This project explores what M-Pesa, a mobile money transfer service in Kenya can tell us about the neoliberal subject. M-pesa exists within Safaricom, the biggest telecommunications company in Kenya and the most profitable corporate in the East African region. This research will examine how a wireless mobile technology that immediately connects the intimately particular and concretely political with the ultra-global and limitless context engenders particular notions of subjectivity. It will look firstly at how wireless-ness and the instantaneity it confers reconfigures conceptions of temporality and intimacy; secondly at how its capacity, according to the Safaricom, of deep financial inclusion are mapped onto older categories of ethnicity, class and gender and thirdly, explore the tensions that continue to exist between the aspirational Kenyan citizen in the company’s discourse and the increasingly ethnicized political community in Kenya. Theoretically, this study is located within three debates on neoliberalism, and more precisely, on the definition of neoliberalism and what its subject constitutes.
This research is motivated by three primary concerns. First, to reflect on the imaginations that animated literature of decolonization and understand how Kenya’s present speaks to it; second, to contribute to a dearth of literature on the post-structural adjustment socio-political contexts in Africa; and thirdly, to understand how conflicting ideas of self and belonging are being articulated in the present.