Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2019

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Based on more than two years of anthropological fieldwork, 157 household surveys, and 40 in-depth interviews, my dissertation research examines a conjugal form in Kenya known as “come-we-stay” marriage, or long-term intimate cohabitation that is often not seen as legitimate neither by the law nor kinship networks. Whereas various opinion leaders, from clergy to feminist organizations, have hailed come-we-stay as an affront to moral decency and women’s rights (respectively), women and men with whom I have conducted research in Nairobi’s Kibera slum emphasize the complexity of the issue and highlight the social, economic, and intimate challenges and benefits of their relationships. My dissertation explores macro-level marriage debates in Kenya from the ground level, looking closely at how individuals living in Kibera negotiate a path to formal marriage as well as why some couples intentionally choose to remain informally cohabitating for long periods of time. Together, I take Kibera’s come-we-stay (informal marriage) with the jua kali (informal economy) in Kibera as the ethnographic objects of my study to explore how deep insecurity associated with informal forms of work and marriage are also tied closely with flexibility, personal autonomy, economic gain, and upward/outward mobility rather than victimhood or moral depravity. Against the backdrop of national attempts to simultaneously protect and police poor women’s and men’s sexuality and conjugal practices, this dissertation explores the dynamism of different conjugal forms in the socially marginal but economically vital informal economy of Kibera.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Shanti Parikh

Committee Members

Jean Allman, Bret Gustafson, Carolyn Lesorogol, Kedron Thomas,


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