Middle class as fiction? Hopes and the continuity of exclusion

The so-called “middle class” is often portrayed as a bearer of hope when it comes to ‘development’, the formation of a civil society, political change and national democratization. On two consecutive days the political implications of Kenya’s constantly growing GDP and the stabilization of a middle class shall be discussed. Is there such a thing as a homogeneous Kenyan middle class? What, for example, is the “middle class”’s role in regard to the upcoming elections in 2017? What are their aspirations for the future? And how homogenous is the construct of a “middle-class” anyway? This day is devoted to the discussion of these issues from diverse perspectives: From art, social sciences and activism.

Fri. 07.04.

Welcome Note



Dr. Lena Kroeker (Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African Studies), Prof. Dr. Dieter Neubert (Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African Studies), James Muriuki (artist, Nairobi), John Kamicha (artist, Nairobi) with a focus on the works of Syowia Kyambi, James Muriuki and Sam Hopkins/John Kamicha.



IN CONVERSATION: Middle class from artistic & scientific perspectives

Prof. Dr. Dieter Neubert (Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African Studies), James Muriuki (artist, Nairobi)


18.00h KEY NOTE

On the politics of the middle-class  – John Githongo

18.35 h Q & A

18.50 h Break & Refreshments




The upcoming general elections in Kenya can be interpreted and debated in a multitude of ways. In the eyes of some people, they represent a launching pad for opportunity and liberation. To others, they are periods of intense anxiety, uncertainty and conflict. They are also moments of political performance, enhanced corruption and manipulation of insecurities. All of those interpretations, hopes, and fears are valid; all of them are significant.

In 2017, the Goethe-Institut Kenya in partnership with Twaweza Communications and the DAAD will organize a series of monthly dialogue forums on the upcoming general elections. Our panels of facilitators will discuss various issues that will be determined through daily monitoring of key election related events, as well as the underlying structural challenges for Kenya. Possible topics of discussion might include electoral institutions and their preparedness, media practices, political platforms, women and leadership, globalization, natural resources, urbanization, youth and politics, among others.

For our session on April 7th, we invite the audience to engage in a conversation about the Kenyan middle class. Our panelists will approach the discussion from different angles, including economic and socio-cultural perspectives, among others. Together we will scrutinize the construct of a middle class and discuss the role it will play in this year’s general elections. What distinguishes middle class citizens from other groups of voters? How are politicians trying to appeal to them?

Moderation: Prof. Kimani Njogu, Twaweza Communications


  • Mark Kapchanga: media and economic consultant. He is a columnist for China’s Global Times newspaper and a former senior economics writer for The Standard newspaper in Kenya. Article: “Kenya’s Middle Class is Growing: How You Can Cash in”, appears to be convinced of the existence of a middle class from an economic perspective.
  • Dr. Lena Kroeker: Researcher at the Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African Studies. Co-author of “Middle Classes in Africa: Changing Lives and Conceptual Challenges”. Her research areas include future/time, middle classes, HIV/AIDS, medical anthropology, uncertainty and architecture. Presenting first findings from the study “Socio-Cultural Diversity of the African Middle Class”, bringing in the socio-cultural anthropologist’s point of view on a middle class.
  • Dr. Milcah Mulu-Mutuku (DAAD Alumna): Dr. Mulu-Mutuku is a senior lecturer at the Deparmtment of Applied Community Development Studies at Egerton University. She holds a PhD in Entrepreneurship from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. Her areas of specialization include social entrepreneurship, rural entrepreneurship and women in entrepreneurship. The question of urban vs. rural life worlds in the definition of and identification with a Kenyan middle class comes up. The same issue is also raised by David Ndii in some of his articles. Dr. Mulu-Mutuku may also have insightful contributions to the role of social and rural entrepreneurs in a Kenyan middle class.
  • Dr. Samuel Ndogo:  Dr. Samuel Ndogo is the Head of Department of Literature, Theatre & Film Studies at Moi University in Eldoret. He received his PhD at the Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies with his thesis on „Narrating the Self and Nation in Kenyan Autobiographical Writings“. The analysis dwells on self-representations in correlation with imaginations of the ‘Kenyan nation’ and gives a critical account into the modern memoir.