The expansion of African cities is generating new patterns of collaboration and competition, sociality and distance. This panel explores the production of 'strangeness' in African cities, and the ways in which markers of difference are actively negotiated by urban inhabitants.
All cities are to a certain extent an assemblage of diasporas. As African societies continue to urbanise, diverse populations encounter each other within highly restricted spatial parameters, producing new patterns of collaboration and competition, sociality and distance. However, different groups experience these patterns in different ways. Rather than predetermined, the category of the stranger in the African city is actively negotiated by urban African inhabitants. It may be invoked to rationalise the alienation of others, for example from support networks and supply chains, but also to facilitate self-alienation, for example from regimes of government taxation and social obligation. This panel explores the production of 'strangeness' and difference in urban African environments. Taking inspiration from the classic work of Simmel (1908), as well as the recent contributions of Whitehouse (2012) and Hammar (2014), it seeks to unpack taken-for-granted markers of urban difference and to situate them within the emerging social, cultural and political economies of African cities.