The everyday life and everyday dreams of Kenyan khat traders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


This article traces the everyday and not-so-everyday rhythms and temporalities of the Kenyan khat trade, using ethnographic case studies
from various Kenyan towns to explore how the drug fits into and structures the lives of those engaging with it. Retailing khat involves precise
rhythms linked to the daily cycle of khat’s supply networks, but also
more expansive temporalities. It also involves navigating key aspects
of Kenyan urban life, while creating a space of support that urban traders rely upon. Tracing the everyday life of Kenyan khat traders gives
insight into the moral communities generated by the trade in a ‘drug’,
communities critical for enabling traders to overcome the common
crises faced within Kenya’s informal economy. They are also critical in
helping some traders fulfil hopes and dreams outside of a life structured
around khat. As with other drugs, the ordinary economies, communities
and cultures that form around their ‘social lives’ subvert typical notions
of drugs as extraordinary, malevolent things; spending time with those
who animate their social lives reveals how ordinary these substances
and their social worlds can be in an era where ‘war on drugs’ framings
of them and their traders and users as deviant and immoral still
Original languageEnglish
JournalThird World Quarterly
Early online date20 Oct 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The initial research underpinning this article was funded by an ESRC Studentship and later by an ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Global South Ltd.


  • Drugs khat Meru Kenya everyday


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