Living together, living apart in a « cosmopolitan » town: urban life and the production of strangers in Eldoret, Kenya
(University of Basel)
Paper short abstract:
In this presentation, I take land as a heuristic starting point to explore the production of strangers in the specific context of Eldoret, Kenya. How do urban dwellers articulate claims of difference and belonging in a city often referred to as “cosmopolitan” and “mixed”?
Paper long abstract:
In this presentation, I take land as a heuristic starting point to explore the production of strangers in the specific context of Eldoret, Kenya. Located in the former "White Highlands", the dynamic secondary city of Eldoret is often referred to as "cosmopolitan" and "mixed". At the same time, it has been the epicentre of recurrent post-electoral violence in 1992, 1997 and 2007/8. While land and ethnic tensions have often been identified as the underlying causes of these episodes of violence, I argue that there is a dialectic relationship between the production and ascription of (multi-layered) identities on the one hand, and the opportunities offered by urban life on the other hand. How do urban dwellers articulate claims of difference and belonging? What brings people together or tear them apart? I look at the specific historical context and social configuration of Eldoret to answer these questions, suggesting that the production of "strangeness" is negotiated by the inhabitants of the town and rooted both in discourses and everyday practices.
Urban property disputes in fragile and transitional settings in Africa