“Reaching millions: scalability, efforts, and safe water in Kenya”

20 Nisan 2021


Istanbul Şehir University, Center for Urban Studies

20 April 2021, Tuesday, 14.00

“Are there many people in Europe who have water taps?” This talk takes as its impetus this question posed by James during my ethnographic fieldwork in western Kenya. James was working as part of a sanitation program to provide safe water to several millions of people who do not have access to running water. How does one think about global poverty alleviation, I ask, while following those whose every day work is to implement, operate, and maintain welfare services in places which are beyond the reach of state infrastructures? What can broken chlorine dispensers, slippery paths, overloaded motorbikes, hard work illuminate about global ambitions to scale? By proposing a conceptual shift away from focusing on “scalability” to documenting “reach”, this talk contributes to broader anthropological reflections around the forms, logics, and ethics of welfare provision, particularly where non-governmental actors are central providers of basic services.