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Questioning the Kibera Discourse: Articulating Representations and Lived Experience in a Nairobi Slum
Unformatted Document Text:  KIBERA DISCOURSE 15 those, 34 were willing and able to sit for an interview. Because the screenings drew more men than women, 24 of our interviewees were men, 10 were women. The average age was 22 years old. Residents from eight of Kibera’s 13 villages participated in this study, and interviewees came from several different ethnic groups. 9 The longest any of the respondents had lived in Kibera was 31 years and the shortest was 4 months, for an average of 10 years per person. The majority of respondents (15) stated they were in either secondary school or college, an additional 13 said they were unemployed, and only six responded that they volunteered or worked. My previous experiences indicated Kibera residents often told me what they thought I wanted to hear. Therefore, I decided it was best for the research assistant to conduct the majority of the interviews without me present. We interviewed the first six participants together. After that, the research assistant informed me he was comfortable with the process, and he conducted the remainder without me. My assistant confirmed that he felt respondents were more at ease and more open in their responses when I was not present. Interviews were conducted in English, Swahili, and Sheng, 10 and the research assistant provided translations for any non-English interviews. Interviews ranged in length from 10 to 30 minutes. We recorded the interviews using a digital audio recorder, and I transcribed the interviews in full. Participants were given 50 KSH in mobile phone credit in exchange for their time. Using qualitative data analysis, I coded and categorized the transcripts and looked for emerging themes (Lindlof & Taylor 2002; Lofland et al., 2006). Those themes are presented in the findings and discussion below. Life Experiences in Kibera When we asked residents to talk about their lives in Kibera, many focused on the 9 As advised, I did not ask participants about their ethnicity. Instead, we asked respondents to tell us their birth homes, a common proxy question for ethnicity. In response to this question, participants said they came from six of Kenya’s eight provinces. One of the missing provinces was Nairobi, and the other was the Coastal province. 10 While most Kenyans are multilingual, Sheng is the primary language of Kenya’s urban youth. Sheng combines vocabulary and syntax from English, Swahili, and other ethnic languages (Githinji, 2006; Ogechi, 2005).

Authors: Ekdale, Brian.
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those, 34 were willing and able to sit for an interview. Because the screenings drew more men 
than women, 24 of our interviewees were men, 10 were women. The average age was 22 years 
old. Residents from eight of Kibera’s 13 villages participated in this study, and interviewees 
came from several different ethnic groups.
 The longest any of the respondents had lived in 
Kibera was 31 years and the shortest was 4 months, for an average of 10 years per person. The 
majority of respondents (15) stated they were in either secondary school or college, an additional 
13 said they were unemployed, and only six responded that they volunteered or worked.
My previous experiences indicated Kibera residents often told me what they thought I 
wanted to hear. Therefore, I decided it was best for the research assistant to conduct the majority 
of the interviews without me present. We interviewed the first six participants together. After 
that, the research assistant informed me he was comfortable with the process, and he conducted 
the remainder without me. My assistant confirmed that he felt respondents were more at ease and 
more open in their responses when I was not present. Interviews were conducted in English, 
Swahili, and Sheng,
 and the research assistant provided translations for any non-English 
interviews. Interviews ranged in length from 10 to 30 minutes. We recorded the interviews using 
a digital audio recorder, and I transcribed the interviews in full. Participants were given 50 KSH 
in mobile phone credit in exchange for their time. Using qualitative data analysis, I coded and 
categorized the transcripts and looked for emerging themes (Lindlof & Taylor 2002; Lofland et 
al., 2006). Those themes are presented in the findings and discussion below.
Life Experiences in Kibera
When we asked residents to talk about their lives in Kibera, many focused on the 
 As advised, I did not ask participants about their ethnicity. Instead, we asked respondents to tell us their birth 
homes, a common proxy question for ethnicity. In response to this question, participants said they came from six of 
Kenya’s eight provinces. One of the missing provinces was Nairobi, and the other was the Coastal province.
 While most Kenyans are multilingual, Sheng is the primary language of Kenya’s urban youth. Sheng combines 
vocabulary and syntax from English, Swahili, and other ethnic languages (Githinji, 2006; Ogechi, 2005). 

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