Accepted paper:

"Seeing like a City": Infrastructure in Zanzibar Stone Town


Rose Marie Beck (University of Leipzig)

Paper short abstract:

Following cables, wires, water pipes in Zanzibar Stone Town I explore whether "seeing like a city" is an alternative to "seeing from the North" and "seeing from the South".

Paper long abstract:

In their recent book "Seeing Like a City" (2016) Ash Amin and Nigel Thrift invite us to take seriously the complexity of the city. Indeed, they make us see what seeing like a city could be like. In my contribution I want to show how I tried to follow their advice by following and untangling bundles of electrical wires, assorted cables and water pipes attached to houses throughout the old kasbah city of Zanzibar. Trying to find their beginnings and endings turned out to be as impossible as enlightening and more and more irrelevant. Instead I found leaking pipes watering a miraculous garden in a dusty backyard. I found cables sneaking in and out of windows, histories of infrastructure identifyable through the degree that they were painted over, or not. Makeshift water connections attached to supporting poles of a house being pulled down in the next days. Trees hugging bunches of cables-water-pipes-telephone-cables. CCTV cameras in quiet back alleys overseeing what?! I ended up untangling not only infrastructure, but with it the recent political history of Zanzibar in its local, national and global connections. In my contribution I am interested to explore whether and how"seeing like a city" could be an alternative to "seeing from the North" and "seeing from the South".

panel Anth14
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