Subprojects | Project Area A | Knowledge of Space

Being Home: Living Spaces and Self-Images of the Kenyan Middle Class

In the first funding period, the subproject investigated the biographical constitution of space among members of the middle-class in Kenya and Germany. Based on biographical narrative interviews, it could be shown that “investive status work” is a common feature of middle class-oriented lifestyles in Kenya and Germany. In both cases, a planned approach to conducting one’s life goes hand in hand with linear-concentric patterns of biographization. Central importance is given to the constitution of a home. Building on these results, the second funding period will focus on home-making practices among the Kenyan middle class. Home-making will hereby be understood as a process that encompasses both material-architectural aspects as well as relations between everyday spaces. This approach seems promising, as (1.) home-making constitutes a central field of investive status work; (2.) lifestyle patterns undergo significant changes in the context of home-making and have an explicitly spatial character; (3.) home-making assembles a spatial infrastructure of subjective life-worlds in which relations are established in a specific way; (4.) the analysis of home-making practices promises to shed light on the self-images of residents, which, in turn, makes it possible to examine how refiguration is processed on the level of subjective spatial knowledge.

For the Kenyan sample, it was also shown that experiences abroad and global mobility are constitutive for the self-image of the middle class. In the second funding period, the subproject will therefore analyze forms of subjectivation among members of the Kenyan middle class on the basis of their spatial relations. To this end, the project will study 40 Kenyan middle class households (20 each in Nairobi and Berlin). The interrogation into how and which polycontextural relations are established in home-making practices (e.g. between countryside, city, diaspora) will provide the central criterion of difference with which distinctive types of spatial lifestyles will be reconstructed. The subproject thus answers the following research questions: (1.) How can the social change in living conditions due to entry into the middle class be described spatially? (2.) Which spatial forms of subjectivation can be reconstructed in the context of home-making? (3.) How are discursive subject attributions internalized on the level of subjective spatial knowledge? (4.) Which conflicts between spatial figures arise in relation to home-making practices?

The biographical perspective of the first funding period will now be complemented by an interpretative subjectivation analysis. The internal diversity of the Kenyan middle class is further broken down along its spatial orientations, thereby empirically sharpening the concept of multiple spatialities. A sociological discourse analysis is, moreover, used to reconstruct subject attributions in the discourse around the global middle class. In addition, residents are asked to create images of home-making by photographing their relevant residential and everyday spaces. The resulting visual data serve as impulses for in-depth interviews. Ethnographic observations in the living environment and go-alongs tracing everyday spatial relations complete the data corpus.


Phase 1 (2018-2021)

Biographies of the Middle Classes: Spatial Experience and Meaning in the Life Course Narrative

This research project investigates spatial constitutions of members of the middle classes from a biographical perspective in Kenya and Germany. It explicitly focuses on translocal spatial references of the family sphere on the one hand and the working environment on the other. Based on narrative-biographical interviews, relevant biographical spaces are reconstructed and analysed with regard to their similarities and differences. Due to the explorative character of the project, different comparison categories (e.g. rural/urban, gender, age or religiosity) will be equally tested and their explanatory value challenged. Comparing German and Kenyan middle classes will only be one of many comparisons. We expect this category to be of explanatory value because middle classes in Kenya mainly emerged in the last decades under the conditions of a globalized world economy without the framing of a welfare state, whereas the emergence of German middle classes at the end of the 19th century was a process deeply interwoven with the establishment of the German welfare state. The aim is to develop an empirically founded conceptualization of typical biographical strategies in coping with the tension between the sphere of reproduction and the world of work from a spatial perspective.