Migrants and Masculinity in High-Rise Nairobi
Title Details

184 Pages

23.4 x 15.6 cm

4 maps and 10 b/w illus.

Series: Making & Remaking the African City: Studies in Urban Africa

Imprint: James Currey

Migrants and Masculinity in High-Rise Nairobi

The Pressure of being a Man in an African City

by Mario Schmidt

  • Description
  • Contents
  • Author
  • Reviews
Pipeline is a low-income, high-rise-tenement settlement in Nairobi's marginalized East and one of sub-Saharan Africa's most densely populated estates. An aspirational place where fleeting forms of capitalist consumption reassure migrants of an upward trajectory, it is also a place where their ambitions of long-term economic success and stable romantic relationships are routinely thwarted. This book explores how men who migrate to Nairobi from Western Kenya navigate this tension that is generated by the contrast between their view of Pipeline as a launching pad for their personal and professional careers and the fact that they face constant economic, romantic, and personal backlashes.

Drawing on over two years of fieldwork, the book reveals that many male migrants design their future on trajectories of personal and economic growth but have to adjust or indefinitely postpone their plans once they arrive in Kenya's capital. Under the pressure to succeed from romantic partners, spouses, rural kin, and children, they create and participate in homosocial spaces where a sense of brotherhood emerges and their experience of pressure is attenuated. Alongside a deep ethnographic exploration of how male migrants model their financial, physical, and mental well-being in three different masculine spaces - an ethnically homogenous investment group, an interethnic gym, and the semi-digital sphere of self-help books, workshops, and motivational trainings on man- and fatherhood - this book brings a new perspective to our understanding of urban African life and the nature of masculinity.

This title is available under the Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND, with funding from the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology Open Access Fund and the German Research Foundation.
List of Illustrations
List of Abbreviations

Part 1: Experiencing Pressure
1. The History and Infrastructure of an Aspirational Estate
2. Economic Pressure and the Expectation of Success
3. Romantic Responsibilities and Marital Mistrust

Part 2: Evading Pressure
4. Investing in Male Sociality and Wasteful Masculinity
5. Lifting Weights and the Performance of Brotherhood
6. Masculinity Consultants and the Threat of Men's Expendability

Conclusion: Pipeline to Nowhere


MARIO SCHMIDT is a senior fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle (Saale), where his geographical focus is on rural Western Kenya and Nairobi. Apart from exploring notions of masculinity among rural-urban migrants, he is interested in the effects of evidence-based development aid interventions across East Africa and the epistemological and ethical foundations of the behavioral sciences.

"Ethnographically rich and revealing, this highly readable book brings alive the experiences of Nairobi's migrant men at home and in the workplace, among family and friends, and with women and male peers. In vivid, accessible prose and with obvious empathy, Mario Schmidt shows how economic constraints and social obstacles constantly frustrate-but never extinguish-his interlocutors' desires to live up to widely shared expectations of manhood." Daniel Jordan Smith, Charles C. Tillinghast, Jr. Professor of International Studies and Professor of Anthropology, Brown University and author of To Be a Man Is Not a One-Day Job: Masculinity, Money, and Intimacy in Nigeria (2017)
"In this engrossing and highly readable ethnography, Schmidt traces the changing contours of gender relations among migrants to Nairobi. Both theoretically grounded and ethnographically nuanced, the book sheds important light on how men navigate the relentless anxieties and pressures that mark their day to day lives. Few studies offer such an intimate and textured portrayal of urban lives on the continent." Catherine Dolan, Professor of Anthropology, SOAS, University of London



February 2024

£19.99 / $29.95

Shipping Options

Buy Fewer than 20 copies available


Purchasing options are not available in this country.

Title Details

184 Pages

2.34 x 1.56 cm

4 maps and 10 b/w illus.

Series: Making & Remaking the African City: Studies in Urban Africa

Imprint: James Currey