Accepted paper:

The image of the City: David Adjaye's Urban Africa photographic journey


Stefan Voicu (Central European University)

Paper short abstract:

The paper discusses the production of a visual discourse concerning African urbanity and presents the possible political and economic effects of its social circulation.

Paper long abstract:

Debates regarding African urbanity, as Garth Myers notes, are obscured by Western discourses. The problem with these is that they are unable to conceive the 'other', to put it in James Ferguson's terms, 'as an inseparable other-who-is-also-oneself to whom one is bound'. The so called 'Africa talk' is rather instrumental, serving as a mediator for the articulation of the Western political subject (Achille Mbembe). In this paper, I focus on the practices related to David Adjaye's project, British architect born in Tanzania, entitled 'Urban Africa - A Photographic Journey'; more precisely, I will take a look at the process of photographing the cityscapes, exhibiting the photos and presenting the project. The scope is to grasp the discourses embedded and articulated by this practices and see how, or if it overcomes or strengthens the 'shadow' laid over the continent. Methodologically, I am concentrating on materials accessible on the Internet: press clippings, video interviews, mini-biographies and available photography. This type of analysis comes along with certain epistemic limits but it can still offer valid, useful and interesting insights of the ready-to-hand visual discourse.

panel W018
Confronting uncertainty: imagination in art and material culture