Matatu public space and social disruption
(University of Nairobi)
Paper short abstract:
This paper proposes to read matatu as public spaces which embody various forms of disruptions namely; disruption of social codes; human interactions; and gender identities. It investigates how these disruptions play out and the impact of travel and related technologies on social trends.
Paper long abstract:
Public transportation in Africa remains central to socio-economic realities within the continent. In Kenya, for example, the market-driven private-owned public transport system known as matatu is a major player in the economy and a key influence on social trends. Although the matatu sub-sector's fundamental role is the transportation of people and goods, it also acts as a key site of popular culture especially in urban areas. As a mode of transport, matatu connect people in different locations across the country and at the same time, bring people of different walks of life together in these public transport vehicles; consequently, matatu are seen as means of connection. While this connecting element is a defining factor of matatu as technologies of travel; as public spaces, matatu embody various forms of disruptions which this paper proposes to analyze. The matatu vehicle puts together people of different ages and social standings and subjects them to the same discourses such as radio and TV shows, music, visual art and talk from the crew in a manner that does not normally happen outside this confined space and this has the potential to cause ruptures in this social context. I propose to focus on three forms of disruptions namely; disruption of social codes; disruption of human interactions; and disruption of gender identities. I seek to investigate how these disruptions play out in the matatu transport sub-sector and what this implies about the impact of travel and related technologies on social trends.
Transport and travel - connections and disruptions