Citizenship from the Corner? Waiting, shared emotions and local activism of the youthgroups in Nairobi
Jean-Baptiste Lanne (Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris)
Paper short abstract:
This paper engages with the long term and almost invisible emotions-building at work in particular urban youth micro-societies: the 'youthgroups' of Nairobi. Based on an ethnographic approach, It seeks to connect this discreet sharing of emotions to more visible political mobilisations.
Paper long abstract:
In the kenyan context, a regular emphasis has been laid upon intense mobilisation of the youth from poor neighbourhoods before and during moments of political climax. Both their feeling of despair and opportunistic involvement (available for hire to any politician who will pay them) have been underlined to explain spectacular and violent modes of actions. Acknowledging this, my paper engages with the long term and almost invisible emotions-building at work in particular urban youth micro-societies: the 'youthgroups' of Nairobi, involved in local security and lucrative poly-activities in the city's poor neighbourhoods. Relying on Rachel Pain's 'seismologies of emotion' (2014), I argue that an everyday and mutual sharing of emotions during endless moments of waiting at street corners and boutique's doorsteps feeds a singular citizenship that might explain most spectacular events and forms of activism. Fear of premature death (mostly due to police extra-judicial killings, Van Stapele 2016), despair, boredom, feeling of living a mundane existence along with excitement, hope, brotherhood, collective pride, all these emotional states are closely intertwined to spin an ambivalent relationship to time (and especially the political one). As some emotions lead to an experience of slowness and frustration (boredom for example), others potentially produce an urgency to live and act (fear of not living long). Considering both the material and non-material productions of this particular citizenship 'from the corner' (popular jokes, linguistic idioms, drawings, poetry, particular places of collective waiting), I try to examine its possible connections to more visible and extraordinary political mobilisations.
- Social Anthropology