Accepted paper:

Cementing african landscapes: cement flows and city making in the West African Urban Corridor (Accra, Lomé, Cotonou, Lagos)


Armelle Choplin (Université de Genève)

Paper short abstract:

This paper focuses on cement which materializes the “planetary urbanisation”. Tracking the cement chain from the extraction sites to the private building plots, this paper questions new forms of urbanization and the contemporary city making in the West African urban corridor from Accra to Lagos

Paper long abstract:

In a context of « planetary urbanisation » (Brenner, Schmid, 2016), this paper focuses on what constitutes the materiality of the urban process: that being, "cement". Following the material and the social lives of cement, the paper aims (1) to analyse the spatiality of the "cement chain" (extraction, production and circulation) which links rural, suburban and urban spaces; and (2) to understand the technical, political and social uses of cement in producing urban corridors (building and dwelling perspectives). Mobilising urban political ecology literature (Heynen et al. 2005; Gandy, 2002) and urban subaltern studies (Bayat 1997, Robinson 2006, Roy 2011) we pay attention both to the urban metabolism and the everyday city-dwellers practices. Along the West African urban corridor between Lagos and Accra, we follow the cement chain, tracing the pathways of cement bags, starting from the quarry to the block manufacturing stages, and ending in private building plots. Finally, the paper questions the cement supposed sustainability over time and space. It discusses the apparent consensus around cement as an element of development whereas cement production is really energy intensive.

panel P193
Boundaries, Links, and Flows: the Materiality and Political Meaning of Distinctions between Urban, Suburban, and Rural Africa