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Questioning the Kibera Discourse: Articulating Representations and Lived Experience in a Nairobi Slum
Unformatted Document Text:  KIBERA DISCOURSE 18 Several other residents, when asked to describe life in Kibera, chose not to focus on the hardships of living in Kibera. For example, many noted that life in Kibera is “cheap,” which makes it “favorable to our daily life” (I28). While they may not be able to afford to shop at the Nakumatt 13 near Kibera, residents can find inexpensive food, housing, products, and services within Kibera. In addition to the low cost of living, several respondents commented on the positive social environment in Kibera. One resident told me that if he hears his neighbor is watching a television program he also enjoys, he would make comments about the show from his own home or go over to his neighbor’s home to watch. Another told me he was invited to spend the day with his cousin who lives in an upper-class estate in Nairobi. In the estate, the Kibera resident found himself sitting on the couch watching TV all day. When he was hungry, he went to the kitchen, got food and then returned back to the couch to watch TV. But when the day was over, he wanted to return to Kibera where he could socialize with other youth and share in their creative activities. Because of this social atmosphere, a 37-year-old cobbler stated neighbors watch out for each other. He said it is important for him to make sure his “neighbor cannot sleep without food” (I29). He too contrasted this sense of community with that in Nairobi’s estates: When we upgrade ourselves to estates like Langata, nobody knows one’s problems. Because knowing even your neighbor is terrible. Because they can ask you: “Why do you need to know me? What do you want on me?”. . . [But] we are social to each other. (I29) These respondents recognized the hardships of life in Kibera, but instead chose to speak with us about its favorable aspects. As one woman stated, “we call it a slum, but it’s nice” (I23). Other respondents noted it is difficult to speak broadly about life in Kibera. They felt one’s condition in the community depended on that person’s experiences. For some residents, life in Kibera is hard; for others, it is not so hard: Life in Kibera is full of ups and downs. . . . Those who struggle every day, they don’t 13 A large supermarket chain in Kenya.

Authors: Ekdale, Brian.
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Several other residents, when asked to describe life in Kibera, chose not to focus on the 
hardships of living in Kibera. For example, many noted that life in Kibera is “cheap,” which 
makes it “favorable to our daily life” (I28). While they may not be able to afford to shop at the 
 near Kibera, residents can find inexpensive food, housing, products, and services 
within Kibera. In addition to the low cost of living, several respondents commented on the 
positive social environment in Kibera. One resident told me that if he hears his neighbor is 
watching a television program he also enjoys, he would make comments about the show from his 
own home or go over to his neighbor’s home to watch. Another told me he was invited to spend 
the day with his cousin who lives in an upper-class estate in Nairobi. In the estate, the Kibera 
resident found himself sitting on the couch watching TV all day. When he was hungry, he went 
to the kitchen, got food and then returned back to the couch to watch TV. But when the day was 
over, he wanted to return to Kibera where he could socialize with other youth and share in their 
creative activities. Because of this social atmosphere, a 37-year-old cobbler stated neighbors 
watch out for each other. He said it is important for him to make sure his “neighbor cannot sleep 
without food” (I29). He too contrasted this sense of community with that in Nairobi’s estates:
When we upgrade ourselves to estates like Langata, nobody knows one’s problems. 
Because knowing even your neighbor is terrible. Because they can ask you: “Why do you 
need to know me? What do you want on me?”. . . [But] we are social to each other. (I29)
These respondents recognized the hardships of life in Kibera, but instead chose to speak with us 
about its favorable aspects. As one woman stated, “we call it a slum, but it’s nice” (I23).
Other respondents noted it is difficult to speak broadly about life in Kibera. They felt 
one’s condition in the community depended on that person’s experiences. For some residents, 
life in Kibera is hard; for others, it is not so hard:
Life in Kibera is full of ups and downs. . . . Those who struggle every day, they don’t 
 A large supermarket chain in Kenya.

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