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  • Analysis of popular settlement mapping methods, Kenya

Analysis of popular settlement mapping methods, Kenya

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Analysis of popular settlement mapping methods, Kenya

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This project critiques historical and current mapping efforts used in popular settlements in Nairobi, while providing alternative ways to approach mapping in such contexts, useful to planning and architecture professions. 

The project argues that both current and historical mapping efforts in popular settlements are closely linked to the policies and zeitgeist of their periods, and that mapping efforts have help underpin existing attitudes towards settlements as much as challenge them. 

In addition, the historical review indicates that, save a few exceptions, many mapping efforts tend to overemphasise the homogeneity of popular settlements. By providing a historical review of Pumwani - a popular settlement in Nairobi - a different picture is provided, highlighting social, cultural, and economic diversity. Evidence is provided that such popular settlements cannot be limited to being described as only poor neighbourhoods. 

Based on the premise that many mapping efforts fail to uncover this diversity, an alternative mapping method is provided. Synthesising theory, data collection, interviews, historical and present-day research, the mapping method seeks to better highlight the current socio-economic diversity of Pumwani and its connections to spatial practices. This is done by creating a set of discrete categories useful to planning and interventions. The diversity showcased through the categories are important to uncover for planners and architects seeking to do interventions in popular settlements.

 

Discourse on mapping and development

Within a large discourse on maps and mapping, a lot of focus is given to its political and social implications. Few, however, place this discourse in relation to historical developments in Africa, and even fewer relate this specifically to the production of urban form in Africa. In this thesis connections are made between mapping and urban developments in Nairobi. A framework is thus produced within which two parallel histories are allowed to develop: the history of mapping popular settlements in Nairobi, and the history of Pumwani.

 

A history of mapping efforts

The project can be said to make three distinct contributions. Firstly, the examination of historical mapping efforts in popular settlements in Nairobi is unique. These historical mapping efforts are ascribed to five periods:

1) 1910s up to 1939 marked by a lassies faire policy from Government regarding African urban developments, largely because the African workforce was seen as migratory and nominally belonging to rural reserves.  

2) 1939 to 1963 is distinguishable by its political welfare turn based on the need for permanent African labour in Nairobi, and following, a focus on describing lacking amenities through mapping.

3) 1963 to the late 1970s is distinguishable by its future optimism, increasing academic focus in mapping, and catering for residents’ viewpoints through mapping. 

4) The late 1970s to early 1990s characterised by a downturn in mapping production, and a macro-oriented focus on urban developments in keeping with the structural adjustment policies of the period. 

5) Early 1990s to present marked by a return to the micro-oriented ‘humanism’ of the 1960s and 1970s. It paved the way for participatory mapping efforts that instructs residents to carry out the mapping themselves. 

 

A history of Pumwani

The second unique contribution in this project is the history of Pumwani. Pumwani’s history is divided into four distinct periods, relying on historical research, primary sources, and qualitative interviews. The four periods are:

1) 1899 to 1922, predating the establishment of Pumwani, but establishing a number of important prerequisites for understanding the formation of the settlement, notably the import of Swahili culture from the coast.   

2) 1922 to 1939, describing the establishment of the settlement and the early propertied classes that rented rooms to remaining population. Influenced by early Muslim house owners and businessmen, Swahili culture dominated. 

3) 1939 to 1963, concerning itself with the growth of political consciousness among residents, the effects of the Emergency on the settlement, and the continuous need for (economic) stability lobbied by business owners, landlords, landladies, Muslim groups, and a growing population of educated Christian residents. 

4) 1963 to present, describing the detrimental effects of the redevelopment schemes that exacerbated socio-economic differences, and opened for property investment from outsiders into the new housing developments. In this period were also (largely unintended) positive effects of an allotment letter system – initiated in the 1920s – that disallowed house owners to buy or sell their properties on the open market. This has provided social stability.

The purpose of examining this history is to establish issues and social groups as a starting point for further mapping exercises. 

 

A mapping method

The third contribution this project provides is suggestions for alternative mapping methods developed based on data collection, interviews, and research in Pumwani between 2009 and 2012. 

The aforementioned critique of mapping efforts in Nairobi shows that although the current development and mapping paradigm in which we are entrenched celebrates the ingenuity of popular settlements, mapping efforts often fail to uncover the multiplicity and diversity of such areas. The mapping methods suggested in the project addresses this concern by connecting a settlement’s history, present, and future. This allows us to build an in depth understanding of why a settlement functions in the way that it does, and makes clear the multiple connections between social and physical developments – developments that cannot be seen as unrelated to one another.

In order to make such connections the suggested methods not only span back and forth in time. They also vary in scale. The mapping methods presented ultimately provide the ability to connect large-scale issues to human scale problems. 

The historical research presented in the project can enable mappers to uncover social distinctions in a community. These social distinctions highlight important concerns: that interventions in a community may work well for some groups, but might possibly be detrimental to others. As such the mapping methods are helpful in forcing mappers to not only further distinguish between social groups when suggesting interventions, but also to be honest about making difficult decisions such as for whom interventions in a settlement are meant to be beneficial. 

On the basis of the discrete categories presented in this project - and the connectivity established between past and present - future issues and their effect on the various socio-economic groups can be addressed. By doing so planners are equipped with a method that allows for better forecasting and evaluation of possible consequences of implementing interventions.

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This project critiques historical and current mapping efforts used in popular settlements in Nairobi, while providing alternative ways to approach mapping in such contexts, useful to planning and architecture professions. 

The project argues that both current and historical mapping efforts in popular settlements are closely linked to the policies and zeitgeist of their periods, and that mapping efforts have help underpin existing attitudes towards settlements as much as challenge them. 

In addition, the historical review indicates that, save a few exceptions, many mapping efforts tend to overemphasise the homogeneity of popular settlements. By providing a historical review of Pumwani - a popular settlement in Nairobi - a different picture is provided, highlighting social, cultural, and economic diversity. Evidence is provided that such popular settlements cannot be limited to being described as only poor neighbourhoods. 

Based on the premise that many mapping efforts fail to uncover this diversity, an alternative mapping method is provided. Synthesising theory, data collection, interviews, historical and present-day research, the mapping method seeks to better highlight the current socio-economic diversity of Pumwani and its connections to spatial practices. This is done by creating a set of discrete categories useful to planning and interventions. The diversity showcased through the categories are important to uncover for planners and architects seeking to do interventions in popular settlements.

 

Discourse on mapping and development

Within a large discourse on maps and mapping, a lot of focus is given to its political and social implications. Few, however, place this discourse in relation to historical developments in Africa, and even fewer relate this specifically to the production of urban form in Africa. In this thesis connections are made between mapping and urban developments in Nairobi. A framework is thus produced within which two parallel histories are allowed to develop: the history of mapping popular settlements in Nairobi, and the history of Pumwani.

 

A history of mapping efforts

The project can be said to make three distinct contributions. Firstly, the examination of historical mapping efforts in popular settlements in Nairobi is unique. These historical mapping efforts are ascribed to five periods:

1) 1910s up to 1939 marked by a lassies faire policy from Government regarding African urban developments, largely because the African workforce was seen as migratory and nominally belonging to rural reserves.  

2) 1939 to 1963 is distinguishable by its political welfare turn based on the need for permanent African labour in Nairobi, and following, a focus on describing lacking amenities through mapping.

3) 1963 to the late 1970s is distinguishable by its future optimism, increasing academic focus in mapping, and catering for residents’ viewpoints through mapping. 

4) The late 1970s to early 1990s characterised by a downturn in mapping production, and a macro-oriented focus on urban developments in keeping with the structural adjustment policies of the period. 

5) Early 1990s to present marked by a return to the micro-oriented ‘humanism’ of the 1960s and 1970s. It paved the way for participatory mapping efforts that instructs residents to carry out the mapping themselves. 

 

A history of Pumwani

The second unique contribution in this project is the history of Pumwani. Pumwani’s history is divided into four distinct periods, relying on historical research, primary sources, and qualitative interviews. The four periods are:

1) 1899 to 1922, predating the establishment of Pumwani, but establishing a number of important prerequisites for understanding the formation of the settlement, notably the import of Swahili culture from the coast.   

2) 1922 to 1939, describing the establishment of the settlement and the early propertied classes that rented rooms to remaining population. Influenced by early Muslim house owners and businessmen, Swahili culture dominated. 

3) 1939 to 1963, concerning itself with the growth of political consciousness among residents, the effects of the Emergency on the settlement, and the continuous need for (economic) stability lobbied by business owners, landlords, landladies, Muslim groups, and a growing population of educated Christian residents. 

4) 1963 to present, describing the detrimental effects of the redevelopment schemes that exacerbated socio-economic differences, and opened for property investment from outsiders into the new housing developments. In this period were also (largely unintended) positive effects of an allotment letter system – initiated in the 1920s – that disallowed house owners to buy or sell their properties on the open market. This has provided social stability.

The purpose of examining this history is to establish issues and social groups as a starting point for further mapping exercises. 

 

A mapping method

The third contribution this project provides is suggestions for alternative mapping methods developed based on data collection, interviews, and research in Pumwani between 2009 and 2012. 

The aforementioned critique of mapping efforts in Nairobi shows that although the current development and mapping paradigm in which we are entrenched celebrates the ingenuity of popular settlements, mapping efforts often fail to uncover the multiplicity and diversity of such areas. The mapping methods suggested in the project addresses this concern by connecting a settlement’s history, present, and future. This allows us to build an in depth understanding of why a settlement functions in the way that it does, and makes clear the multiple connections between social and physical developments – developments that cannot be seen as unrelated to one another.

In order to make such connections the suggested methods not only span back and forth in time. They also vary in scale. The mapping methods presented ultimately provide the ability to connect large-scale issues to human scale problems. 

The historical research presented in the project can enable mappers to uncover social distinctions in a community. These social distinctions highlight important concerns: that interventions in a community may work well for some groups, but might possibly be detrimental to others. As such the mapping methods are helpful in forcing mappers to not only further distinguish between social groups when suggesting interventions, but also to be honest about making difficult decisions such as for whom interventions in a settlement are meant to be beneficial. 

On the basis of the discrete categories presented in this project - and the connectivity established between past and present - future issues and their effect on the various socio-economic groups can be addressed. By doing so planners are equipped with a method that allows for better forecasting and evaluation of possible consequences of implementing interventions.