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Questioning the Kibera Discourse: Articulating Representations and Lived Experience in a Nairobi Slum
Unformatted Document Text:  KIBERA DISCOURSE 23 interviewees simply encouraged Kenyan media to be more present in Kibera, so they would be better equipped to tell a greater number and variety of stories about Kibera. As one man stated: “I think to better report in Kibera, the media should send their people here in Kibera at least regularly to get the information about the good things running in Kibera” (I11). A few suggested Kenyan media open branches or reporting centers in Kibera where residents could easily inform them of news and events in the community. Others felt it was important to involve Kibera residents in gathering news about Kibera. Perhaps with mixed motives, one unemployed man argued media coverage could be improved by “employing the youths” of Kibera (I16). But another woman explained that employing Kibera residents to collect Kibera news would mean more than just adding a few jobs to the community. They should not think that they can come and find out what is happening in Kibera for themselves. Well, they don’t live there. So they should involve people living in this very ghetto for them to know about it. (I26) According to this woman, to understand and represent Kibera as residents experience it, Kenyan media houses would need to incorporate Kibera residents in their news gathering and reporting. But most were not focused on who was telling the stories; they were more concerned with how many and which stories were being told. As one student explained, the media’s absence has been part of the problem: “They should stay close, because when they are so far, they come only when there is an accident or something. It’s not helping” (I31). Discussion This paper reveals the importance of analyzing representations of low-income, urban communities such as Kibera as part of a larger discourse. Media texts about Kibera are produced within a body of knowledge that, in turn, is shaped and limited by a discourse that is both hyperbolic and simplistic. Residents we interviewed identified this as a discourse by arguing that

Authors: Ekdale, Brian.
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interviewees simply encouraged Kenyan media to be more present in Kibera, so they would be 
better equipped to tell a greater number and variety of stories about Kibera. As one man stated: 
“I think to better report in Kibera, the media should send their people here in Kibera at least 
regularly to get the information about the good things running in Kibera” (I11). A few suggested 
Kenyan media open branches or reporting centers in Kibera where residents could easily inform 
them of news and events in the community. Others felt it was important to involve Kibera 
residents in gathering news about Kibera. Perhaps with mixed motives, one unemployed man 
argued media coverage could be improved by “employing the youths” of Kibera (I16). But 
another woman explained that employing Kibera residents to collect Kibera news would mean 
more than just adding a few jobs to the community. 
They should not think that they can come and find out what is happening in Kibera for 
themselves. Well, they don’t live there. So they should involve people living in this very 
ghetto for them to know about it. (I26)
According to this woman, to understand and represent Kibera as residents experience it, Kenyan 
media houses would need to incorporate Kibera residents in their news gathering and reporting. 
But most were not focused on who was telling the stories; they were more concerned with how 
many and which stories were being told. As one student explained, the media’s absence has been 
part of the problem: “They should stay close, because when they are so far, they come only when 
there is an accident or something. It’s not helping” (I31).
This paper reveals the importance of analyzing representations of low-income, urban 
communities such as Kibera as part of a larger discourse. Media texts about Kibera are produced 
within a body of knowledge that, in turn, is shaped and limited by a discourse that is both 
hyperbolic and simplistic. Residents we interviewed identified this as a discourse by arguing that 

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