Seeing like students: what Nairobi youth think about politics, the state and the future

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While Kenyan youth comprise the majority of the Kenyan electorate, they are typically either stereotyped as criminals or marginalized, rather than taken seriously as politically important actors. The importance of youth in Kenya, and the gaps in our knowledge about this group, prompt us to investigate their views at the cusp of political becoming. Reporting on a survey of 4,773 secondary school students in Nairobi, we argue that understanding this youth population’s perspectives and relationship to the state–‘seeing like students’–is critical to any understanding of Kenya today and its future. Our study shows empirically that secondary school youth in Nairobi are perceptive about the challenges facing the country, civically engaged, and hopeful about the future. With views that often differ by ethnicity, gender, or socio-economic background, our findings highlight the importance of acknowledging youths’ complex on-the-ground realities and challenging dominant discourses about youth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)802-822
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Eastern African Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020


  • Kenya
  • civic engagement
  • hope
  • political violence
  • secondary school
  • youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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