Accepted paper:

Addis Ababa's 'jazzy life' or: How Addis Ababa's urban space might contribute to a re-interpretation of urban resilience


Nicole Baron (Bauhaus-Universit├Ąt Weimar)

Paper short abstract:

This paper re-interprets urban resilience theory through 'on-the-ground' data from Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa. In doing so, I am able to provincialize existing 'mainstream' resilience theory. Furthermore, contextualized theory might improve urban planning in African cities.

Paper long abstract:

Adapting to change has become a popular topic in urban studies in times of climate change, rural urban migration, and global economy. Particularly, the concept urban resilience provides a promising conceptual framework for research and urban practice. However, its theoretical conceptualization takes place on the basis of western cities and western researchers. African cities, on the other hand, have not found much attention in the mainstream resilience discourse despite them frequently being the setting for so-called resilience strategies. While these strategies might be well-intended, they repeat the same mistake as previous 'slum'-fighting or sustainability strategies: they create and reinforce a dichotomy between 'proper' western cities and 'underdeveloped' African cities. Based on work and research in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa in the past ten years, I challenge the appropriateness of the existing resilience paradigm. They do not reflect the actors, spaces, activities - in short, the urbanity - of African cities. My proposal for a new, context-sensitive resilience theory is to start developing it based on the lives of the people in an African city. While this approach has already been successfully tested in critical urban studies, it has not yet been applied in urban resilience studies. Such an appropriation is meaningful because it bears the chance of developing theories that actually have something to do with the realities on the ground. Such contextualized theories might lead to more realistic urban politics and plans. Because in African cities, urban practice has an uncanny history of falling short of its targets.

panel Env04
Spatial theory and African urban studies