This panel will explore research questions surrounding the political and material distinctions, but also links and flows, between rural, urban and suburban geographical zones, with case studies from across the continent.
There are profound research questions surrounding distinctions between urban and rural Africa, as well as liminal suburban or peri-urban spaces. In popular politics, activism and elections, claims emerge for distinctions between activist, oppositional cities and passive, reactionary rural areas. Similar geographical fracture lines are often presented for economic development or cultural identities. This panel seeks to question the ease of differentiation by seeing continua alongside the fractures, and links and flows alongside the contrasts, connecting urban and rural in political, economic and cultural terms. We will examine these links and flows in the realm of ideas and movements, but also in material terms. Links and flows between urban and rural Africa - and between cities across the continent and around the world - have expanded in speed and volume especially in the last decade, alongside the growing significance of suburban and peri-urban areas amidst the contested and sometimes stalled processes of democratization in the 2010s. Papers from research contexts across the continent are welcome, potentially stressing: the importance of residential mobility and networks between towns, rural areas and beyond; uses of social media in building continuity between urban and rural worlds and distant places; the building (literally and figuratively) of cityness (citadinité) and citizenship in electoral contexts; or the fluidity and materiality of boundaries that produce or re-inforce the distinctions between these spatial zones.