P093
Cameroonian cities: conviviality and contradictions

Convenors:
Ben Page (University College London)
Basile Ndjio (Freie Universitat Berlin )
Chair:
Ben Page
Discussant:
Basile Ndjio
Format:
Panels
Location:
KH105
Start time:
30 June, 2017 at 14:00
Session slots:
1

Short abstract:

The panel seeks papers about contemporary urban life and theory from Cameroon. We will avoid rehearsing narratives about 'informality' and 'urban problems' and are looking for new stories and interpretations of the Cameroonian urban scene from anthropology, sociology, politics, geography & planning.

Long abstract:

The particularities of Cameroonian politics, society, history, geography and dreams have produced cities that are a reflection of the country more widely. There is political stability - but it often feels more like stasis; the future is being perpetually deferred. There is frenetic activity, but (for many) limited social mobility. There is diversity of architecture, language, climate and identity yet the practices of urban government and the material spaces of the cities can seem homogeneous. There are elaborate urban planning regulations - but they serve a purpose other than planning. Cameroon's cities are intensely creative - but also profoundly constrained, both by social conservatism and political anxieties. There are dramatic new infrastructure projects - yet demands for more effective public services seem permanently unsatisfied. Land markets are fiercely competitive - but they are mired in debates about autochthony and tradition. Youth is everywhere in Cameroonian urban space - yet an older generation seem to have the city firmly under their control. People make homes in the city, but then vanish overnight to pop up in another urban milieu, to become bushfallers overseas or retreat to the countryside. In this panel we hope to move away from earlier, familiar invocations of 'informality and its problems' and instead are seeking papers that capture other stories of Cameroonian cities: what is new? What does current urban life tell us about how Cameroonian society is changing? What analytical tools do we need to interpret the new urban scene? What is distinctive about the Cameroonian urban condition?