Across contemporary East Africa, fencing is spreading with incredible speed over hundreds of thousands of hectares of rangelands, fundamentally reconfiguring land tenure dynamics. But why is this happening now, what are the precursors, and what will happen in the years to come? In this article, we ask how pre- and post-colonial landscape gridding perpetuate a slow violence across the landscape through processes of de-/fencing. Fencing, we argue, is embedded in a landscape logic that favours exclusive rights and conditioned access. In two case studies from grazing lands in Kenya, we explore how people engage with the tension of an imposed landscape logic of fencing by either asserting or challenging its very physicality. We propose that de-/fencing are ways of anticipating long-standing land tenure uncertainties. Moreover, we use our cases to explore different points of reference along the mattering of land tenure boundaries as well as the sort of horizons to which fencing leads. We also use this knowledge to improve our understanding of parallel prehistoric cases of large-scale landscape enclosure. By unfolding the intertwined socio-political and material nature of gridded landscapes, we seek to bring the study of fencing out of conservation literature and into its wider culture-historical context.
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