A Radio Without Cells is Dead: Children’s Everyday Experiences of Hunger in Siaya Kenya

Elizabeth Ngutuku

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A Radio Without Cells is Dead: Children’s Everyday Experiences of Hunger in Siaya, Kenya Elizabeth Ngutuku International Institute of Social Studies Ngutuku@iss.nl Theme: Food Security and Food Safety Food insecurity and hunger is one of the defining contexts in Kenya. While food insecurity affects many households in Kenya in general, hunger and lack of food is a major reality for children living in poor households. Perspectives on how poor and vulnerable children experience hunger has been given less focus in the research and policy discourse. There also has been little focus on how children and their caregivers communicate, explain and negotiate and re-work the experience of being hungry. By drawing on a one-year ethnographic research exploring the lived experience of child poverty and vulnerability in Kenya, this paper explores the narratives of hunger and lack of food by children and their caregivers. In understanding this experience beyond linear models in research and drawing on Deleuze and Guattarian philosophy (1987), I utilized Rhizomatic design and methods design that enabled me to conceptualize the complex experience of children as a multiplicity. In so doing, I utilised a series of emerging and diffractive child centered methods including interviews, autobiographical essays, creative art activities, go along interviews, diaries and photo narratives. These methods enabled me to generate data that I did not code but read it diffractively through each other to reveal the complex, fluid and contingent experience of poverty and vulnerability. I worked with 50 children, through in-depth ethnographic encounters including household visits, visiting at school and others in organizations providing support to vulnerable children. I also worked with more than 100 other children through various encounters. Hunger emerged as a quotidian experience of child poverty and vulnerability that affected the well-being of children including the way they participated in schooling. Within this context, children represent education as their future breakfast. The research also reveal that children and their caregivers employ specific narratives and metaphors in speaking about hunger and lack of food. These narratives oscillate between the prevailing discourses and their unique situation, but are also geared towards enabling them to justify, minimize and overcome the negative physical and social effects of hunger and poverty. Children and caregivers also use specific strategies like cooking late and eating one meal a day, children only eating the meal from school among similar strategies. Despite these strategies and discursive renderings of hunger, children and their caregivers also name hunger and lack of food as injustice by connecting their experiences to actions by the state, the organizations that support farmers among other rhizomatic structural factors. 2 I conclude by noting the need for being aware of children’s lived experience and the negotiations and contingencies within their everyday of hunger as a silenced narrative in understanding child poverty and vulnerability, but also in giving life to the narratives of food insecurity in Kenya. I also present these rhizomatic experiences as potential spaces for intervening in the experience of children
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication7th PhD Conference on International Development
Place of PublicationBochum
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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