Urban subjects: Somali claims to recognition and urban belonging in Eastleigh, Nairobi

Kirstine Strøh Varming*

*Corresponding author

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


After more than a century of mutually constructed strangerhood, relations between the Somali community and the Kenyan state are strained. Following the concomitant developments of the devolution of power, an influx of refugees and a growing securitisation discourse, Somalis in Kenya today take up an ambiguous position between marginalisation and increasing political and economic visibility (Carrier & Lochery 2013; Scharrer 2018; Weitzberg 2017). Based on eight months of ethnographic fieldwork in Eastleigh, Nairobi, I will show how contemporary narratives of belonging and contribution are being presented by the Somali community on a variety of platforms. I will discuss the role of taxation in historical as well as contemporary claims to recognition and the significance of taking claims to formal Kenyan courts. I argue that these diverse practices all serve to create an urban Somali subjectivity in Kenya, as they seek to constitute Eastleigh as a central urban space from where the Somalis can make claims on the Kenyan state.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAfrican Studies
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by the Danish Consultative Research Committee for Development Research (FFU) under the GOVSEA project.


  • belonging
  • claims-making
  • Kenya
  • recognition
  • Somali
  • state-making
  • strangerhood
  • subjectivity
  • taxation

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