Accepted paper:

The problematized life of urban roads in Nairobi


Tae-Eun Kim

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the history of roads and road experts in Nairobi to reveal the causes and states of chronic problems of the city's road space.

Paper long abstract:

Through biographical approaches to urban roads and experts in road development and planning, this paper examines why roads are continuously problematized in Nairobi even as local and international experts struggle to fix and save the degraded and congested urban channels. In a post-colonial city that does not have a history of integrated urban planning and experiences of inclusive public space, the effects of infrastructural operations on roads are yet controversial. Through biographical attention to how road space has been imagined, built, modified, and linked by diverse experts from colonial to post-colonial periods, this paper reveals root causes of choked Nairobi and fragmented engagements of managing roads. First, by tracing how Nairobi's roads have been planned and unplanned by colonial and post-colonial experts, the paper shows how urban roads are entangled with other kinds of urban problems, such as traffic jams and prevalent vandalism. Second, by focusing on changing and contested meanings of building roads driven by different periodic figures, this paper explains the contradictory dispositions of producing and reproducing road space.

panel P54
Road biographies