Paper $30.00 ISBN: 9780226471396 Published June 2017
Cloth $90.00 ISBN: 9780226130866 Published June 2017
E-book $30.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226471426 Published June 2017 Also Available From
E-book Retailers: Amazon Kindle Apple iBooks B&N Nook Google Play Kobo Library Vendors: EBSCO


A History of Popular Transportation in Nairobi

Kenda Mutongi


Kenda Mutongi

352 pages | 31 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2017
Paper $30.00 ISBN: 9780226471396 Published June 2017
Cloth $90.00 ISBN: 9780226130866 Published June 2017
E-book $30.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226471426 Published June 2017
Drive the streets of Nairobi, and you are sure to see many matatus—colorful minibuses that transport huge numbers of people around the city. Once ramshackle affairs held together with duct tape and wire, matatus today are name-brand vehicles maxed out with aftermarket detailing. They can be stately black or extravagantly colored, sporting names, slogans, or entire tableaus, with airbrushed portraits of everyone from Kanye West to Barack Obama. In this richly interdisciplinary book, Kenda Mutongi explores the history of the matatu from the 1960s to the present.
As Mutongi shows, matatus offer a window onto the socioeconomic and political conditions of late-twentieth-century Africa. In their diversity of idiosyncratic designs, they reflect multiple and divergent aspects of Kenyan life—including, for example, rapid urbanization, organized crime, entrepreneurship, social insecurity, the transition to democracy, and popular culture—at once embodying Kenya’s staggering social problems as well as the bright promises of its future. Offering a shining model of interdisciplinary analysis, Mutongi mixes historical, ethnographic, literary, linguistic, and economic approaches to tell the story of the matatu and explore the entrepreneurial aesthetics of the postcolonial world.

PART ONE Background
Introduction: Matatu

1 “The Only Way to Get There Was on Foot”

PART TWO Moving People, Building the Nation, 1960–73

2 “It Is a Diffi cult System to Beat”

3 “We Are Making a Living by Constitutional Means”

PART THREE Deregulation, 1973–84

4 Kenyatta’s Decree, 1973

5 “Jump In, Squeeze, Jump Out—Quickly!”

PART FOUR Government Regulation, 1984–88

6 The Matatu Bill of 1984

7 “Only Those Who Are Afraid Use Force”

PART FIVE Organized Crime? 1988–2014

8 KANU Youth Wingers

9 Mungiki: Fighting a Phantom?

PART SIX Generation Matatu, Politics, and Popular Culture, 1990–2014

10 Music, Politics, and Profit

11 “Pimp” My Ride

PART SEVEN Self- Regulation, 2003–14

12 The Michuki Rules

Conclusion: Making It in Nairobi

Review Quotes
Daily Nation
"Mutongi offers a nuanced and rigorously researched analysis that will serve as an excellent model for the study of both history and culture in Africa. . . . A magnificent book that challenges the conventional view of the matatu."
Journal of Transport History
"The published history of urban transport in Africa has just had an enormous boost. Mutongi’s marvellous analysis of postcolonial minibus taxi transport in Nairobi is such a welcome record and such a remarkable injection of insight. . . . Mutongi’s authoritative deconstruction and story-telling dazzles. Her Matatu becomes the baseline and re-entry point for African minibus research. Her antenna are acutely sensitive. Her phrasings are a treat. Not least, her gorgeously written and accessible presentation is testimony to the enduring value of books as vehicles for argument, learning and pleasure. This book glows with stamina, patient inquiry and careful thought. Its coherence, layering and depth far surpass online capsule histories. Matatu slices with diamond-tipped tools. May there be more such glinting dissections of urban transport history in Africa."
Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa
“Not only is this a fascinating, multidimensional piece of scholarship, it focuses our attention on an industry that is distinctively homegrown and locally-owned. These remarkable vehicles are the veins and arteries of Nairobi, just as their counterparts are in cities throughout the rest of Africa and much of the world’s South. Yet I have never seen them, their drivers, their passengers, and the culture around them written about in such a clear and thoughtful way.”
James A. Robinson, co-author of Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty.
“This book does for Matatus what David Landes did for clocks—it uses them as a mirror to see the world in a different way. It will change the way you think about Africa.”
Billy Kahora, author of The True Story of David Munyakei
“Africa's social histories too often exist through anecdote and the oral—Mutongi addresses this by providing a systematic narrative of one of Kenya's most enduring post-independence symbols. Matatu is a must read for all those who are especially curious about the contemporary African city.”
For more information, or to order this book, please visit
Google preview here

Chicago Manual of Style

Chicago Blog: Economics

Events in Economics

Keep Informed