Nairobi in the Making


‘An original and compelling book that combines ethnography and history with a sophisticated use of theory. While the remnants of Nairobi’s colonial past fade and re-emerge alongside utopian visions of an imagined future, Smith draws our attention to the material and imaginative labour of ordinary city dwellers as they make and remake their neighborhoods.’ – Megan Vaughan, Professor of African History and Health, Institute for Advanced Studies, UCL

‘A first-rate contribution to a number of fields – urban studies, urban planning,
African Studies and anthropology.’ – Neil Carrier, University of Bristol



What does it mean to make a life in an African city today? How do ordinary Africans, caught between the remains of empire and global city fantasies, try to ensure a place for themselves in the future? Nairobi is on the cusp of radical urban change as state-led mega-projects seek to turn it into a ‘world-class’ city. Yet traces of the past have powerful afterlives: Nairobians also live amongst the vestiges of imperial urban planning that was designed to regulate colonial subjects. Based on
ethnographic research in Kaloleni, a colonial-era public housing estate
now slated for urban renewal, Nairobi in the Making explores how projects of self-making and city-making are entwined. Constance Smith is a UKRI Future Leaders Fellow in Social Anthropology, University of Manchester.


Published in association with the British Institute in Eastern Africa.