Wangui Kimari

Wangui Kimari

Honorary Research Associate



Wangui Kimari is an anthropologist based at the American University Nairobi Center. Her work draws on many local histories and theoretical approaches – including oral narratives, assemblage theory, urban political ecology, the black radical tradition and various approaches in anthropology – in order to think through urban spatial management in Nairobi from the vantage point of its most marginalised residents. Linked to this research work, she is also the participatory action research coordinator for the Mathare Social Justice Centre (MSJC), a community-based organisation in Nairobi, Kenya.

In 2017, Kimari received a PhD in Social Anthropology from York University in Toronto, and, from 2018 – 2020, was a postdoctoral research fellow at the African Centre for Cities (ACC). This was followed by a research fellowship at the Institute for Humanities in Africa (HUMA), also at the University of Cape Town, between April 2021 to December 2022. In her current position at American University, Nairobi, she teaches classes on urban youth movements and the politics of climate change in Africa. She also has a growing interest in thinking through what the Anthropocene means locally, as well as how we can ground ”green transition” practices and discussions.

Kimari is currently the Nairobi researcher for a University of Roskilde project on smart cities and citizenship, and has done urban research in Nairobi, Luanda and Salvador da Bahia, Brazil. Her work has been published in a number of journals including Antipode, Urban Geography, Journal of Eastern African Studies, Africa, Punishment and Society, and others.

Kimari also co-convenes the annual Urban Theory Africa – Doing (UTA-DO) African Cities Workshop, which is a yearly critical urban studies school that aims to contribute to making African urban scholarship and imagination more inclusive. She is also an Urban Studies Foundation (USF) Trustee, a Contributing Editor to the online publication Africa is A Country, and a member of the Beyond Inhabitation Lab.



  • Mo-Faya: Socio-Ecological Survivals in Nairobi’s Outlaw Settlement – forthcoming


  • 2023    “Resisting Imperial Erasures: Matigari Ruins and Relics in Nairobi.” Journal of Eastern African Studies, DOI: 10.1080/17531055.2023.2231787
  • 2022    “The invisible labor of the “New Angola”: Kilamba’s domestic workers.” Urban Geography (2022): 1- 18
  • 2022    “To retreat or to confront? Grassroots activists navigating everyday torture in Kenya.” Journal of the British Academy 10 (3): 79-96
  • 2021    “Carcerality and the legacies of settler colonial punishment in Nairobi.” Punishment and Society 23 (5): 697-722
  • 2021    “Resisting colonial deaths: marginalized Black populations and COVID-19 in Brazil and Kenya.” Kalfou 8 (1-2)
  • 2021    “‘Under Construction’: everyday anxieties and the proliferating social meanings of China in Africa.” Africa 91 (1): 135-152
  • 2021    “The story of a pump: life, death and afterlives within an urban planning of divide and rule in Nairobi, Kenya.” Urban Geography 42 (2): 141-160
  • 2020    “Youth, the Kenyan state and a politics of contestation.” Journal of Eastern African Studies 14 (4): 690-706, with Luke Melchiorre and Jacob Rasmussen
  • 2020    “War-talk: an urban youth language of siege in Nairobi.” Journal of Eastern African Studies 14 (4): 707723
  • 2020    “What is a river? A transnational meditation on freedom, abolition ecologies and the future of geography.” Urban Geography, with Jessica Parish DOI.10.1080/02723638.2020.1743089
  • 2020    “Imperial remains and imperial invitations: centering race within the contemporary large-scale infrastructures of East Africa.” Antipode 52 (3): 825 -846
  • 2019    Diphoorn, T., van Stapele, N., & Wangui Kimari. “Policing for the community? The mismatch between reform and everyday policing in Nairobi, Kenya.” Policing the Urban Periphery in Africa 24
  • 2018    Jones, Peris, and Wangui Kimari. “Security beyond the men: women and their everyday security apparatus in Mathare, Nairobi.” Urban Studies: 0042098018789059
  • 2018    “Activists, care work, and the ‘cry of the ghetto’ in Nairobi, Kenya.” Palgrave    Communications 4 (1): 123
  • 2017    Jones, Peris S, Wangui Kimari and Kavita Ramakrishnan. “‘Only the people can defend this struggle’: the politics of the everyday, extrajudicial executions and civil society in Mathare, Kenya.” Review of African Political Economy 44 (154) 559 – 576
  • 2017    “We do not want any more masters”: ruins, planning and the “messy labours” of the urban poor.” Institute for French Research in Africa. Available here:
  • 2014    “On raids and connecting favela resistance(s) in Kenya and Brazil. Favelas @ LSE. Available here:
  • 2010    “Setting the agenda for our leaders from under a tree: the peoples parliament in Nairobi.” Nokoko 2 (1): 131- 159.
  • 2008    “Retaking the middle passage: glimpses of a modern African diaspora in Brazil.” African and Black Diaspora: An International Journal. 1(2): 133 – 146.


  • 2023      “Nairobi’s bad natures.” In Turning up the heat, pp. 159-168. Manchester University Press.
  • 2022      Kimari, Wangui, and Gediminas Lesutis. “Infrastructure as Symbolic Geopolitical Architecture: Kenya’s Megaprojects and Contested Meanings of Development.” In The Rise of the Infrastructure State, pp. 58-70. Bristol University Press.
  • 2021       “‘We will be back to the street!’: Protest and the ‘empires’ of water in Nairobi.” In Refractions of the National, the Popular and the Global in African Cities, pp. 99 – 111. African Minds.Urban Commentary
  • 2023    ““We are all taxonomists”: Vernaculars of Geological Time from Southern Margins.” Antipode Online:
  • 2022   “Colour ni Green: Ecological Futures in Nairobi Outlaw Style.” IJURR Spotlight on ‘African Futures’:
  • 2020  “Outlaw Nairobi versus The Pandemics.” City and Society. DOI.10.1111/ciso.12305
  • 2020    Wiegratz, Jorg, Catherine Dolan, Wangui Kimari and Mario Schmidt. “Pressure in the city: stress, worry, anxiety in terms of economic crisis.” Development Economics. Available at:
  • 2020    Wiegratz, Jorg, Catherine Dolan, Wangui Kimari and Mario Schmidt. “Urban Africa under stress: rethinking economic pressure in cities.” Development Economics. Available at: