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Postcolonial Objectivity: Reaching for Decolonial Knowledge Making in Nairobi

Creative Commons 'BY-NC-ND' version 4.0 license

Based on work over the last decade within Nairobi’s tech-for-good sector, followed by a year of ethnographic research within organizations in Nairobi’s research landscapes, “Postcolonial Objectivity: Reaching for Decolonial Knowledge Making in Nairobi” traces the contours and edges of what is considered to be good knowledge within an emergent regime of scientific representation in Kenya. I show how this regime, which I call postcolonial objectivity, can be better understood by drawing out how histories haunt the problem space; the idealized figures that shadow the problem space, how rising diversity expectations have played out, and modes of care and stewardship are practiced and idealized. A recurrent argument and goal of postcolonial objectivity is robust contextualization of knowledge. “Postcolonial Objectivity: Reaching for Decolonial Knowledge Making in Nairobi” scales between analyses of the geopolitics of translocal knowledge production and ethnographically rich descriptions of Kenyan histories of imperialism and post-war Development. These geohistories established the knowledge infrastructures that have created conditions where everyday research amongst particular communities in Nairobi are often experienced as extractive, externally-driven, and extroverted for a Western audience. If methodology is a way of being in the world, ultimately, my argument is enacted through my methodological approach of archive ethnography as well as collaborative authorship of the final textual form. In these ways, I demonstrate my own attempts towards postcolonial objectivity, working to build supporting technical infrastructure as an experimental space for collaborative effort to figure out what kinds of questions can be asked under postcolonial objectivity going forward.

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