African Literary Metadata

Events: Researching Ephemerality – The Street as Archive. November 1–3, 2023. Machakos University College, Kenya.

In November 2023, ALMEDA team member Nicklas Hållén co-organized a PhD and M.A student workshop at Machakos University with Dr. Charles Kebaya (postgraduate co-ordinator in Literature and Cultural studies, Machakos). The workshop was sponsored by ALMEDA, STINT, Karlstad University and Machakos University, and brought together 14 students for a three-day workshop.

The students were divided into three groups and each group developed a research project which is to become the basis of a co-authored research article. The general topics the students proposed for their projects were the evolution of the aesthetics of Nairobi’s famous matatu culture, an exhibition by Nairobi-based artist Fayth Wanjala, and social critique in the popular Youtube comedy show TT Comedian. Hållén and Kebaya plan to collect the papers into a joint publication. The next on-site workshop in Machakos is scheduled for April 2024. 

One topic that came up in the discussions throughout the workshop was the unevenness between institutions in the Global North and in Africa when it comes to students’ access to necessary resources like databases, digital archives and published research. While the participants felt that they are in many ways perfectly situated to study ephemeral material created and circulated in working class neighbourhoods in Nairobi, their work is made very difficult by their limited access to international research in the field. Some of the students were interested specifically in studying material in Sheng (, a vernacular slang-language that combines mainly Swahili and English and is spoken by youth in Nairobi’s informal and working class neighbourhoods. Sheng evolves so rapidly that only young people can understand its current idioms and vocabulary. Therefore, one can argue that only a small number of people can study this material, since it requires that the researcher can access, understand and have the necessary academic skills to analyse these materials. However, this is made difficult by the fact that a successful PhD or Ma project focused on popular culture in Sheng requires access to recently published research, opportunities to travel to international conferences in Europe and North America and other forms of academic infrastructure. 

It is partly for this reason that all of ALMEDA’s method pamphlets will be published as fully open-access PDFs on this site.

Photo by James J. Kasyoka

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