Statehood, sovereignty and identities: exploring policing in Kenya’s informal settlements of Mathare and Kaptembwo
Academic work focusing on Kenya acknowledges that the state does not have a monopoly in the everyday policing of informal settlements. Nevertheless, there is limited scholarly focus on relationships between the different policing actors, the outcome of their interactions, collaborations, contestations, and the implications for the future of policing in Kenya. Few academics have examined how social categories intersect and overlap to shape and construct everyday policing practices and experiences in Kenya. This study seeks to fill these gaps. Based on twelve months of inductive field research, I explore how the intersection of multiple social categories shapes ways in which policing actors in Mathare and Kaptembwo make claims, project power and enact different logics of order which coexist, overlap and intersect. While other scholars have highlighted the significance of ethnicity in policing in Kenya, I demonstrate its limitations and instead highlight the importance of economic status, gender and age in negotiating everyday policing practices. Empirically I also analyse how some of the policing nodes are engaged in negotiating statehood. I unpack in what ways legitimacy and sovereignty are negotiated, contested, constructed, and reconstructed in Mathare and Kaptembwo. Following this argument, I acknowledge the power of the political arrangements that we call the Kenyan state and, at the same time, account for their elusiveness.