Inside the refugee city: Anthropologist Rahul Oka on Kakuma, Kenya

Rahul Oka has been studying economic life at Kakuma Refugee Camp in northern Kenya, one of the largest refugee centers in the world. Opened in 1991, the camp contains over 179,000 people who have fled violence in Soma­lia, Sudan, Darfur, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Oka is an anthropologist at the University of Notre Dame whose work focuses on urbanism and social networks. He is a consultant for the United Nations on how a camp like Kakuma could be turned into a viable city.

What most surprised you about the Kakuma camp?

I was surprised at how Kakuma is a thriving city and that its people live complex social and commercial lives.