In brief

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.

To join the Working Group, sign up here.

Review essay in-progress here

Politics of "Place"

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”

      • Annotate this article which touches on some of the points that we have been discussing but focuses on structural inequalities within the African city. It would be interesting to expand this and think about about the relationship between various center(s) and peripheries within a nation state.

Attending to Margins without Essentializing

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?

Next Discussion: Thursday, August 13, 5:00 -6:00 PM EAT

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 is COVID-19 unfolding in Kenya?

How have different actors responded to COVID-19 and what kinds of counter responses have emerged to that?

How is COVID-19 “in Africa” (or “in Kenya”) being mentioned in comparison to other regions? What does the commentator state is unique about the COVID-19 experience in Kenya (or “Africa”)?

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?

See annotation instructions.

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