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Precarious labour – Precarious lives: Photographic glimpses from displaced people in Somali cities

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Jutta Bakonyi, Peter Chonka

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-224
Number of pages20
JournalAfrique contemporaine
Issue number1-2
Published2 Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: 1. Research for this article was made possible by an ESRC/DFID (ES/ R002355/1) research grant, and for Jutta Bakonyi additionally by a research fellowship provided by the Leverhulme Trust. We would like to thank our colleagues Abdirahman Edle and Kirsti Stuvøy, with whom we organized the research project. Thanks also to the Somali researchers who did an exceptional job in conducting narrative interviews: Ahmed Abdulahi Dualeh (Hargeisa), Mohamed Abdiqadir Botan (Bosaso), Ahmed Takow Hassan (Mogadishu), and Ismail Abdullahi Moalim (Baidoa). Assistance with the photovoice sessions was provided by Mohamed Yusuf Salah and Omar Dirie. Additional interviews in Mogadishu were conducted by a researcher who prefers to remain anonymous. 2. Mogadishu is currently described by some international organizations as the African city with the highest population density (NRC, 2018). Superlatives are regularly used to describe developments in Somalia, and a note of caution is necessary concerning the availability of reliable statistics. However, even cursory glances at publically available satellite images (available over the last decade or so) indicate the rapid urban growth and expansion. For examples of this, see https:// photo-exhibition/ camp-urbanisation/. 3. More detail is provided in Bakonyi et al. (2019). Publisher Copyright: © 2021 Boeck Universite. All rights reserved.

King's Authors


Displacement and mass migration have contributed to extremely rapid urbanization in the Somali territories of the Horn of Africa. Often displaced from rural areas, newcomers to cities hope to find safety and the means to rebuild their lives. However, displaced people often find themselves stranded in dilapidated settlements and entangled in exploitative labour relations or exhausting forms of petty entrepreneurship in order to survive. This article builds on photographic and testimonial accounts from urban in-migrants to provide a snapshot of the ways in which these labour relations perpetuate socio-economic precarity while also underpinning the dynamic (re)construction of modern Somali cities.

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