1st Edition

The City Makers of Nairobi An African Urban History

By Anders Ese, Kristin Ese Copyright 2020
    216 Pages 42 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    216 Pages 42 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    The City Makers of Nairobi re-examines the history of the urban development of Nairobi in the colonial period. Although Nairobi was a colonial construct with lasting negative repercussions, the African population’s impact on its history and development is often overlooked. This book shows how Africans took an active part in making use of the city and creating it, and how they were far from being subjects in the development of a European colonial city.

    This re-interpretation of Nairobi’s history suggests that the post-colonial city is the result of more than unjust and segregative colonial planning. Merging historical documentation with extensive contemporary urban theory, this book provides in-depth knowledge of the key historical roles played by locals in the development of their city. It argues that the idea of agency, a popular inroad to urban development today, is not a current phenomenon but one that has always existed with its many social, spatial, and physical ramifications.

    This is an ideal read for upper-level undergraduate and graduate students studying the history of urban development and theories, providing an in-depth case study for reference. The City Makers of Nairobi broaches interdisciplinary themes important to urban planners, social scientists, historians, and those working with popular settlements in cities across the world.

    Foreword by Winnie Mitullah

    Introduction – Nairobi: A Colonial and African Urban Construct


    Part I – The Muslim Impact on Nairobi 1899-1940

    1. The First African Settlements in Nairobi: Transformation and Adaptation to New Realities

    2. Urban Identity in the African Settlements in Nairobi

    3. Legalising African Urban Space 1922-1939

    4. An Urban Home: Muslim Culture and Social Practices

    Some Concluding Remarks – and Some Questions

    Connections to Discourse I: Urban Identities


    Part II – Class Struggle and Nationalism: Modernism in Nairobi 1940-1960

    5. Urban Stratification 1940-1952: Housing, Neighbourhoods, and Class

    6. Urban Stratification 1940-1952: The Spatial Implications of Politics

    7. War in the City: Restructuring African Urban Space in Nairobi 1952-1960

    Some Concluding Remarks – and Some Questions

    Connections to Discourse II: Making the City of Complexity




    Anders Ese grew up in Kenya and Zambia. He is an urbanist with a PhD on mapping, data collection, and analysis of complex urban settings in Nairobi. With a focus on interdisciplinary approaches, Anders works on issues of urbanisation, poverty, identities, and sustainability in East and Southern Africa. He is a partner in Urban-A, a company delivering analysis and strategies for inclusive cities.

    Kristin Ese is an historian specialising in urban history, particularly in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, with a special interest in the importance of Swahili culture on urban development. As an historian her work focuses on how her field can inform current analysis and developments. Kristin has lived for several years in Kenya, Zambia, and Tanzania. She has published a number of books and has worked as a lecturer at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).



    "I commend the critical task that Ese and Ese have given themselves; that of highlighting African life by detailing housing patterns, cultural lives, and everyday practices in ways intended to decenter the colonizer. Ultimately, the authors have managed to "encourage people to reflect on the fact that this is indeed their city, and has always been so;" a supportive endorsement of Nairobi’s primary city making communities who, from 1920 to the present, continue to find the post-colonial eviction bulldozer at their door." —Wangui Kimari, Africa Is A Country

    "This is a welcome addition to the literature on the history and planning of Nairobi, with wider relevance to urbanization in Africa and the global south. A particular strength of the research is its extensive primary source material, some not easily accessible, including archives, local newspapers, individual memoirs, and novels, which results in a thoroughly executed urban history, with a strong chronological progression through the period 1899-1960." —Robert Home, Planning Perspectives

    "The City Makers of Nairobi offers a welcome departure from much of the historical scholarship on colonial-era urban Africa. Rather than focus on colonial efforts to construct and control urban space, Anders Ese and Kristin Ese recognize the agency and significance of the African population, which has always made up the majority of Nairobi’s residents, as city makers."—Kenny Cupers, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians