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Research seminar: “Pressure and the expectation of success in Nairobi, Kenya”

Thursday 6 October 2022, 16:15-17:30 BST
Social Sciences Building, Room 14.33

With Special Guest Speaker Dr Mario Schmidt, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle/Saale, Germany).

Join us on Thursday 6th October, 16.15-17.30 BST for a research seminar with special guest speaker Dr Mario Schmidt. Dr Schmidt has published in several journals, including Africa, Journal of Eastern African StudiesJournal of the Royal Anthropological InstituteEthnohistory, and HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory. Mario’s latest book ‘The Social Origins of Thought: Durkheim, Mauss, and the Category Project”, co-edited with Johannes F.M. Schick and Martin Zillinger is available here. Dr Schmidt will speak on 'Pressure and the expectation of success: on the somatization of failing aspirations in Nairobi, Kenya' (abstract below). This event is jointly organised by the Centre for Global Development, the Leeds University Centre for African Studies, and Leeds Business School (Economics).


Building upon 24 months of fieldwork among Western Kenyan male migrants in Nairobi, this paper describes in ethnographic detail how actors experience, deal with, and challenge the experience of encompassing economic pressure. Understood as an affective state resulting from a highly gendered assessment of a disbalance between expectations and aspirations and the (in)ability to fulfil them, migrant men experience pressure as a state of suspension between relaxation and bursting, depression and activity, optimism and despair that results in somatic experiences of ulcers, sleeplessness, depression, and suicidal thoughts and co-produces practices of “depressuring” such as drinking alcohol, male violence, or working out in gyms. Carving out how pressure differs from other concepts such as poverty, marginalization, or stress, I conclude by diagnosing that one of the pillars of Kenya’s neoliberal capitalism lies in the production and subsequent exploitation of men’s pressured bodies and minds that are squeezed into “Pipeline”, one of Africa’s most densely populated estates.

The event will take place in hybrid form, meaning that you can attend in person (Social Sciences building room 14.33) or online (via MS Teams).