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Chapter Summary

This introductory chapter provides an overview of the book Kenyan Khat: The Social Life of a Stimulant and its chapters. The book traces from farm to consumer some of the many trajectories that one particular substance follows in its ‘social life’ within Kenya and beyond. The substance in question is more widely known as qat or khat, and comes from a tree with the botanical name Catha edulis. The consumption of Kenyan miraa has gone global thanks to the spread of a miraa-consuming Somali, Ethiopian and Yemeni diaspora. Although some Kenyans view miraa as a ‘drug’ to be fought, at its source in the Nyambene Hills US officials may be surprised by its status: it is a substance regarded by many locals with hearty approval. It is commonly used there as a pick-me-up imbued with little of the dark image that the word ‘drug’ conjures up.

Keywords: Catha edulis; Kenyan Khat; Kenyan miraa; Nyambene Hills; social life



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