Accepted Paper:

Metal dealing in Nairobi - enduring drastic urban transformations   

Authors:

Sophie Schramm (Utrecht University)
Amiel Bize (Universität Bayreuth)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines scrap metal dealers in Nairobi in the context of the current construction boom. We consider the socio-spatial and planning logics that allow people and materials to endure in a rapidly transforming city, even as the city seeks to dispose of its ‘disorderly’ leftovers.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines scrap metal dealers in Nairobi in the context of the current construction boom. Accelerated road and condominium construction in Nairobi have dramatically changed the areas west of the CBD, demolishing lowrise houses as well as informal settlements. We focus here on the effects of this destruction on the life of a scrap metal dealer. The construction boom demolished his home—when his settlement was cleared to make way for a new road—but it also provides him with a livelihood in the form of scrap metal appropriated from the myriad construction sites that dot the neighborhood. His scrapheap alongside the new road serves as a reminder of the settlement that was once there. It is also visible testament to the persistent presence of low-income residents in a city trying to erase them as they contradict visions of orderly urbanization.

We analyze the scrap metal trade through the lens of 'endurance.' The paper considers how both people and materials continue to exist and to create space for themselves in cities that seek to remove them or view them as waste. Drawing on theories of salvage, we consider the socio-spatial and planning logics that allow for pockets of endurance even as the city seeks to dispose of its 'disorderly' leftovers. These logics include the social networks that link urban and rural areas and allow people to both survive and to trade: kinship ties, and exchange networks including scrap traders, construction workers, and recycling companies.

Panel P199
Towns, public areas and discards. Encounters of the rural and the urban