Forging Associations Across Multiple Spaces: How Somali Kinship Practices Sustain the Existence of the Dadaab Camps in Kenya

  • Fred Nyongesa Ikanda
Part of the Advances in African Economic, Social and Political Development book series (AAESPD)


Scholars increasingly have challenged the idea that camps as social worlds can only be visualized in terms of helplessness, immobility, and isolation. Similarly, this contribution demonstrates that Somali kinship practices of scattering family members to simultaneously exploit the potential offered by multiple places generated social networks that helped in sustaining the continued existence of Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya. Drawing on the segmentary lineage logic and on camp-based ethnographic research, it argues that humanitarian policies did not reflect the realities on the ground. The severity of camp conditions inspired Somalis to improvise on kinship to maneuver bureaucratic hurdles, which did not cohere with vulnerability understandings of humanitarianism. Forming and breaking up of groups positively transformed refugees’ lives, though it also institutionalized tensions in social relations.


  1. Abdi, C. M. (2015). Elusive jannah: The Somali diaspora and a borderless Muslim identity. Minnesota, MN: University of Minnesota Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Abdulsamed, F. (2011). Somali investment in Kenya. Briefing paper, The Royal Institute of International Affairs.
  3. Agamben, G. (1998). Homo sacer: Sovereign power and bare life. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Agier, M. (2011). Managing the undesirables: Refugee camps and humanitarian government. Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
  5. Appadurai, A. (1990). Disjuncture and difference in the global cultural economy. Public Culture, 2(2), 1–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Besteman, C. (1999). Unraveling Somalia: Race, violence, and the legacy of slavery. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. CASA Consulting. (2001). Evaluation of the Dadaab firewood project. Geneva: Evaluation and Policy Analysis Unit, UNHCR.Google Scholar
  8. Fallers, L. (1965). Bantu bureaucracy: A study of integration and conflict in the political institutions of an East African people. Cambridge: W. Heffer.Google Scholar
  9. Finnstrom, S. (2008). Living with bad surroundings: War, history, and everyday moments in northern Uganda. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Gellner, E. (1969). Saints of the Atlas. Chicago: University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Gellner, E., & Munson Jr., H. (1995). Segmentation: Reality or myth? The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 1(4), 821–832.Google Scholar
  12. Goldsmith, P. (1997). The Somali impact on Kenya, 1990–1993: The view from outside the camps. In H. M. Adam & R. Ford (Eds.), Mending rips in the sky: Options for Somali communities in the 21st century (pp. 461–483). Lawrenceville: The Red Sea Press.Google Scholar
  13. Gupta, A., & Ferguson, J. (1992). Beyond “culture”: Space, identity, and the politics of difference. Cultural Anthropology, 7(1), 6–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Harrell-Bond, B. (1986). Imposing aid: Emergence assistance to refugees. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Helander, B. (1998). The Emperor’s new clothes removed: A critique of Besteman’s violent politics and politics of violence. American Ethnologist, 25(3), 489–491.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Herz, M. (2008). Somali refugees in Eastleigh, Nairobi. In H. Wright (Ed.), Instant cities. London: Black Dog Architecture.Google Scholar
  17. Horst, C. (2006). Transnational nomads: How Somalis cope with refugee life in the Dadaab camps of Kenya. Oxford: Berghahn.Google Scholar
  18. Hyndman, J. (1996). Geographies of displacement: Gender, culture and power in UNHCR refugee camps, Kenya. PhD thesis. The University of British Columbia.Google Scholar
  19. Ikanda, F. N. (2008). Deteriorating conditions of hosting refugees: A case study of the Dadaab complex in Kenya. African Study Monographs, 29(1), 29–49.Google Scholar
  20. Ikanda, F. N. (2014). Kinship, hospitality and humanitarianism: Locals and refugees in northeastern Kenya. Unpublished PhD thesis. University of Cambridge.Google Scholar
  21. Ikanda, F. N. (2018). Animating “refugeeness” through vulnerabilities: Worthiness of long-term exile in resettlement claims among Somali refugees in Kenya. Africa, 88(3), 579–596.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kapteijns, L. (2011). I. M. Lewis and Somali clanship: A critique. Northeast African Studies 2004–2010, 11(1), 1–23.Google Scholar
  23. Kuper, A. (1988). The invention of primitive society: Transformations of an illusion. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  24. Lewis, I. M. (1998). Doing violence to ethnography: A response to catherine Besteman’s “representing violence and ‘othering’ Somalia”. Cultural Anthropology, 13(1), 100–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lewis, I. M. (1999/1961). A pastoral democracy: A study of pastoralism and politics among the Northern Somali of the Horn of Africa. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.Google Scholar
  26. Lindley, A. (2010). The early morning phone call: Somali refugee’s remittances. New York: Berghahn.Google Scholar
  27. Lochery, E. (2012). Rendering difference visible: The Kenyan state and its Somali citizens. African Affairs, 111(445), 615–639.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lyons, T. (1994). Crises on multiple levels: Somalia and the Horn of Africa. In A. I. Samatar (Ed.), The Somali challenge: From catastrophe to renewal? (pp. 189–207). Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner.Google Scholar
  29. Malkki, L. (1995). Purity and exile: Violence, memory, and national cosmology among Hutu refugees in Tanzania. Chicago: University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Marcus, G. E. (1998). Ethnography through thick and thin. Princeton, NJ: University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Markakis, J. (1987). National and class conflict in the Horn of Africa. Cambridge: University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Munson Jr., H. (1993). Rethinking Gellner’s segmentary analysis of Morocco’s Ait’Atta Man. New Series, 28(2), 267–280.Google Scholar
  33. Ohta, I. (2005). Multiple socio-economic relationships improvised between the Turkana and refugees in Kakuma Area, Northwestern Kenya. In I. Ohta & Gebre, Y. D. (Eds.), Displacement risks in Africa (pp. 315–337). Kyoto: University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Pandolfi, M. (2008). Laboratory of intervention: The humanitarian governance of the postcommunist Balkan territories. In M. J. DelVecchio Good, S. T. Hyde, S. Pinto, & B. J. Good (Eds.), Postcolonial disorders. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  35. Van Vleet, K. E. (2008). Performing Kinship: Narrative, gender, and the intimacies of power in the Andes. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fred Nyongesa Ikanda
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Sociology and AnthropologyMaseno UniversityMasenoKenya

Personalised recommendations