Accepted paper:

Unpacking the scramble for urban land: Property, urban citizenship, and social stratification in Eldoret, Kenya


Miriam Badoux (University of Basel)

Paper short abstract:

Based on ethnographic research conducted in Eldoret, Kenya, this paper looks at the ways in which the 'scramble for land' impacts urban dwellers, and vice versa. More specifically, I ask which role urban land plays in social stratification processes in a fast-growing secondary city like Eldoret.

Paper long abstract:

The land question in Kenya has long played a central role in public discourse, being often described as one of the main 'problems' of the nation. While most of the research on this topic has focused on rural areas, struggles for land ownership increasingly take place in urban centres, where the pressure on land is particularly high and its market value rising rapidly. In Eldoret, a fast-growing secondary city located in Kenya's Rift Valley, it is common to hear that "land is gold", or even "better than gold". Yet, it is not only its economic value that makes land such a contested resource; rather, land is embedded in issues of urban citizenship, local authority, as well as social and political tensions. Based on ethnographic research on land claims and urban governance conducted in Eldoret between 2014 and 2016, this paper looks at the ways in which the 'scramble for land' impacts urban dwellers, and vice versa. By analyzing the views, claims, and practices of a wide array of actors such as private developers, lawyers, planners, state authorities, but also ordinary people, I question the role played by land in social stratification processes in a secondary city like Eldoret. I argue that taking land as a starting point may open up new ways to empirically approach, and eventually conceptualise, urban middle classes.

panel Soc03
Continuities and disruptions in urban land governance: the rise of the middle-class in Sub-Saharan Africa