Imagining urban transformation in Kenya

Cairns, Rose, Onyango, Joel, Stirling, Andy and Johnstone, Phil (2022) Imagining urban transformation in Kenya. Environmental Science & Policy, 135. pp. 86-95. ISSN 1462-9011

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This paper examines the diverse ways in which science and technology are implicated in collective imaginations of urban futures in Kenya. Despite calls for a ‘deep reimagining’ of African urbanisation (UN Habitat 2014), globalised narratives of urban ‘smartness’ are intersecting with pan-African tendencies toward top-down Master Planning to constrain spaces for collective imagining of urban futures. Using the conceptual lens of sociotechnical imaginaries and the methodological approach of Q method, we hope to open up and navigate the space of tension between the violence of narratives of failure and crisis in African cities, and the sometimes ‘blinding power’ of certain hyper-modernist visions of urban futures. We argue that powerful global hegemonic forces around urban transformation can sometimes be most effectively balanced, not by reproducing the same assertive idiom of stylised monothetic categories and set-piece contrasts but by illuminating diversity in the implicated imaginations. Our research describes three distinguishable overlapping imaginaries of Kenya urban futures, which we call: ‘Working towards equitable, culturally-vibrant urban habitats for all’; ‘Transforming our cities and ourselves to become ‘smarter’ and thrive sustainability in a digital future’, and ‘Pragmatically harnessing technology for more inclusive, equitable, liveable cities’. Our findings highlight salient dimensions of difference between the imaginaries including: diverse understandings of technology and culture in urban areas; diverse imaginaries of the urban dwellers of the future; and diverse imagined processes of change. Through detailed analysis of the distinctiveness and similarities/overlap between these imaginaries, we draw out implications for urban governance in Kenya.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: University of Sussex Business School > SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit
SWORD Depositor: Mx Elements Account
Depositing User: Mx Elements Account
Date Deposited: 13 May 2022 07:07
Last Modified: 13 May 2022 07:15

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