This panel explores the decolonial potential of distinctive 'people as infrastructure' that yet remains mostly absent from the Africanist scholarship: urban cultural elites. Considering elites as 'powerful intermediaries', it focuses on these cultural makers in relation to urban cultural governance.
Stemming from the dual interest to decolonise both theories and practices of social transformation and look at African urbanism through the prism of culture and creativity, this panel inquires into the decolonial potential of distinctive 'people as infrastructure' (Simone, 2008) that yet remains mostly absent, if not silenced, within the Africanist scholarship: urban cultural elites. Dismissing traditional elite studies, Savage and Williams consider elites "as a group of intermediaries whose power rests on being able to forge connections and bridge gaps" (2008:4). This panel draws on this perspective to explore how a new generation of cultural makers has been rethinking, reshaping, reimagining, recreating, hence cultivating anew what it means to be from African cities, and in this world. It thus invites contributions from both cultural practitioners and researchers alike interested in issues of governance in the urban cultural economy from the perspective of architecture, design, digital media, visual arts, fashion, music and performing arts. In cultural and creative fields characterised by both highly symbolic and material production processes, how do these urban cultural elites thrive to develop an endogenous vision in one of the wastelands of public policies? How do they affirm themselves as key brokers in processes of social transformation from their making of the urban cultural economy? And how do they manage to displace a state-centric focus of governance, while simultaneously displaying a decolonial potential in reading and acting upon its citiscapes, suggesting an alternative role of civil society, cultural diplomacy and urban policy de facto?