Uncertain Futures: The Performance of Ownership in a Nairobi Council Estate

Posted: 26 Mar 2014  

Constance Smith

University College London

Date Written: 2014


The city of Nairobi is currently subject to pervasive and radical urban planning strategies, which envisage Nairobi as a glossy, modern, middle-income city by 2030. As part of this urban renewal project the city's many colonial era, council-owned housing estates are slated for demolition and redevelopment. Yet the exact nature of these plans, including whether there will be provision for current residents, remains somewhat unclear - not least of all to residents themselves. Faced with these uncertain futures, residents have begun to question the validity of official claims to property and redevelopment rights. This paper explores how the institutional neglect of Kaloleni since the 1980s, including the gradual shutting down of services, has led to tenants 'performing ownership' within the estate. Taking responsibility for home maintenance and estate management, residents in Kaloleni often feel like property owners, even whilst they are being reminded their tenancies are increasingly insecure. As they seek to renegotiate official visions of the future, residents have begun to draw on the material and social histories of the estate to develop alternative narratives of property, land ownership and what it means to be a 'stakeholder' in urban regeneration projects.

Suggested Citation

Smith, Constance, Uncertain Futures: The Performance of Ownership in a Nairobi Council Estate (2014). ASA 2014 Annual Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2416038

Constance Smith (Contact Author)

University College London ( email )

Gower Street
London, WC1E 6BT
United Kingdom

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