Bwire, T. (2020, May 11). They Used To Give Their Kids 3 Meals A Day. Then Came Coronavirus. NPR.Org.

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Creative Commons Licence

Creator(s)

NPR

Contributors

Contributed date

May 15, 2020 - 3:07pm

Critical Commentary

AO: This came to my inbox from the NPR newsletter series "Goats and Soda". It was memorable to me because having just participated in this discussion about Spivak's work, I was thinking about margins, essentialism and strategic essentialism. In the discussion, we talked about how essentialism focuses our attention on certain things and pushes other things out of perception and responsibility. A key motivation for my own research has been understanding why certain places and people (with Kibera being an often used example of a heavily researched site) become the constant subjects of research. So this article, offering some insight into the experiences of Kibera residents during the COVID-19 pandemic, got me thinking about the discursive risk that the reification of the figure of the "slum dweller in COVID-19." What other Nairobi residents are cut out of focus? Anthropologist Mario Schmidt working in Pipeline, Nairobi has noted that despite becoming emblematic for how middle and upper class Kenyans imagine the lives of other, poorer Kenyans, such estates are often not the focus on international NGOs, the Kenyan state (and in this case international media) because such estates are not the iconic "slums" or informal settlements like Kibera and Mathare. This is not to reduce the experiences highlighted in this piece but how do we think about the non-essentializing?

Language

English