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Kenda Mutongi
Williams College (Williamstown, MA 01267-2600)
Matatu Workers, Passengers, and the History of Public Transportation in Nairobi, Kenya

This project examines the history of matatus, minibuses that 80% of Nairobi population rely on daily for transportation. Beyond their utilitarian function, matatus are a powerful site of historical, social, cultural, and economic analysis because they provide a window on social and political facets of late twentieth century Africa—for example, rapid urbanization, organized crime, indigenous entrepreneurship, the development of markets, labor disputes, class and respectability, and popular culture. This study is, in fact, a social, cultural, political, and economic history of the matatu industry. I argue that only an analysis that takes up all these angles on matatus can do justice to the importance of their place in Nairobi (and, by inference, allow scholars to understand the importance of similar minibus economies in other developing countries).

[Grant products][Prizes]

Project fields:
African History

Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars

Research Programs

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
1/1/2012 – 12/31/2012