Meghan Ference Awarded a Center for the Humanities Graduate Student Fellowship

"Mobility and Rootedness"

The theme for the Center for the Humanities Spring 2013 Faculty and Graduate Student Fellows program is Mobility and Rootedness. Fellows’ projects are encouraged to address the concept of “cultural mobility,” which theorizes the movement of people, goods, money, capital, information, texts, media, ideas, symbols, cultural artifacts, and institutional codes across borders, in dialectical relationship to persistent forms of “rootedness”: a sense of local place; national, regional, urban, or indigenous identity; identities of religion, class, race, gender, and sexuality.  Projects may explore material (e.g. migration, human trafficking, goods) or non-material (e.g., cultural, textual, institutional) mobility, or they may address temporal and/or geographical “translation” from a source into a local and particular place and context.

Ference's research focuses on the transformative processes of urbanization in both social practices and urban landscapes through an ethnographic study of the informal transportation industry in Nairobi, Kenya, commonly referred to as the matatu sector. The movement of people from rural homes to urban centers in search of economic opportunity has characterized Nairobi, Kenya since its inception in 1899.  Her project examines how mixed ethnic and multi-lingual metropolises, like Nairobi, provide opportunities for the creation of unique urban identities, new social networks and innovative linguistic codes.