• Publications

    How Journalists and the Public Get It Wrong About African Poverty

    REPOST: This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. Ordinary people’s stories can change the world’s views about Africa We cannot see salary data in the faces of others, but most of us have similar mental images that structure how we think about poverty in Africa. Search Google Images for ‘African poverty’ to see how yours match up. Dilapidated housing. Tattered shirts. Blank stares. Bellies protruding from parasitic infections. Skin clinging to bones from starvation. Tears. The visit to South Africa by French economist and author of Capital in the 21st Century, Thomas Piketty, should lead us to reflect on how we understand poverty. To speak…

  • Kenya,  Publications

    New Article: Touring Slums and Telling Stories (About Ourselves)

    Five years ago, when wrapping up fieldwork in Kibera, I blogged about the controversy surrounding slum tourism. While many Kibera residents resent the fact that so many foreigners tour their community, a few told me they believed there would be less misunderstanding if more outsiders visited Kibera. In a previous article, I discussed the complex feelings residents have about their home community and, in doing so, tried to challenge the dominant discourse about slums. In a new article, titled “Ironic Encounters: Posthumanitarian Storytelling in Slum Tourist Media,” David Tuwei and I look at the stories slum tourists are telling about their encounters with global poverty. The article examines three texts produced by tourists of Kibera: the BBC special Famous, Rich…

  • Academic,  Kenya,  Publications

    New Article: Taking on the Kibera Discourse

    Before I visited Kibera for the first time in 2009, I tried to read and watch as much as I could to better understand the community. Much of what I consumed was from international news and academic journals, which largely focused on health, crime, and housing issues in Kibera. After spending some time on the ground getting to know residents and seeing how the community worked, I came to realize that, while these issues are real and significant,  they are only part of Kibera’s story. Like people everywhere, Kibera residents live complicated lives filled with joys, sorrow, boredom, and pain. I have a new article in Ecquid Novi: African Journalism Studies that is my…

  • Academic,  Kenya,  Publications

    New Article: Community Journalism in Kibera

    I have a new article in Journalism Practice about the difficulties of doing community journalism in places like Kibera. The article is titled “‘I Wish They Knew that We are Doing This for Them’: Participation and resistance in African community journalism” and will appear in an upcoming special issue on “Community journalism midst media revolution” edited by Sue Robinson. Here’s the abstract: This article examines the relationship between community journalists and residents in Kibera, a sizable slum in Nairobi, Kenya. Focusing on two videojournalism initiatives, this research explores the structural and cultural features of Kibera that impacted residents’ participation and nonparticipation in these projects. Findings reveal that many residents were unfamiliar with…

  • Academic,  Kenya,  Publications

    New Chapter: Media Authorship in Kibera

    I’m beyond excited to have a chapter in the new volume A Companion to Media Authorship, edited by Jonathan Gray and Derek Johnson. The chapter, “Telling Whose Stories? Re-examining Author Agency in Self-Representational Media in the Slums of Nairobi,” offers an overview of the work I did for my dissertation. It looks at the creative and constraining forces working at multiple levels of analysis for young journalists and filmmakers in Kibera and Mathare. Yes, the book is pricey at the moment, so tell your library to pick up a copy or wait for the cheaper paperback version to come out. Big thanks to Jonathan and Derek. It’s an honor to see my name listed…

  • 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

    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…