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Centering the Margins: Dispossession, Real Estate Speculation and the Politics of Place-Making in Peri-Urban Kisumu, Kenya

Show simple item record Emmanuel Midheme 2020-12-03T07:59:43Z 2020-12-03T07:59:43Z 2012
dc.description.abstract Long considered marginal in the production of knowledge on African urbanism, the peri-urban zone is fast becoming one of the most important sites of urban space production in rapidly transforming African cities. While marginality as a concept may suffice for geographic description, it fails to account for the growing centrality of the peri-urban location as a site for what David Harvey has called capital’s ‘spatial fix’. In much of African urban scholarship, peri-urban development has been seen as a form of social innovation, with peri-urban housing especially framed as a case of urban residents proactively responding to the inability of conventional state and market mechanisms to meet the pent-up demand for land and housing in the inner city. Using empirical material from Kisumu, this paper engages with the question of what happens when local, national and international market actors motivated by land speculation and real estate expansionism usurp an initially noble pursuit of self-built housing on the urban fringe. By framing land speculation as the commodification of everyday existence in peri-urban Kisumu, the paper highlights the native population’s narrative of land dispossession and precarization of traditional livelihoods. The dynamics of speculative urbanism is framed by grounding peri-urban spatial production in the interaction between capitalist and territorial logics of power, as inflected by the materiality of the local context. Data for this paper was collected in a fieldwork conducted between December 2012 and May 2013 in Kisian, peri-urban Kisumu. Data sources included 57 semi-structured interviews with native landowners. The aim of these interviews was to gauge local income levels and impacts of the land market on household livelihoods and the local institutions of land management. Three focus group discussions were further held with native women (2) and youth (1) to gauge the implications of land markets on each social group. The area Chief, community elders and selected land buyers were further interviewed to gather information on the institutional framework of land access and development. A further 10 semi-structured interviews were conducted with small-scale homebuilders who have settled in Kisian, again, to gauge their income levels, establish their reasons for settling in the area, and to understand their geographies of insertion into the new territory. To get the perspective of large-scale land developers and speculators, interviews were conducted with managers of four real estate firms and five land brokers active in the area. These primary sources were complemented with a review of brochures and websites of various real estate firms active in the local land market, recent newspaper commentaries and government documents on urban development and real estate investment in Kisumu. The paper concludes that owing to the ‘fluidity’ of land relations there, Kisumu’s periphery remains one of the city’s most contested spaces upon which competing class, gender, generation and ethnic identities are dynamically (re)negotiated as different individuals and social groups construct their own logic of land, property, territory and belonging. These findings have immediate implications for planning practice and scholarship, not only in Kisumu, but also in other cities struggling with the crisis of speculative urbanism and the contradictions inherent in the emergent social and built fabric. en_US
dc.subject Peri-urbanization, land dispossession, real estate speculation, spatial fix, speculative urbanism, Kisumu. en_US
dc.title Centering the Margins: Dispossession, Real Estate Speculation and the Politics of Place-Making in Peri-Urban Kisumu, Kenya en_US
dc.type Article en_US

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