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Title: Distributed : co-producing narratives of belonging in Nairobi
Author: Hopkins, Samuel
ISNI:       0000 0004 7967 6248
Awarding Body: University of the Arts London
Current Institution: University of the Arts London
Date of Award: 2018
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The dominant narrative in Kenya, spanning the realms of political rhetoric, museum exhibition practice and everyday encounters, is that ethnicity is the defining characteristic of an individual. This reduced, and fundamentally politicised, notion of ethnicity disregards the extent to which identities are mutable, context-dependent and in a state of constant negotiation. To suggest that identity is a simple function of ethnicity not only erodes the agency of Kenyans who are developing plural practices of belonging, but supports a status quo of manipulative political manoeuvring, which pits ethnic groups against one another at the cost of the country as a whole. This research proposes that ethnicity is galvanized in certain contexts yet barely invisible in others; it is one identity in an ongoing performance of an ensemble of fluctuating identities. My practice explores and interrogates this proposition by coproducing narratives of belonging with specific constituencies in Nairobi. This PhD submission focusses on two of these projects, A Life in the Day (2011-13) and The Bike Gang (2015-17) and investigates co-produced moving image as both a document of, and a catalyst for, counter-narratives of a Kenyan identity. Integral to the production and distribution of these counter narratives are Sheng, the slang of Nairobi, and bazes, the public spaces of the city which bring young people of similar affiliations together. Sheng, as a language, and bazes, as spaces of assembly, can be seen as distributed, emergent networks; which counter the dominant narrative of the singular importance of ethnicity, and as practices of representation; which I try and extend in the process of co-producing narratives. Anecdotes, performed in Sheng at the bazes, emerge as a focal point of this research and a strategy for exploring belonging. This practice of co-produced moving image, developed through an intuitive and iterative process, suggests an inextricable intertwining of the epistemological aspiration and the ethical terrain of the research.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Fine Art