Mapping a “Far Away” Town: Ethnic Boundaries and Everyday Life in Marsabit (Northern Kenya)

Autore: Erika Grasso
In: Africa. N.S. II/1, 2020
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Taking into account the stereotypical image of the small town of Marsabit (Northern Kenya), often described as a “far” and “not Kenyan” space affected by ethnic clashes and famine, appears useful to inquire how social relations build the space of the town reproducing new and ancient ties. The use of the town centre’s maps is a good method for processing qualitative data and to acquire additional information about the urban space. By looking at the maps of Marsabit centre, it is possible to recognize that the ethnic lines in town are porous and flexible. Ethnicity creates and maintains group boundaries offering the very foundation of social interaction and subsequently of the understanding of (urban) space by individuals and groups. To delve into the spatial dimension of ethnic relations may allow a better understanding of the actual reality of a region characterized by fragile political, economic and social balances.

keywords: northern kenya, small town, ethnicity, urban space