Department of History's Annual Robert K. Webb Lecture
Humanities Forum with Kenda Mutongi
MATATU: A History of Popular Transportation in Kenya
Drive the streets of Nairobi, and you are sure to see many matatus—colorful minibuses that transport huge numbers of people around the city. Once ramshackle affairs held together with duct tape and wire, matatus today are name-brand vehicles maxed out with aftermarket detailing. This talk will focus on the various ways in which matatus offer a window onto the socioeconomic and political conditions of post-colonial Kenya. In their diversity of idiosyncratic designs, they reflect multiple and divergent aspects of Kenyan life—including, for example, rapid urbanization, organized crime, entrepreneurship, social insecurity, the transition to democracy, and popular culture—at once embodying Kenya’s staggering social problems as well as the bright promises of its future.
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