Norman Aselmeyer: Nairobi – The Making of a European City, c. 1890–1914

This article offers a new interpretation of Nairobi’s early history. The city that grew out of a railway station is commonly thought of as a European city. In historiography, the city has therefore served as a prime example of a colonial city shaped by racial segregation. However, Nairobi’s first years were more complex. I argue that the area covered by the town has been a contested space that political actors or inhabitants tried to control through processes of exclusion. In the period covered by this article, 1890–1914, the place experienced several instances of conflict and crisis which led to the end of a prevailing spatial hegemony. Each dominating power redefined the citizenry of Nairobi’s space and thus caused exclusion. From 1906 onwards, residential segregation was gradually introduced after the white settler community took control of the town.

Norman Aselmeyer

Norman Aselmeyer is a PhD researcher in the Department of History and Civilization at the European University Institute in Florence. Previously, he was a Research Associate at Freie Universität Berlin, where he also served as assistant editor of Geschichte und Gesellschaft. Since September 2015, he is working on a dissertation on spatial transformations in East Africa related to the construction of the Uganda Railway. He has held fellowships and research affiliations at the German Historical Institute in London (2016), the University of Nairobi (2017), the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2018) and the Centre for Modern Oriental Studies in Berlin (2018).


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