In poor urban neighborhoods in Nairobi, Kenya, Covid-19 related restrictions have resulted in tremendous economic setbacks for residents. Through their SSRC-funded research, Anders Ese, Kristin Ese, Joseph Mukeku, Benjamin Sidori, and Romola Sanyal interviewed women traders to make connections between Covid-related setbacks, the practices of containment, and assistance provided by authorities. While the women they spoke to recognize that they often suffer unjustly at the hands of local officials, they also show notable support for both the restrictions and the powers that enforce them, helping cement long-standing and inequitable practices.
Kristin Ese is a freelance African historian (Cand Philol.) from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), affiliated with Urban-A. She has lived and worked in Kenya, Zambia, and Tanzania, and is the author of several books. She has previously researched historical urban develop-ments in Southern and Northern Rhodesia. Since 2010, the focus of her research has been Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, in particular the importance of Swahili culture in urban devel-opments. In her work on cities, she is interested in how her field can inform current analysis and developments. Highlighting historical African contributions to urban development is important to decolonizing history, while at the same time shedding new light on current urban discourse. In her recent book, The City Makers of Nairobi (with Anders Ese; Routledge, 2020), she provides an analysis grounded in histories from below that question previously held truths about the city’s development. Ese’s methodical approach shows how historical research can be key to understanding the complexities of social structures, and change per-ceptions and actions in current urban systems.