“Eyes, Ears, and Wheels”

Policing Partnerships in Nairobi, Kenya

in Conflict and Society
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ABSTRACT

Research on policing in Africa has provided tremendous insight into how non-state actors, such as gangs, vigilantes, private security companies, and community initiatives, increasingly provide security for urban dwellers across the continent. Consequently, the state has been categorized as one order among many whose authority is co-constituted through relations with other actors. Drawing on our ethnographic fieldwork in the past two years, we highlight how the state police dominates security arrangements in Nairobi and asserts itself not just as one order among many. We show how, in various policing partnerships between police, private security companies, and residents’ associations, the state police acts as a coagulating agent of such practices. In order to elucidate this relationship, we utilize the “junior partner” model from the criminology literature and expand based on the community policing initiatives that in Nairobi act as the “eyes, ears, and wheels” of the police.

Contributor Notes

FRANCESCO COLONA is a PhD candidate at the University of Amsterdam. He is a member of the research team studying “Transforming Citizenship through Hybrid Governance: The Impacts of Public-Private Security Assemblages” in five different cities: Kingston (Jamaica), Recife (Brazil), Miami (USA), Jerusalem (Israel) and Nairobi (Kenya). In his own research in Nairobi, he tries to understand—ethnographically—how citizenship and access to (or targeting from) security is reconfigured in hybrid forms of security governance. In his study he also explore how security technologies and political subjectivities are reciprocally defined in Nairobi.

TESSA DIPHOORN is Assistant Professor in the Department of Cultural Anthropology at Utrecht University. She has conducted extensive ethnographic research about private security in South Africa and is the author of Twilight Policing: Private Security and Violence in Urban South Africa (University of California Press, 2016). She is now working on a new research project that analyzes the regulation of police (mis)conduct in Kenya.

Conflict and Society

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