[CSH-CPR Urban Workshop #125 – ONLINE]
Homogenised Mindscapes, Heterogeneous Landscapes (J. Akallah, P. Guma)
Jethron Ayumbah Akallah (Maseno University, Kenya) & Prince Guma, (British Institute in Eastern Africa, Kenya)
Homogenised Mindscapes, Heterogeneous Landscapes:
Re-imagining COVID-19 mitigation efforts for Nairobi’s urban poor
The session will be online via Zoom. To register, kindly fill this form.
In recent months, the COVID-19 pandemic has become an issue of urban concern. In many cities across the globe, this pandemic has had catastrophic consequences, revealing and exacerbating cities’ preexisting conditions of systemic and institutionalised socio-spatial inequalities. Globally, strong emphasis for securing the city has been placed on the more dominant and circulating state-led and expert-driven recommendations for containment and locking down of—and against—city centres. This emphasis materialises at the expense—and even to the detriment—of resident-initiated practices that are mostly disparaged as less developed and not sophisticated enough for consideration.
In our presentation, we rely on ethnographic data carried out in the informal settlements of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital. We take an approach that is hinged on two critiques: one, of top-down universal approaches to securing the city during a pandemic; and two, of non-linear temporalities of Southern cities. We draw from these critiques as our departure point to draw lessons from diverse conceptions and experiences to pandemic impacts in everyday contexts of informality, precarity, and improvisation. Accordingly, we contend that Nairobi, being a splintered and fragmented city, dominant solutions must attend to the city’s differences in particular.
We argue that disaggregated cities would require disaggregated policy approaches especially by understanding how these ‘cities within the city’ reproduce and manage themselves. This means going beyond standard solutions for a ‘technological fix’ or ‘magic bullet’ when dealing with crises. It means always taking into consideration the local context, beyond a kind of neoliberal level compliance, in search of ‘what works’.
Dr. Jethron Ayumbah Akallah is a Lecturer in the Department of History and Archaeology at Maseno University, Western Kenya. He holds a PhD in History of Technology from TU Darmstadt, Germany. His research focuses on water and sanitation technology in Nairobi.
Prince Guma is a research fellow and assistant country director at the British Institute in Eastern Africa (BIEA), Nairobi, Kenya. His research work focuses on infrastructural vulnerabilities in the cities of sub-Saharan Africa.