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Over the past fifteen years, the city of Kisumu in western Kenya has emerged as an epicentre of ‘global health’ interventions, organized by non-governmental and transnational groups. These interventions involve concrete, practical engagements with the city's populations, but also imaginations and desires, as they intersect with residents’ expectations of development. This article follows the hopes, aspirations and trajectories of people who attach themselves as volunteers to these interventions, or who hope to do so through a process they describe as ‘tarmacking’. In exploring how volunteers orient themselves to ideas of ‘empowerment’ that are promoted by NGOs and also have influence outside institutional settings, it examines the relations between the landscapes of intervention, the spatial-temporal horizons, and the geographies of responsibility emergent in the city. Through its association with ‘moving ahead’ and with development, empowerment implies movement towards some kind of future. While there is a widely shared sense among volunteers that they are going somewhere, just where that might be is not clearly articulated. Rather than attempt to pinpoint this destination, this article follows their trajectories in an attempt to grasp why and how it remains obscure.


Au cours des quinze dernières années, la ville de Kisumu dans l'Ouest du Kenya est apparue comme un épicentre d'interventions en « santé mondiale », organisé par des groupes non gouvernementaux et transnationaux. Ces interventions impliquent un engagement concret et pratique avec les populations de la ville, mais aussi avec leurs imaginations et leurs désirs, qui s'entremêlent avec les attentes des résidents en matière de développement. Cet article suit les espoirs, les aspirations et les trajectoires de personnes qui se joignent à ces interventions en tant que travailleurs de santé bénévoles, ou qui espèrent le faire à travers un processus qu'elles désignent par le terme de « tarmacking ». En s'intéressant à la manière dont les bénévoles s'orientent vers des idées d’« autonomisation » qui sont promues par les ONG et ont également une influence en dehors des milieux institutionnels, il examine les relations entre les paysages d'intervention, les horizons spatio-temporels et les géographies de la responsabilité qui émergent dans la ville. À travers son association avec l'idée d’« aller de l'avant » et de développement, l'autonomisation implique un mouvement vers une sorte de futur. Les bénévoles partagent assez largement le sentiment qu'ils vont quelque part, mais sans clairement préciser où se situe ce quelque part. Plutôt que de tenter de localiser cette destination, cet article suit des trajectoires personnelles pour tenter de comprendre pourquoi et comment elle demeure obscure.

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