Personal profile

Overview

I am an economic and political anthropologist whose research interests encompass themes such as the relationship between capitalism, assetization and kinship; the production of 'surplus people'; moral economy as a set of popular ideas about economic justice; and the effect of colonialism on contemporary landscapes of poverty and inequality. I am an Africanist anthropologist whose research to-date has focused primarily on central Kenya. My research has been published in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Africa, and Social Analysis.

My current book project explores the consequences of Nairobi's 'construction boom' on its peri-urban hinterlands - how the rapidly rising price of land is transforming social relations in the impoverished post-peasant landscape of nearby southern Kiambu County. Drawing upon 22 months of fieldwork across five years (2017-2022) within this urbanising landscape, I explore the way the commodification and sale of inherited, 'ancestral' land is shaping inter-generational tensions over the future, as fathers and sons' interests are pitted against one another. My work observes how 'surplus people' in Africa are produced through land conflicts at the heart of kinship, and how landless and land poor young men contend with their own 'pauperization' - their surplus to the requirements of capital, and their impending land poverty.

My experience conducting research adjacent to Nairobi has also informed an interest in the city, and over the last four years I have worked with a team of scholars to curate Nairobi Becoming, an innovative, multi-authored ethnography of the city featuring the work of scholars, writers and artists from Kenya and Europe.

As a Hallsworth Research Fellow I have expanded my research on Nairobi's growing hinterlands to explore the rammifcations of land's assetization for would-be middle-class homeowners. I am currently editing a collection of papers with Hannah Elliott (Copenhagen Business School) on the theme of 'Timing Property' to explore contexts where land's assetization forces actors into complex attempts to reconcile and fix multiple temporalities (market, life cycle, state bureaucracy) in the pursuit of homeownership.

Alongside my interest in land and assetization, I continue to write about Kenya's politics at the intersection of debates in political anthropology and political science. I have recently published pieces in African Affairs and Anthropology Today discussing the victory of William Ruto in Kenya's 2022 elections against the backdrop of a rising cost of living and downward social mobility. I am currently developing a new book project on the past five years of Kenya's electoral politics from an anthropological perspective. Entitled Familiar Enmity: Hustlers and their Dynasties in Kenya's Elections, the book brings ethnographic insights of Kenya's elections into conversation with anthropological perspectives on predation, enmity and hospitality to underscore the compressed social dynamics of election campaigns, the jaded citizenship produced by a feeling of being trapped in a 'choiceless democracy'.

I am committed to public-facing scholarship, and have contributed to wider debates about political inequality in Kenya. I have written about the Ekeza SACCO banking scandal in online newspaper The Elephant and about a resurgence of squatting and land invasions in African Arguments. I recently appeared on The Kenyanist podcast, speaking about my research on middle-class aspirations and stretched relations of economic obligation.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 1 - No Poverty
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Areas of expertise

  • H Social Sciences (General)

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global Development Institute
  • Global inequalities

Keywords

  • Kenya
  • Africa
  • Youth
  • Economic Anthropology
  • Political Anthropology
  • Unemployment
  • Land Use Change
  • Land Value Capture

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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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