Fragments Towards an Impossible (Domestic) Genre of the Human in Kenyan Crime Fiction

  • Wairimũ Mũrĩithi
Keywords: crime fiction, feminism, sex work, human, homo narrans


Extrajudicial executions and other forms of police violence in Kenya have always been an issue of significant concern in local and international media and human rights organisations. Reflective of this, scholarly interest in crime fiction in Kenya has grown significantly in recent years. However, the gendered implications of criminality – from sex work to errant motherhood to alternative modes of investigation – are still largely overlooked in postcolonial literary fiction and criticism. As part of a larger study on how women writers and characters shape crime fiction in Kenya, this paper critically engages with stories that the criminalised woman knows, tells, forgets,  incarnates, discards or hides about the city. It does so by examining the history of urban sex workers in Kenya, the representation of ‘urban women’ in postcolonial Kenyan novels and contemporary mainstream media, and the various (post) colonial laws that criminalise sex work. Through Justina, an elusive character in Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor’s Dust, I consider how (post)colonial legislative frameworks and social life attempt to manage “impossible domesticity” (Saidiya Hartman) inside and against the geo-history of gendered and classed criminality in urban Kenyan spaces. My purpose is to interrogate hegemonic constructions of the citizen – and by extension, of the human  – in Kenyan law and public morality

Keywords: crime fiction, feminism, sex work, human, homo narrans


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0376-8902