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Social media and the making of the New-Baraza; mediatisation of Kenya’s local administration

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In this presentation I shed light on the increasing mediatization of the Chief’s Baraza in Kenya, one which I term the new Baraza. The baraza is both a space and place traced to pre-colonial deliberative practices that presently refers to a formal public gathering for the purposes of interaction between Chiefs and members of their locations. I borrow from mediatization studies, a concept used to study media-related changes in the organization and operations of institutions, shifting power relations, changes in social relationships and interactions, and new ways to explore (self-) representations and identities, in order to capture the many ways through which the baraza has been influenced and reshaped by social media logic. Drawing from ethnographic data captured from fieldwork in Nakuru County, I attempt to show how the baraza, in a context undergoing dynamic and complex structural and social processes, has reproduced a kind of a virtual baraza, a result of the rapid spread of use of mobile telephony and social media in rural Kenya. Furthermore, I expound on the newness of the ‘new baraza’, and the new possibilities, roles and that the new baraza affords to the Chiefs, his assistants and the wider village through (social media) texts, social action and attempts at self realization.

This talk is part of the Centre of African Studies Michaelmas Seminars series.

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