• Academic,  Kenya,  Publications

    New Article: Entertainment-Education and Online Cocreation

    This is a belated notice, but Melissa Tully and I have a new article published in Television & New Media that looks at the Kenyan television show The Team and its online campaign to engage viewers in a discussion about national unity. Here’s the abstract from “The Team Online: Entertainment-Education, Social Media, and Cocreated Messages“: This article examines an entertainment-education program, The Team, which began airing in Kenya after the 2007–2008 postelection violence. The show promotes cooperation and national unity among Kenyans through the metaphor of Kenya as a football (soccer) team. The focus of this article is twofold: viewers’ identification with and reaction to certain morally ambiguous characters and audience members’ interaction with the program…

  • Kenya

    Letters from Kibera (1950 edition)

    I apologize for the year-long sabbatical from the blog. I can’t promise to be more regular, but I’ll try. I’m back in Kenya for 5 weeks this summer, and this time I’ve gotten the chance to spend some time in the Kenya National Archives. There are some great finds in there concerning the history of Kibera and Mathare, as well as some other gems about the growth of media industries in Kenya. Anyway, I thought I’d share this one letter that really struck me today. Around 1950, the British government was developing plans to move the Sudanese (Nubians) out of Kibera. The plan was to relocate this group to Kibiko,…

  • Academic,  Kenya

    Dissertation? Check.

    A few weeks ago, I successfully defended and deposited my dissertation. I have since moved from Madison to my new home, Iowa City, where I am now an assistant professor in the School of Journalism & Mass Communication at The University of Iowa. I am excited and humbled to have this opportunity, to say the least. My dissertation, as now filed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Graduate School is titled “Creativity and Constraint in Self-Representational Media: A Production Ethnography of Visual Storytelling in a Nairobi Slum.” Here’s the abstract: This study is a media production ethnography of members of a marginalized community constructing and telling stories using visual media. It…

  • Kenya

    Forbes Series on Entrepreneurship in Kibera

    The past few months, I’ve been busy finishing my dissertation and doing little else. Now that my committee is reading the goods and deciding my fate (I defend next week), I wanted to draw attention to an interesting series of posts about Kibera on Forbes.com. The series is a part of their Megacities blog, and the posts are authored by Chelina Odbert. Chelina runs a “public spaces” project in Kibera through an organization she co-founded, called Kounkuey Design Initiative. During my time in Kibera, I met Chelina and visited a KDI public space in Undugu grounds. It’s a really cool project. Anyway, here’s a rundown of her blog posts (in…

  • Highlights,  Kenya

    A History of Kibera

    Before I first visited Kibera in 2008, I started tracking down books, newspaper articles, and journal articles to learn more about Kibera’s history. During this search, I found a couple of real gems. For instance, Timothy Parson’s article “Kibra is Our Blood” offers an excellent account of Kibera’s history from its founding until Kenyan independence in 1963, focusing particularly on the fascinating relationship between British military authorities and Kibera’s first Nubian settlers. But I also found that most accounts of Kibera’s past are quite brief. Plus, there is little out there that discusses Kibera’s tremendous growth from independence until the present. So in the past 2+ years, I’ve continued to…

  • Kenya

    Same-Same in Mathare

    I was doing some dissertation reading today (as I do everyday) when I came across the following passage: The people of Mathare are neither looking for handouts nor threatening the social and political order of their society. Instead, they are seeking control over their own lives, and ways to solve the daily problems of subsistence. They reject the negative image that outsiders hold of them and will go to great lengths to alter it, given the opportunity. A better understanding of these aspirations will, I hope, result in a more reasonable and humane government orientation toward urban squatters and greater assistance in helping people to help themselves. This made me…

  • Academic,  Kenya

    Overloaded Faculty in East Africa

    The latest Journal of International and Intercultural Communication is out with an interesting article that looks at the factors that contribute to a lack of research and publication activities by scholars working at universities in East Africa. In “Research and Publication by Communication Faculty in East Africa: A Challenge to the Global Community of Communication Scholars” Ann Neville Miller, Mary N. Kizito, and Kyalo wa Ngula use surveys and interviews with faculty, department heads and librarians to try to understand why there is so little research coming from scholars working at schools in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. While there are a number of factors at play, one of the largest…

  • Kenya

    Things You Should Know About Kibera

    As part of my research, Genesis Njeru and I conducted a bunch of interviews with Kibera residents (you can read more about the process here). These interviews covered a lot of different topics, but one of the things we asked early on was how they would describe life in Kibera. As you can imagine, residents discussed many of the challenges of living in Kibera, but they also talked about some of the positives in their community. As a follow-up question, we asked (with some variation in wording): “Is there anything you wish people who live outside Kibera knew about Kibera?”* Here are some of their responses: What I know about…

  • Kenya

    Playing the Numbers Game to Discredit the Numbers Game

    Rasna Warah has an opinion piece in today’s Daily Nation on the new census figures for Kibera–something I blogged about last week. A regular critic of development projects, Warah argues the inflated population figures traditionally given for Kibera most likely were created and promoted by the UN and other NGOs to serve their own interests. She writes: The more likely scenario is that, in the absence of authoritative statistics, the population figure for Kibera was entirely made up to suit the interests of particular groups. And because no one publicly challenged the figures, a lie became the truth. Seems reasonable. I mostly agree. But, Warah does something that I forgot…

  • Kenya

    What’s in a Name (and a Number)?

    Friday the Daily Nation published an article titled “Myth shattered: Kibera numbers fail to add up.” Looking at the newly released 2009 Kenya census, Muchiri Karanja writes: It has been billed as Africa’s biggest slum and even by some accounts, the world’s largest. Some say it is home to two million people, others a million. But the 2009 Kenya Population and Housing Census results released this week make everything you have heard about the size of Kibera improbable. Numbers do not lie, and figures from the 2009 census indicate that Kibera barely makes it to Nairobi’s largest slum. According to the census figures, the eight locations that form Kibera slums…