Jethron Ayumbah Akallah

Jethron Ayumbah Akallah currently serves as a Lecturer in the Department of History and Archaeology at Maseno University in Western Kenya. Jethron holds a Bachelor of Education (Arts) degree (First Class Honours) and Master of Arts (History), both from Maseno University, Kenya. He has a PhD in History of Technology from Technische Universität Darmstadt, Germany. His research focuses on water and sanitation technology in Nairobi, with a special interest in innovations within informal areas. Employing the concepts of co-production and post-coloniality, his research breaks away from the history of technology that focuses on invention and origin by narrowing down on use, meaning and effect (Arnold, 2005). Jethron, through his research, lays emphasis on the need to approach the Global South as technological spaces rather than as sources of technological data. He draws inspiration from works of Zimbabwean scholar and historian Clapperton Chakanetsa Mavhunga that include; The Mobile Workshop: The Tsetse Fly and African Knowledge Production (2018), What Do Science, Technology and Innovation Mean for Africa? (2017) and Transient Workspaces: Technologies of Everyday Innovation in Zimbabwe (2015). In 2019, Jethron published his PhD dissertation titled; In the Technological Footprints of Urbanity: A Socio-political History of Water and Sanitation in Nairobi, 1899-2015 (https://tuprints.ulb.tu-darmstadt.de/8550/). He has written two chapters on Kenya’s colonial and post-colonial political history in two books edited by the doyen of Kenyan history, the late Professor William Robert Ochieng’. Jethron currently holds the International Scholars Award 2019/2020 by the Society of History and Technology (SHOT).

PhD Project (completed)

In the Technological Footprints of Urbanity: Water, Sanitation and Informality in Nairobi City, 1920-2015

The history of urbanization in Africa has tended to approach cities from above or from the centre. For example, historians of urban technologies usually pay particular attention to the establishment of centralized, “Large Technical Systems” of resource provision. Moving between the formal level of engineering and planning and the informal level of daily practice, the dissertation investigates how urban water and sanitation technologies were adopted, appropriated, and contested by various actors. The research proposes a bottom-linked approach to history of technology. Through infrastructure provision and visualizing the need to capture the day-to-day experiences of ordinary people, the research anchors itself on the process of technology transfer as being defined by contestation, adaptability, innovation, and hybridization and in some cases rejection. People as co-prod-users are (and must be seen) as assets in the processes of reproducing the city as a contested and socially constructed space. The research reveals complementarity in Nairobi’s infrastructural waterscape and sanitation supply between centralized systems and decentred approaches. Greater flexibility in provisioning is witnessed in the middle-income and informal settlements that experience limited formalised supply hence a quilted landscape of infrastructure outlay.

University Studies and Degrees

12/2014 to 04/2018 Doctoral Studies(History of Technology, Technische Universität Darmstadt, Darmstadt, Germany)

09/2008-11/2012 Master of History (Department of History and Archaeology, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Maseno University, Kisumu, Kenya)

09/2002-12/2006 Bachelor of Education (Arts) – History and Government/Kiswahili(Faculty of Education, Maseno University, Kisumu, Kenya)

Professional Experiences

08/2019 to date Lecturer, Department of History and Archaeology, Maseno University, Kisumu, Kenya

11/2012 to 08/2019 Tutorial Fellow, Maseno University, Kisumu, Kenya

09/2012-11/2012 Graduate Assistant, Maseno University, Kisumu, Kenya

01/2007-08/2008 Teacher of History and Government/Kiswahili, Nairobi Muslim Academy, Nairobi Kenya

09/2006-01/2007 Teacher of History and Government/Kiswahili, Malava Boys High School, Kakamega, Kenya

Scholarships and Awards

2019/2020 International Scholars Award, Society of History of Technology (SHOT)

11/2014-11/2017 PhD Fellowship funded by the Hans Boeckler Stiftung, Germany

06/2009-11/2012 Maseno University Graduate Trainee/Assistant Scholarship Programme


Akallah, Jethron, In the Technological Footprints of Urbanity: A Socio-political History of Water and Sanitatoin in Nairobi, 1899-2015. Darmstadt: Technical University of Darmstadt, 2019. http://tuprints.ulb.tu-darmstadt.de/8550.


Jethron Ayumbah Akallah and Mikael Hård, “Under the Historian’s Radar: Local Water Supply Practices in Nairobi, 1940-1980,” Water Alternatives 13 (3), 2020: 886-901, www.water-alternatives.org

Jethron Ayumbah Akallah, “Technologies from below: Water and Sanitation Supply in Nairobi’s Informal Settlements,” Technology’s Stories 8 (2), 2020, www.technologystories.org/technologies-from-below/

Chapters in Edited Volumes

Akallah, J.A (2013), „The Second Kibaki Era; 2007-2013: Seeking Stability within Turbulent Waters“ in W.R Ochieng (ed), A History of Independent Kenya: A celebration of 50 years of Independence, Kisumu, Lake Publishers and Stationers Limited

Akallah, J.A. (2012), „The Luhya Politics“ in Ochieng, W.R ; Cokumu, P.O ; Akallah, J. A. (ed); A History of Western Kenya in the 20th and 21st Centuries, Kisumu, Lake Publishers and Stationers Limited

Chapter under review

Akallah, J.A., Infrastructure, Race and Socio-spatial differentiation: Unbundling Nairobi's Water System, 1899 to 1939, in Monstadt J. ; de Bercegol R. ; Bon B. (forthcoming) Translating the networked city: Urban Infrastructures in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam, Routledge

Conference Proceedings

Akallah, J.A. ; de Bercegol R. ; Kanini Wamuchiru E. (2016), (Re)Producing Engineering: Retracing Nairobi’s Water Supply Practices, Centre for Policy Research, Delhi, India


Talks and Conferences

• 24th to 27th October 2019 : Annual Conference for the Society of History of Technology (SHOT) in Milan, Italy. Presented a paper in the session on Knowledge, Race, and Power in the History of Global Technology.

• 18th to 20th September 2019 : International Workshop on Resources, Infrastructures and the Anthropocene: Dialogues between the Global North and the Global South, Lisbon, Portugal at the Campus de Caparica of the Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia da Universidade NOVA de Lisboa

• October 11th – 14th 2018 : Annual Society of History of Technology (SHOT) Conference at St. Louis, Missouri, USA.

• June 14th – 15th 2018 : „The Role of Users in Global Technological History“, University of Bern, Switzerland

• June 22nd – 26th 2016 : Society of History of Technology (SHOT) Conference at Tembusu College, University of Singapore- presented paper in a plenary on Imperialism, Technology and Culture

• January 15th – 17th 2016 : Conference on water regimes in the Global South, organized in New Delhi, India by the Centre for Policy Research (CRP)- presented co-authored paper on the evolution of Nairobi’s Water infrastructure systems questioning a networked city concept and technology transfer

• July 8th – 10th 2015 : ECAS 2015 6th European Conference on African Studies, Paris, on Collective Mobilizations in Africa: Contestation, resistance and revolt- presented paper on the Nubians struggle for citizenship in Kibera, Nairobi and the contestation for land


• International Research Group on Knowledge, Race, and Power in the History of Global Technology (https://chdr.cah.ucf.edu/rgp/index.html)

• Global History of Technology (Global-HOT) Graduate Programme, TU Darmstadt, Germany

• Graduate School for Urban Studies (URBANgrad), Technische Universität Darmstadt

• University Academic Staffs Union (UASU), Kenya

• West Kenya Historical Association

• Kenya Teachers Service Commission

Blog Writings:

Contributes to: https://kenyanreport.com/

Other Experiences

Translation of Texts—English-Swahili/Swahili-English