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The Cities Yet to Come? : Alternative Urban Futures in Africa 
Emilie Guitard (French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS))
Armelle Choplin (University of Geneva)
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Urban Studies (x) Futures (y)
Neues Seminargebäude Seminarraum 13
Wednesday 31 May, -
Time zone: Europe/Berlin

Short Abstract:

This panel examines alternative urban futures in Africa by crossing cultural and artistic perspectives with concrete urbanistic and architectural proposals. It analyses the diverse and rich urban imaginaries emerging from the continent to move beyond the rhetoric of urban dystopia or creative chaos.

Long Abstract:

Until recently, African cities were absent from mass cultural productions on urban futures. But new representations of African cities in the future are appearing nowadays in the field of 'speculative fiction', such as the capital of Wakanda, Birnin Zana, in "Black Panther". At the same time, a long-standing call to consider Africa as a 'laboratory of the urban avant-garde' (Koolhaas 2002) has recently resurfaced, highlighting innovative projects such as the Eko Atlantic district in Lagos or the achievements of the Burkinabe architect Francis Kéré, recipient of the Pritzker Prize in 2022. This panel proposes to examine alternative urban imaginaries in Africa from two complementary perspectives. Firstly, it will look at the way African future cities are imagined in the artistic field, particularly under the banner of Afrofuturism (Dery 1994) or Africanfuturism (Okorafor 2019). The focus will be on speculative fiction in film, literature, comics, photography, graphic design, etc., describing a futuristic African city, whether real or imagined. Secondly, it will consider concrete urbanistic proposals, realised or still under construction. Alongside futuristic 3D projects promoting a city disconnected from local needs (Watson 2020), alternative urban imaginaries valorise other ways of inhabiting: neo-vernacular architecture with local and sustainable building materials, local digital innovations (e.g. fablabs and makerspaces), ecological and sustainable solutions, etc.

Based on specific examples, this panel will bring together artistic proposals and real urban projects to highlight the African 'cities yet to come' (Simone 2004) in all their richness and diversity, beyond the rhetoric of urban dystopia or creative chaos.

Accepted papers:

Session 1 Wednesday 31 May, 2023, -