SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Zoë Goodman

BA Politics and Social Anthropology (SOAS), MA Social Anthropology (SOAS), MA Anthropological Research Methods (SOAS)
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Ms Zoë Goodman
Email address:
Thesis title:
Tales of the Everyday City: Geography and Chronology in Postcolonial Mombasa
Internal Supervisors


In between a number of years of study at SOAS, I have worked for various NGOs and the UN on a range of issues relating to trade and agriculture, particularly the implications of intellectual property regimes on biodiversity and rural livelihoods, as well as the socio-environmental consequences of large scale agricultural investments.

My PhD was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

PhD Research

My recently submitted PhD thesis is entitled 'Tales of the everyday city: geography and chronology in postcolonial Mombasa'.

Grounded in ethnographic research conducted amongst Mombasa’s small and heterogeneous Muslim population with roots in what is today the Indian state of Gujarat, the thesis explores the mobilities, insecurities, notions of Islamic reform and patterns of claims-making that circulate in the city. These themes are examined through the lens of ‘everyday’ discourse and practice, paying particular attention to the multiplicity of dispositions towards time and space that inform these broader urban processes.

The thesis describes Mombasan Muslims struggling with history and with the future. Through Art Deco façades, deep-fried delicacies and discourses of decay, I consider some of the ways individuals historicise their relations to the city, marking status and relations of affinity, as much as arraigning others for the political, economic and religious uncertainties of the present. Unpacking a blood donation drive and a building site, I trace the histories and geographies of piety that colour this Indian Ocean port, and how these are entangled with material aspirations and regional anxieties. The ‘Mombasan urbanism’ that emerges in these pages is as scopic as it is rooted; it is infused with memory and with futurity.

The discourses and practices of the littoral residents we encounter bring us into dialogue with a range of literatures, from the anthropology of architecture to ethnographies of insecurity, as well as studies of memory and mourning. These, and other thematic issues, are considered in tandem with the regional scholarship on Islam in Kenya, Asians in East Africa and Indian Ocean cosmopolitanisms. The research presented here offers possibilities for thinking beyond the racialised social categories that continue to structure stereotype and scholarship in East Africa, and expands the literature on ‘being’ Muslim in Mombasa. Through the geographies and chronologies shown to constitute the Mombasan everyday, the thesis evinces the city as always in the making.



  • 'Roads, routes and the terra infirma: distance and place making through the lens of dwelling-in-travelling' (panel co-convenor). International Society for Ethnology and Folklore (SIEF), University of Göttingen, March 2017
  • 'Karaoke and beyond: challenging the impact agenda'. Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and Commonwealth, University of Durham, July 2016
  • 'The politics of methodology: a call for theory'. Anthropology in London, University College London, June 2016
  • 'The politics of standing still: movement and its other in Muharram rituals'. Anthropology in London, University College London, June 2015
  • 'The politics of standing still: movement, history and faith in Muharram rituals'. Moharram chez les chiites d’Asie du sud : vernacularisation ou globalisation ? Centre d’Études de l'Inde et de l'Asie du Sud, Paris, June 2015
  • 'An untouchable PhD subject: access, offshoots and the production of anthropological knowledge'. Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and Commonwealth, University of Exeter, April 2015
  • 'Coping with diversity: moral anxiety and cosmopolitan food practices amongst a Shia Muslim sect in Mombasa'. Insecurity, Anxiety and Uncertainty in Kenya, British Institute in Eastern Africa, Nairobi, September 2014
  • '"Writing against culture": thinking through the food practices of Gujarati East African migrants in the UK'. Foodways: Diasporic Diners, Transnational Tables, and Culinary Connections, Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies, University of Toronto, October 2012


  • Kenyatta University (Mombasa and Nairobi Campuses)


Teaching Fellow in Social Anthropology (2017/18):

African and Asian Cultures in the Diaspora
African and Asian Diasporas in the Modern World
African and Asian Diasporas in the Contemporary World
Social Theory

Previous teaching:

Introduction to Social Anthropology (2015/16)