Dr. Joyce Nyairo is an independent researcher who works on cultural memory projects. She has over thirty years’ experience in nurturing artistic and cultural creativity through academia, grant-making and publishing.
A regular columnist in the Daily Nation, Dr. Nyairo’s writing interrogates the interface between politics, identity and culture. She has published on these subjects in referred journals such as African Affairs, Journal of African Cultural Studies and Journal of Eastern African Studies. In 2007 she co-edited the groundbreaking study, Urban Legends, Colonial Myths: East African Popular Culture and Literature. Referred to as a Cultural Historian by some, Dr. Nyairo entrenched that label with her 2015 publication, Kenya@50: Trends, Identities and the Politics of Belonging. Other memory projects include two memoirs which she has helped write and published - Dare to Defy (2018) and Endurance: Memoirs of a Kenyan Painter (2019).
Dr. Nyairo was a lead consultant on the Volkswagen Foundation’s research program “Negotiating Culture in the Context of Globalization” and more recently, she was a writer and editor in the Goethe Institut’s Ten Cities project, a study of club culture and dance music. Currently, Dr. Nyairo is Co-Director on a project to assess character values and youth initiation programmes in Kenya, funded by the Templeton World Charity Foundation (TWCF).
In July 2017, Dr. Nyairo gave the keynote address at the 7th European Conference on Africa Studies held in Basel, Switzerland and in February 2020 she gave a lecture on “Re-figuration of Spaces” at the Collaborative Research Centre of the Technical University of Berlin. She has served as a visiting fellow at the Centre for West African Studies, University of Birmingham, and she gave the 2005 Mary Kingsley
Zochonis Lecture of the Royal African Society at the University of London. She has also delivered guest lectures at Cambridge University, Emory University, Indiana University, the University of Turku, Leiden University and the University of Amsterdam. Her Bachelors and Masters degrees are from the University of Nairobi. Her PhD in the Humanities is from the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa.
“If the posts on social media are anything to go by, we Kenyans are now so polarized; that the only common currency between us is mistrust. Can we lower suspicion, re-learn empathy, start seeing good in each other and stop fanning real and unreal differences to breaking point? How do we navigate the space between repair and divorce? A programme of cultural reengineering built around novel ways of reimagining identities and broadening belonging is a practical way of diluting the mounting animosities between us.”