Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Tricia R. Hepner

Committee Members

Raja Swamy, Rebecca M. Klenk


This thesis analyzes the ways residents of Kampala, Uganda perceive each other based on socio-economic status. I focus on the slum areas of Namuwongo as a microcosm of the stratified city. As in most postcolonial cities, Kampala presents vast stratification between those living in relative comfort and those in the slums. Focusing primarily on widowed single mothers living in precarious conditions in the slums, I compare their self-perceptions and strategies for survival with the perceptions of middle-class Kampala residents who view the slums, and people living in urban poverty, from outside the community. I frame my interpretation in terms of Uganda’s adoption of a neoliberal development model that includes perceptions of poverty in terms of personal responsibility and failure, or deservingness and reciprocity. I also examine how the slums are represented in government census data and by non-governmental organizations. I argue that traditional neoliberal ideologies do not manifest themselves in the daily lives of the urban poor. However, those neoliberal ideologies can be found in the perceptions those residing outside the slum have of the poor as well as in the erasure of the poor from government census data. The power structures in place in Kampala ensure that those who embrace the neoliberal ideas of personal responsibility are the ones who make and enforce the polices that most affect the urban poor.

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