwater lake northwest of Nairobi recognized as a Ramsar site, a wetland of international importance. Critics decry the environmental side effects of floriculture, and human rights activists demand better wages and living conditions for workers.
In this rich portrait of Kenyan floriculture, Megan Styles presents the point of view of local workers and investigates how the industry shapes Kenyan livelihoods, landscapes, and politics. She investigates the experiences and perspectives of low-wage farmworkers and the more elite actors whose lives revolve around floriculture, including farm managers and owners, Kenyan officials, and the human rights and environmental activists advocating for reform. By exploring these perspectives together, Styles reveals the complex and contradictory ways that rose farming shapes contemporary Kenya. She also shows how the rose industry connects Kenya to the world, and how Kenyan actors perceive these connections. As a key space of encounter, Lake Naivasha is a synergistic center where many actors seek to solve broader Kenyan social and environmental problems using the global flows of people, information, and money generated by floriculture.
Authors & Contributors
Megan A. Styles is assistant professor of environmental studies at the University of Illinois Springfield.
Flowers are contradictory things. In this impeccably researched ethnography, Styles explores how flowers from Kenya collapse notions of precarity and possibility, forms of aesthetic and agricultural commodity, and senses of past and future.- Sarah Besky, author of How Nature Works: Rethinking Labor on a Troubled Planet
Megan Styles invites readers to a place that is many places: Naivasha as a “nerve center” of globalizing floriculture. This convergent location is also a palimpsest of anti-colonial struggle, indigenous territory, conservation, commodity chains, development, neoliberalism, and white belonging. Styles’ polyvocal ethnographic writing shows how these historically contested and conflicting projects have become elements of an array of aspirational place-making projects. This book is an excellent contribution to an excellent series that should be widely read.- James Igoe, professor of anthropology, The University of Virginia
Through Styles’ meticulous and well-historicized ethnography of Naivasha’s “nerve center,” we see many jostling aspirations: profiting, showcasing technological know-how, cultivating environmental consciousness, decolonizing the nation’s industries, even branding “Kenya” itself.- Janet McIntosh, author of Unsettled: Denial and Belonging among White Kenyans
An ethnographically rich exploration of the cut-flower industry on the shores of Lake Naivasha, clearly situated within a fascinating reading of Kenyan political and cultural history.- Sarah Lyon, author of Global Tourism: Cultural Heritage and Economic Encounters
An engaging and very well-written work that gives impressive texture and context to the complicated world of the Kenyan flower industry.- Sarah Osterhoudt, author of Vanilla Landscapes: Meaning, Memory and the Cultivation of Place in Madagascar