Skip to content

Mobile people, phones and photography: Somali visual practices in Nairobi's Eastleigh estate

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-245
Number of pages21
Issue number2
Early online date14 May 2019
DateAccepted/In press - 2 Sep 2018
DateE-pub ahead of print - 14 May 2019
DatePublished (current) - 14 May 2019


The coming of the mobile phone camera has transformed photography. This article explores this transformation through a case study of photography in Eastleigh, a Nairobi estate that is home to many thousand Somalis, both Kenyan Somalis and refugees from Somalia. It is a trade hub for East Africa, a social and economic hub for the global Somali diaspora, and a place regarded as suspect in a country where Somalis have long been marginalized. This article examines Eastleigh as photographic subject and setting, comparing the ubiquity of mobile phone photography there with seldom-practised more traditional forms of photography that are often treated with suspicion in an estate subject to securitized government policy and negative press. It shows how mobile phone photography helps people in the estate communicate visually with the wider Somali diaspora through social media, and how it helps people sell their goods, using as a case study a particular archive of images sent through WhatsApp to the author by Mohaa, a friend of his and a trader in the estate. The article also adds a political dimension to recent anthropological theorizing on mobile photography, showing how, in Eastleigh, Somalis have used photography and social media to take control of the way in which the estate is represented visually, and to demand from the state better services and better treatment.

    Research areas

  • Mobile phones, photography, Africa, Somali, anthropology

Download statistics

No data available



  • Full-text PDF (accepted author manuscript)

    Rights statement: This is the author accepted manuscript (AAM). The final published version (version of record) is available online via Edinburgh University Press at . Please refer to any applicable terms of use of the publisher.

    Accepted author manuscript, 1005 KB, PDF document


View research connections

Related faculties, schools or groups