In the 21st Century, what are the glaring social divides between urban African Africa(ns) and rural Africa(ns)? In what ways has the spread of digital technology conflated with the death of zoning and town planning in Kenya, to erase the physical demarcations between socio-economic spaces? How does this erasure relate to a fluidity of the imaginary, to notions of identity and practices of belonging?
This lecture looks at modern Africa through the lens of Kenya, an East African country whose rapid economic growth is assumed to have contributed to a widespread shift in notions of identity and belonging. How does autochthony further urbanity and how does it disrupt urban belonging? Beyond looking at physical spaces and their impact on character and identity, the paper also unpacks contemporary death and funerary practices to expand the notion of modernity and to explore the concept of "detribalized" Africans. A key argument in this description of the prototype of the Kenyan funeral is that the identity we would like to term as "Kenyan" is best understood by looking at dominant responses to death and dying and the ways – and places in which - people bury. Do class factors weigh into this equation and in this context, how does the aspirational sense that defines post-colonial Kenya erase the notion of class?
The lecture concludes that urban Africa is a conglomeration of cultural practices in the same way that the idea of urban Africans is the sum total of ethnic threads. Tribe has not disappeared, it has increasingly multiplied into a meshed quilt.
Joyce Nyairo is an independent researcher who works on cultural memory projects.
This article is culled from daily press coverage from around the world. It is posted on the Urban Gateway by way of keeping all users informed about matters of interest. The opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and in no way reflects the opinion of UN-Habitat.