I am an urban anthropologist. My current projects touch four broad themes – Covid fakes, city life on the Kenyan coast, urban climate change, and embodied social justice.
As part of What’s at stake in the fake?, I will be researching Covid-related fakes – fake vaccines, fake PPE, fake ‘fit to fly’ certificates and beyond, asking how anxieties around these fakes shape the lives of urban residents in Eastern and Southern Africa. Are fakes another vector through which the pandemic entrenches racialized and class fault lines? In what ways might Covid fakes direct our attention away from the structural issues that produce infection, scarcity and inequality?
I am increasingly engaged in embodied or somatic approaches to social justice. This includes learning to work with simple body-centred practices to support more equitable research and teaching contexts, as well as using bodily sensations as a means to investigate how power functions in society. Part of my Fake research will draw on this approach, and contribute to a somatic toolkit for ethnographers that I am developing with a colleague.
My doctoral research explored how racialized minorities shape city life in East Africa, with a particular focus on Muslims of Gujarati origin (Muslim Kenyan Asians) in the Kenyan port of Mombasa. My publications based on this project contribute to the literature on ‘everyday’ and expansive African urbanities, as well as Indian Ocean cosmopolitanisms, insecurity, architecture and Islam on the Swahili coast.
Another branch of my research explores everyday approaches to climate change. As part of this, I am co-organizing a symposium on ‘Climate Change in Coastal Cities: Centring the Voices of Urban Residents in Asia and Africa’, to be held as part of ICAS 12 (the International Convention of Asia Scholars) in August 2021 (now online and sadly not in Kyoto!).
I have a PhD in Social Anthropology from SOAS, University of London, and taught in the Anthropology department at SOAS for a number of years, most recently co-convening the Migration and Diaspora Studies programme.
I have also worked in international development, on issues relating to trade, seeds, land and agribusiness for UNCTAD, the World Bank and various NGOs. Contexts in which I have conducted ethnographic research include Kenya, Tanzania, Cote d’Ivoire, Kyrgyzstan and the UK.