Middle Class Modulations: The Spatial Repercussions of Speculative Land Investments in Maputo, Mozambique
Morten Nielsen (National Museum of Denmark)
Paper short abstract:
This paper examines the socio-spatial repercussions of speculative land investments in Maputo, Mozambique, made to accommodate a national middle class, which might no longer exist. While the expected profit might never be gained, investments serve to reconfigure existing socio-spatial hierarchies.
Paper long abstract:
Based on ongoing ethnographic research in Maputo, Mozambique, this paper examines the socio-spatial repercussions of speculative land investments made to accommodate a national middle class, which might no longer exist. If it ever did. Less than 10 years ago, sub-Saharan Africa's growing urban middle class was mobilized as the continent's savior. With increasing levels of consumption and explicit demands for democratic stability, the African urban middle class was considered as the harbinger of a bright future untainted by the economic and political weaknesses of the past. Today, the prospective role for the urban middle class seems less clear. The expected macro-economic growth has not yet materialized and it is doubtful whether an expanding middle class does, in fact, lead to better governance and reduced poverty. Still, as I will argue in this paper, while sub-Saharan African urban middle classes might have failed to bring about radical improvements of overall socio-political and economic conditions, imageries and expectations associated with middle-classness continue to reverberate through the continent's urban landscapes with considerable consequences for numerous and differently positioned urbanites. In a small neighborhood on the outskirts of Maputo, recent speculative investments in land have activated and fundamentally reconfigured local socio-spatial hierarchies. Crucially, many investors, residents and community authorities doubt that the planned middle class construction projects will ever be successfully realized. Instead, the construction projects serve as apt vehicles for modulating existing socio-cosmological relations to land and also for allowing a range of different actors to articulate new forms of land claims.