Association for Africanist Anthropology
Group Flash Presentation Session
The paper examines how young men in an informal settlement in Nairobi negotiate and pursue livelihoods in a context of limited economic opportunities and pervasive state and interpersonal violence. Building on more than a year of ethnographic research in Nairobi, Kenya, It explores alternative economic strategies for survival and the new socialities and relationships that impoverished young men must develop and pursue in order to find jobs, earn livelihoods and guarantee their safety and survival. Their everyday struggles involve cobbling from a range of strategies, including engaging in entrepreneurial creativity to meet family and neighborhood needs, opportunistic forms of group crime, and engaging in collective self-defense against violent rival gangs and state security establishments. Despite the challenges of their day-to-day lives, the young men consistently resisted the notion that they were victims of circumstances. Instead, they adopted new futures and reconstructed themselves in more adaptive and ways, (re)inventing new life trajectories, which were constantly revised based on whatever new challenges they were facing. The study adds to empirical and theoretical knowledge on care and the intersectionality of informality, precarity, and survival practices that produce and reproduce strategic socialities for negotiating everyday livelihoods among people living under conditions of extreme economic and other forms of uncertainties.