The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


Melike Toprak

Melike Toprak

Nationality: Turkish
Thesis: The Entwined Interest of Internal and External Dynamics: Tracing Side Effects of China-Kenya Engagement on the State, Society and Territory
Key Topics: China in Africa, Geopolitics, Geoeconomics 


I am interested in the new changing geographies of power shaped by China’s investments in Africa, particularly in Kenya. Bearing mind the idea that International development is too often geopolitics, I aspire to focus on the advantages and disadvantages of emerging economic, political and cultural relationships between Kenya and China.

I offer a different perspective aside from the dominant tendency in the domains of geopolitics and international relationship. While the majority of researches are concentrating on the negative or positive side of this engagement or the implicit clash between the two biggest economic powers, the main aim in my research is to address the lacuna in the literature about the impact of this relationship for the formal institutions of Kenya and its social forces on an economic, political, spatial and cultural scale. Additionally, keeping distance from binary narratives, I question which drivers nudge Kenya, as an active player, into having a close relationship with China.

My professional career began with a research project where I worked as an assistant from 2018 to 2020 and in which the main question was, “which factors cause an upward or downward social mobility in peoples’ life in Turkey?”. Key themes running through my work include: political geography, land-use changes, social mobility and Geographic Information Systems.

In my spare time I enjoy watching anime, cycling and painting watercolour. 

Primary supervisor: Dr Zeremariam Fre
Secondary Supervisor: Dr Andrea Rigon