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Since its late-19th-century origins in the British East African Protectorate, when Nairobi began as a depot on the colonial railway from the East African coast to Lake Victoria, Nairobi has transformed to become the largest and most powerful urban center in the region. Even as the city has developed, its colonial origins continue to cast a long shadow: from the legacies of urban planning and racial segregation to histories of urban migration, British colonialism still inflects the way that lives are made in the city. Because the afterlives of this history remain very much present, articles examining the historical precedent of contemporary themes are included throughout this bibliography, with particular significance for the way governance, housing, infrastructure, and urban security have developed in the city. That is not to say, however, that Nairobi is defined solely by its colonial past—far from it. Nairobi is a leading center of the tech scene in Africa, its dynamic start-up culture leading to the perhaps inevitable moniker of Silicon Savannah. A dynamic entrepreneurialism has been seen to characterize the informal economy and high-end sectors alike, with the neighborhood of Eastleigh and its primarily Somali-origin businesspeople particularly renowned as a driving force of Nairobi’s economic growth. The politics of accumulation has a dark side too, with the illegitimate allocation of resources, personal gain, and political impunity often underlying some of the more entrenched issues facing the city. Since the 1990s, Nairobi has felt the harsh effects of structural adjustment and neoliberal reform. Even as new forms of media, consumption, and leisure have shaped urban aspirations, the global trend toward privatization and deregulation has severely increased economic disparity and struggles with precarity have become an everyday reality for many. Such themes are powerfully evoked in the city’s music, film, and fiction, creative outlets that have become important forums for critiquing and appraising the challenges of making a life in 21st-century Nairobi.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOxford Bibliographies in Urban Studies
EditorsRichardson Dilworth
PublisherOxford University Press
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2022

Publication series

NameUrban Studies


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