Vol 29 No 2 (2020): Nordic Journal of African Studies
Articles Social Studies

Generating hope through activity: Resilience among urban refugees in Eastleigh, Nairobi

Lena Johansson
Uppsala University, Sweden
Published July 16, 2020
  • displacement,
  • Eastleigh,
  • hope,
  • transit,
  • urban refugees


This article examines the way Somali refugees cope with their situation under uncertain circumstances in their transit country, more particularly, the Eastleigh Estate, Nairobi, Kenya, where they wait for resettlement to a third country in a process that normally takes years of waiting with no guarantee of a positive outcome. The spatial reality of their displacement in Eastleigh was characterized by socio-economic hardship, a sense of illegitimate stay, and the uncertainty of their chances for resettlement. During their prolonged wait for resettlement, the refugees generated hope by engaging in a search for normality through making homes, social activities, and religious practices. Displacement meant not only crisis and hopelessness; it could also entail potentiality and openings for social transformation. In an environment that did not allow much space for agency, the refugees in Eastleigh, Nairobi, fostered hope through activity, collectiveness, and building for the future.