Constance Smith, "Nairobi in the Making: Landscapes of Time and Urban Belonging" (James Currey, 2019)

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In a colonial-era housing estate in Nairobi, urban life unfolds in the shadow of a billboard promising a bright hypermodern global future. How do ordinary residents inhabit this temporal condition? What are the everyday practices of city-making that bring life to urban plans and their material ruins? In Nairobi in the Making: Landscapes of Time & Urban Belonging (James Curry, 2019) anthropologist Constance Smith argues that “as people make places, they also make themselves, and in the process, they offer new possibilities for urban histories and perspectives.” In this episode of New Books in Anthropology, she joins host Jacob Doherty to discuss urban history-making, the materiality of decay, the politics of security, and the ties that bind urban and rural lives together in contemporary East Africa.

Constance Smith is a UKRI Future Leader Fellow at the University of Manchester. Her work has been published in Social Anthropology, Focaal, Social Dynamics, and Urban Planning. Her current project, Tower Block Failures, explores the widening inequalities of urban life through the stories of urban catastrophes in the UK and Kenya.

Jacob Doherty is a lecturer in the anthropology of development at the University of Edinburgh.

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