Making the African City: Leisure, Security and Ordinary Urbanities 
Silke Oldenburg (University of Basel)
Barbara Heer (University of Basel)
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Start time:
29 June, 2017 at 16:00 (UTC+0)
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Short Abstract:

By moving social practices related to urban leisure and urban security to the centre of academic attention, this panel proposes to develop new perspectives on African urbanities outside of dominant narratives. We claim that African cities need to be rethought through the lens of the ordinary.

Long Abstract

There is a strong tendency of urban research to focus on the special, the spectacular, the extraordinary, which usually becomes articulated by urban dwellers and researchers alike within hegemonic urban discourses. Current research on African cities, for example, lingers between complaints about the ungovernability of mushrooming cities and the appraisal of urban inventiveness.

Urban experiences rooted in lived spaces of African cities, are, though, much more diverse. Our panel starts from the assumption that urbanity in Africa (as elsewhere) is a dialectical process that is equally based on the agency of the actors and their take on the structured social and material environment which simultaneously shapes them. We derive from the hypothesis that the production of African urbanities needs to be empirically addressed through the lens of the everyday and the ordinary (f. ex. Das 2000; De Certeau 1984; Lefebvre 1958). We assume that this lens is capable of addressing empirical and theoretical voids on African cities, usually uncovered by hegemonic discourses of development and creativity.

We conceptualise the urban dwellers' practices as a dialectic between encounter and distanciation, that is, how, when and where urban dwellers actively seek encounters or distance themselves from others. We invite papers which provide empirical studies on urban leisure and/or security, as these two urban realms tend to produce encounter and distanciation respectively, and are therefore especially adept for the study of African urbanities. We are particularly interested in papers which dare to analyse such urban voids from the perspective of the everyday (non-spectactular) city making.

Accepted papers: