Postcolonial Objectivity: Reaching for Decolonial Knowledge Making in Nairobi

Cite as:

Okune, Angela (2021). "Postcolonial Objectivity: Reaching for Decolonial Knowledge Making in Nairobi." Research Data Share (Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography).


Based on work over the last decade within Nairobi’s tech-for-good sector, followed by a year of ethnographic research within organizations in Nairobi’s research landscapes, “Postcolonial Objectivity: Reaching for Decolonial Knowledge Making in Nairobi” traces the contours and edges of what is considered to be good knowledge within an emergent regime of scientific representation in Kenya. I show how this regime, which I call postcolonial objectivity, can be better understood by drawing out how histories haunt the problem space; the idealized figures that shadow the problem space, how rising diversity expectations have played out, and modes of care and stewardship are practiced and idealized. A recurrent argument and goal of postcolonial objectivity is robust contextualization of knowledge.

“Postcolonial Objectivity: Reaching for Decolonial Knowledge Making in Nairobi” scales between analyses of the geopolitics of translocal knowledge production and ethnographically rich descriptions of Kenyan histories of imperialism and post-war Development. These geohistories established the knowledge infrastructures that have created conditions where everyday research amongst particular communities in Nairobi are often experienced as extractive, externally-driven, and extroverted for a Western audience. If methodology is a way of being in the world, ultimately, my argument is enacted through my methodological approach of archive ethnography as well as collaborative authorship of the final textual form. In these ways, I demonstrate my own attempts towards postcolonial objectivity, working to build supporting technical infrastructure as an experimental space for collaborative effort to figure out what kinds of questions can be asked under postcolonial objectivity going forward.

A PDF version of this dissertation is available at

Chapter Essays

Part I

These three chapters set the stage for understanding the research landscape in Nairobi, Kenya and my object of study, open ethnographic research data.

Part II

Each of the three chapters in this section focus on better understanding how a particular research formation in Nairobi is attempting to pursue decolonial knowledge practices. The chapters are structured around a shared set of analytic questions that provide a comparative frame for investigating the motivations for and tactics through which research formations in Nairobi are pursuing decolonial knowledge. These questions also provide a parallel way to engage with the text beyond the existing chapter structure (see here for an alternative form of the same content that collapses all three chapter materials under these questions).