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What Nairobi Youth Think about Politics, the State & the Future

Kenyan man walking to houses


Elisabeth King, Daphna Harel, Dana Burde, Jennifer Hill, and Simon Grinsted have a a newly published paper entitled "Seeing Like Students: What Nairobi Youth Think about Politics, the State & the Future" in the Journal of Eastern African Studies, the first publication for Project THINK, housed in PRIISM's Peace & Conflict initiative.


While Kenyan youth comprise the majority of the Kenyan electorate, they remain stereotyped as criminals or marginalized, rather than taken seriously as politically important actors. The importance of youth in Kenya, and the gaps in our knowledge about this group, prompt us to investigate their views at the cusp of political becoming. Reporting on a survey of 4,773 secondary school students in Nairobi, we argue that understanding this youth population’s perspectives and relationship to the state --“seeing like students” -- is critical to any understanding of Kenya today and its future. Our study shows empirically that secondary school youth in Nairobi are perceptive about the challenges facing the country, civically engaged, and hopeful about the future. With views that often differ by ethnicity, gender or socio-economic background, our findings highlight the importance of acknowledging youth’s complex on-the-ground realities and challenging dominant discourses about youth. 

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