Research Blog 10

In addition to Williams and Hall, I will be incorporating Stoddard and Cornwell’s Cosmopolitan or mongrel? Créolité, hybridity and ‘douglarisation’ in Trinidad” and Homi Bhabha’s “The Location of Culture” to analyze the rise of Sheng in Nairobi. As Kenya’s history as a British colony greatly impacts the hegemony of English in the country, Stoddard and Cornwell’s discussion of the relationship between hybridity and colonization serves to explain how Sheng has risen as a resistive tool. They state, “The cultural interactions under colonialism also produced societies with hybrid cultures, ‘high’ and ‘low’ languages, manners, foods; and other practices” (333). Relating this statement to Kenya, British rule has led to the continued privileging of English over ethnic languages due to the perceived superiority of English speakers. However, the hybridity of Sheng, as Stoddard and Cornwell would say, “calls attention to globalised persons and cultures and the condition of formerly colonized peoples” (333). In other words, Sheng draws attention to the lasting effects of British colonial rule in Kenya, preserving the ethnic languages that colonization attempted to erase. Similarly, Homi Bhabha has addressed the potential of varying identities as an arena for hybridity. He discusses the liminality of mixed cultural identities, an in between space that provides opportunity for hybridity, often during times of historical transformation (2). Similar to Williams’s argument that hegemony’s need of reinforcement allows for cultural resistance and change, Bhabha argues “This interstitial passage between fixed identifications opens up the possibility of a cultural hybridity that entertains difference without an assumed or imposed hierarchy” (4). In this sense, Sheng dismantles the perceived superiority of English, and Kiswahili, over ethnic languages by challenging this language hierarchy through its hybridity. Through Sheng, English, Kiswahili, Kiyuku, Luo, and other ethnic languages present in Kenya are incorporated in a way that acknowledges the legacy of colonialism in Kenya, while encouraging the preservation of ethnic languages and overall integration.

Bhabha, Homi K. The location of culture. routledge, 2012.

Stoddard, Eve, and Grant H. Cornwell. “Cosmopolitan or mongrel? Créolité, hybridity and’douglarisation’in Trinidad.” European Journal of Cultural Studies 2.3 (1999): 331-353.


Hannah Markey

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