In Memoriam: Marcel Rutten (1957-2020)

Marcel Rutten

The ASCL is deeply saddened to report that one of its senior researchers, Dr Marcel Rutten, passed away in his home in Nijmegen on the morning of 12 January 2020. Marcel, born on 1 December 1957, was a highly respected and well-liked colleague who will be particularly remembered for his solid research on land, access to land and land rights in Kenya. Marcel’s long-standing link with Kenya dates back to the 1980s when he followed his later wife as an undergraduate student to conduct fieldwork in Kenya.

Marcel’s doctoral thesis, defended in 1992 at Nijmegen University, dealt with the sale of pastoral land literally from under the feet of pastoralists using the land; the thesis thus bore the fitting title Selling wealth to buy poverty: the process of the individualization of landownership among the Maasai pastoralists of Kajiado district, Kenya, 1890-1990. Throughout his career Marcel’s work focused on pastoralists and everything associated with pastoralism in Kenya: land, water, people, cattle and the state. His office at the ASCL was thus adorned with all manner of paraphernalia that reflected this interest, photographs of beautifully decorated cattle, posters of conferences in Kenya, and political cartoons relating to governance in Kenya. His love of Kenya, integrity and insistence on working on an equal basis with his Kenyan partners, will be remembered both in Kenya as well as in the Netherlands.

Marcel is survived by his wife and two daughters, he lived to be 62 years of age and will be sadly missed.

A full list of his publications can be found on his ASCL profile and on Africabib.

Marcel’s latest blog post was published on 6 December 2019, and was entitled: Rembrandt, Lion and Fox: the intimate relationship between art, media, philanthropy and wildlife conservation in Africa.

Jan-Bart Gewald, director African Studies Centre Leiden