Belonging among the Nubi, Kibera, Kenya

Researcher:

Johanna Sarre

Research Area:

A


At the heart of the proposed research undertaking is the question how (particularly ethnic and spatial) forms of belonging are lived, experienced and expressed in the multi-ethnic settlement of Kibera, Kenya. The target group at hand is the Nubi community, who claim to be descendants of African mercenaries in the colonial troops and the rightful owners of the former military settlement now turned slum. After discarding the imperial obsession with homelands and native reserves, the relation between individuals and territory has been astonishingly under-theorized in anthropology. These notions, however, continue to influence public discourses in Kenia. The aim of the proposed research is to empirically examine spatial belonging for the advancement of our theoretical understanding of belonging as such, furthermore shedding light on ethnic identity as well.


The contributions of the project to scholarly debate are threefold: On a methodological level, I intend to further the operationalisation of fuzzy concepts such as ethnicity, belonging, and human-space/place-relation. As a contribution to theory, I propose to further the theory building of the concepts mentioned above on the basis of thick empirical research, by studying belonging (especially ethnic and spatial belongings) as ‘practice’ rather than limiting my research to ‘construction’ or ‘discourse’. Empirically, I aim to contribute to the understanding of the particular situation of Kenyan Nubians.