Magdalena Chułek

Magdalena Chułek
University of Warsaw | UW · Centre of Migration Research


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I am an anthropologist with experience in designing, organising and carrying out qualitative research. I carried out long-term field research in Kenya. Using the method of participant observation among the community in so-called slums, I dealt with the sociocultural process of how these spaces are created. Currently, my scientific interests comprise forced migrations, environmental migrations and strategies of adapting to changes in the natural environment, especially in refugee camps.


Publications (7)
Full-text available
The ARICA project is “a multi-directional Analysis of Refugee/IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) CAmp areas based on HR/VHR satellite data” with the aim to better understand the mutual influence between the environment and refugee/IDP camp inhabitants. The overall goal is to investigate how satellite data could support the management of such camps...
Hustling the mtaa way: the Brain Work of the Garbage Business in Nairobi’s Slums – ADDENDUM - Magdalena Chułek
The inhabitants of slums have developed creative ways of addressing the inherent instability of their lives. Chułek analyzes two approaches to self-organizing work on the basis of data gathered in two slum areas of Nairobi, Kibera and Korogocho, arguing that the key element of slum inhabitants’ actions is the reproduction of structures which enable...
Paper short abstract: The residents of the slum, dwelling in bad living conditions, often break official norms. Still, they attribute positive meaning to these practices. The paper analyses the example of public burning of thieves - constructing the meaning of this act and ethical problems connected to it. Paper long abstract: Kibera slum in Nairob...
Based on ethnographic research in two slum areas of Nairobi, Kibera and Korogocho, this article explains the meaning and function of ad hoc acts of lynching called mob justice. The article treats mob justice as a specific type of institution that reflects local rules of life and argues that the analysis of such acts must take into account that they...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Kibera, an African slum, is known for its high land prices. Although, officially, Kibera belongs to the Kenyan state, Kenyan Nubians lay claims to ownership of this land. Their ancestors fought for the British colonial authorities, which, in return, granted them the land. Nonetheless, until today, this land grant has no legal effect. With the use o...
The majority of Kenyan Nubians inhabit Kibera, a neighbourhood of poverty in Nairobi, considered to be one of the largest slums in the world. The author analyses strategies employed to build collective identification of this community, used in order to survive in the multi-ethnic Kenyan state. Survival is possible because Nubians believe that they...


Projects (2)
Archived project
In Western discourse (colloquially and scientifically) Kibera and Korogocho are vaguely defined as "poverty districts". Meanwhile, these areas differ in terms of the scope and a kind of phenomena defined in the literature on the subject as "poverty and destitution". In slums, social and cultural problems are sharpened as in a lens. Such kind of ("laboratory") research area creates optimal conditions for ethnographic data collections, which in turn is an assert of the project. The results of the previous exploration permitted to formulate the fundamental question, namely: how to understand (what is like) the behaviour of the African population defined in the Western discourse as help and aid. The answer to a problem formulated in such a way requires a combination of empirical studies and the conceptualization of terms such as relations, aid, poverty and destitution. Such a way of outlining problems in the field of social and cultural anthropology ahould refer to the "grass-roots" scrutiny at the practices of population living in slums. Therefore, it is necessary to formulate detailed and operational research questions: (1) what is the response of people living in slums to the Western concepts of help provided by the local "aid" agencies (2) whether such a help does generate new relationships in which the tradition is transformed, but does not disappear or can it degrade a social life understood by the local people as traditional? (3) on what depend the patterns of the local behavior for survival regardless of the proposed forms of "support"?
ARICA is a Polish-Norwegian research project financed under Norway Grants the "Applied Research" program. The project is constructed on two dimensions: one is a social science based on the several actors interviews and second is a geospatial analysis based on HR/VHR satellite data. The project aims to contribute to geospatial analysis of the evolution of the different forms of Settlements for Refugees and Internally Displaced People (IDPs) fleeing from war zones, dire socio-economic conditions and environmental disasters. These forms of Settlements (both official and unofficial camps) will be investigated in two selected cases: Mtendeli (Tanzania) and Kutupalong Refugee camp (Cox Bazar Bangladesh). We will apply socio-geographical approach, which investigates the insiders’ perspective of the mutual relation between the natural environment and human activity. The specific objectives of this WP are to: 1. Diagnose the mutual relation of Refugee/IDPs Settlements and natural environment considering its impact on the food security during three phases: - Establishment; - Development; - Limits: Relocation, Restructuring, Legalization or Closure. 2. Delivering socio-geographical recommendations for implementing good practices of sustainable and environmentally friendly Settlement’s management from insiders’ perspective.