Accepted paper:

Return to tradition: morality and belonging in 'Little Mogadishu'


Lucy Lowe (University of Edinburgh)

Paper short abstract:

As a pivotal hub for many people leaving and returning to Somalia, the ‘Little Mogadishu’ area of Nairobi is a site where perceptions of morality and what it means to be a ‘true Somali’ converge. This paper will examine the importance of belonging and ‘Somaliness’ among those that do not belong.

Paper long abstract:

Being Somali in Kenya is far from straightforward. In Nairobi, thousands of Somalis - refugees, immigrants, Kenyan citizens, as well as many carrying documents from America, Canada, Britain, Sweden, and numerous other states - have come to dominate the Eastleigh estate, often referred to as 'Little Mogadishu'. This paper will explore how the moral norms that are equated with being a 'true' or 'good' Somali are used to define an explicit separation between those who belong and those who do not. Furthermore, it will examine how perceptions of morality and 'Somaliness' are used not only to define Somalis in contrast to their host community, but also to those who have become 'lost' due to the length of time or distance from their home country, particularly Somali Sijus (Kenyan citizens that are ethnically Somali) and those who have grown up even further from Somalia, often in North America and Europe, and have been sent to Eastleigh by their families in order to 'return to tradition'. In doing so, this paper will explore how, within this context of displacement, notions of morality and belonging are intrinsically tied to particular perceptions of a transnational Somali nation as well as a geographically fixed territory.

panel P66
Community, belonging and moral sentiment: is to belong to be a moral person?