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Out of Africa – public talk by Nora Naji

Building Africa is delighted to announce the first of its speaker events, ‘Out of Africa: Built-in security for outsiders on Lamu Island’, to be given by Nora Naji.

17.00-18.30, Thursday 25 January

Brunei Gallery, SOAS, 10 Thornhaugh Street, London WC1H 0XG

The event is free and open to everyone.

To register for this event and to see details of the rest of the programme, click here.

The Building Africa Exhibition runs from 11 January to 16 March 2024 at the Brunei Gallery at SOAS. It is open until 20.00 on Thursdays

Out of Africa: Built-in security for outsiders on Lamu Island

Lamu island is an international travel destination and safe haven in the midst of a space of insecurity where violent extremism, land disputes, displacement, ethnic tensions, resource scarcity, ambitious development plans and international military presence destabilize the region. Desires for security have crucially shaped the island’s material identity reflected in a long history of insider-outsider relations and settler-colonialism. Designed to protect outsiders who newly settled on the island, Lamu’s architecture illustrates how security has helped produce cultural identities and belonging by turning outsiders into insiders. Contemporary Western development and security discourses continue to prioritize outsider’s security interests while simultaneously challenging notions of outsiderness and insiderness in Lamu.  As a place of elsewhereness, Lamu transgresses the outsider-insider binary, and gives interesting insights into life-making and -unmaking through spatial reconfigurations. Furthermore, Lamu’s islandness furthers not only imaginaries of security but also complicates the production of identities in and belonging to Africa. By investigating architecture, notably materiality, built-in security and the resulting immaterial security practices, the article explores the role of outsiders in inventing Lamu and the desires for security that produced ‘outsiders-turned-insiders’. Through exploring the topic of outsider-security reflected in Lamu’s architecture, the article contributes to a larger debate on belonging and identity in postcolonial East Africa. 


Nora Naji is a PhD Researcher in Political Science and part of the Gender, War and Security Research Group at the University of Basel as well as associated researcher at swisspeace. Previously, she was a Fellow at the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ) at New York University. She holds a BA in International Relations from the University of Geneva and a MA in Culture and Politics from Leiden University. Prior to joining the Gender, War, and Security Research Group, she was a Junior Project Manager at swissnex San Francisco. She also gained professional experience in the Human and Social Sciences Sector at UNESCO in Paris and at a human rights organization in Amman. Her research interests include conflict prevention, human rights, gender, humanitarian diplomacy, racial justice as well as urban design and architecture.


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