This essay supports an upcoming discussion of how COVID-19 is unfolding in Kenya and a broader discussion about the framing of "place" within the Transnational STS COVID-19 project.
The main collation of news and public discourse identified by members of the Research Data KE Working Group that are of interest to thinking about the COVID19 epidemic in/from/about Kenya is available here.
Our group is particularly interested in archiving and tracking how media and other public channels are discussing the epidemic in order to identify relevant research resources and translate our individual experiences and data into collective knowledge that can support communities. We plan to use this information to better identify and collate existing qualitative/ethnographic research resources across diverse thematic areas relevant to thinking about and working on COVID-19.
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As this work has unfolded, the problematizing of scale in discussions of place and use of the “nation” as the container of place have become interesting and apparent. The dominant use of "Kenya" as the unit of analysis - whether for data models or political action - has also led us to look for ways to unsettle such analysis. If standardized spatial units are the rubric, what are the differences within that we need to attend to?
Mathare vs Kilimani COVID-19 cultures
Excerpt from yesterday’s convo on “center and periphery” (nairobi vs. rural)
Look for media artifacts on the question of “place”
This NPR article (and other recent news on Kibera, e.g. Al Jazeera 2020, here, here) was/are memorable to me because having just participated in the May 14, 2020 discussion about Spivak's work, I was thinking about margins, essentialism and strategic essentialism. In the discussion, we talked about how essentialism focuses our attention on certain things and pushes other things out of perception and responsibility. A key motivation for my own research has been understanding why certain places and people (with Kibera being an often used example of a heavily researched site) become the constant subjects of research. So this article, offering some insight into the experiences of Kibera residents during the COVID-19 pandemic, got me thinking about the discursive risk that the reification of the figure of the "slum dweller in COVID-19." What other Nairobi residents are cut out of focus? Anthropologist Mario Schmidt working in Pipeline, Nairobi has noted that despite becoming emblematic for how middle and upper class Kenyans imagine the lives of other, poorer Kenyans, such estates are often not the focus on international NGOs, the Kenyan state (and in this case international media) because such estates are not the iconic "slums" or informal settlements like Kibera and Mathare. This is not to reduce the experiences highlighted in this piece but how do we think about the non-essentializing?
How is COVID-19 knowledge and expertise moving across national borders? How are researchers outside dominant institutions of knowledge production organising? What new collaborations and synergies are being formed? How are they working?
See time conversions. Email Angela Okune for Zoom link (angela[dot]okune[at]gmail[dot[com).
We will start the discussion focused on outlining the work and questions that have animated the Research Data KE Working Group then move to a more general discussion about how COVID-19 is unfolding in Kenya as well as discussing analytic strategies for unsettling ossified "place" rubrics (like the nation). The discussion will be revolved around the following questions:
How are people and organizations sharing information and knowledge about COVID-19? What boundaries (e.g. urban/rural; national; language) are being crossed or further fortified due to these information flows?
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