Accepted Paper:

Nostalgia and/or Paranoia: Time-narration and City-identification in a Neighborhood of Lagos  

Author:

Allen Xiao (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Paper short abstract:

Based on an ethnographic case study of Gowon Estate in Lagos, Nigeria, this paper will explore how urban individuals in a state-led housing enact city-identification practices while narrating everyday lives in temporal senses of individuals’, the neighborhood’s and the city’s trajectories.

Paper long abstract:

African urban studies tend to problematize African cities by revealing the malfunction of urban governance, unbalanced socioeconomic structures, and haunted colonial legacies. On the other hand, they underline the potential of African urbanism by unveiling the vibrancy of urban informalities, the dynamics of entrepreneurial transnationalism, and the upsurge of materialist aspiration. This contradictory assemblage of two seeming extremes in the structural analysis of African cities shadows the multiplicity of city-identities which city residents may construct, negotiate, and contest over the time and the politics of time in articulating city-identities.

Based on an ethnographic case study of Gowon Estate in Lagos, Nigeria, this paper will explore how urban individuals in a state-led housing enact city-identification practices while narrating everyday lives in temporal senses of individuals', the neighborhood's and the city's trajectories. Built by the federal government in 1975, apartments in Gowon Estate were allocated to civil servants recruited from all over the country. Without any maintenance by the state in the 1980s, the housing was privatized and only lower-class residents remained. There are two distinct generations of residents still living in the estate: the elder are migrants retiring from civil services; the young are their children born and raised up in the estate, who are currently struggling with underemployment in Nigeria. The ethnographic portrait of both generations will shed light on grassroots conceptualization of time as politics and nuanced identification of city as experiences. This exploratory research suggests further studies of interconnected practices of time-narration and city-identification in urban Africa.

Panel P029
Time as politics: past present and future in African urbanism