Accepted Paper:

Watery Relations: On Ways of Hybridization in Urban Wetlands  


Sandro Simon (University of Cologne)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores hybridization processes in the wetlands of Bamenda (CMR), where different forms of use and imaginations of urbanity intermingle. It thereby traces two infrastructural measures, their ‘grounding’ in wetness and how they mediated the relations between authorities and wetland users.

Paper long abstract:

Situated in the North-East of Bamenda, the Wetlands constitute the ultimate larger open sphere within the city and 'divide' two Fondoms and two governmental subdivisions. Within the last 50 years, the area changed from dry- to wetland and from customarily controlled to governmentally owned land. They are used by herders and fisherman and cultivated by a multitude of mostly female farmers.

This paper seeks to assess and connect two major infrastructural measures - one in the past, one in the future. It thereby avoids notions of fixed 'fronts' or 'borders' and instead traces ways of hybridization (cf. Swyngedouw, Haraway) where material and discursive as well as natural and social processes of place- and force-making intermingle over space and time (cf. Tsing).

The construction of a road across the wetlands and the channeling of the river in 2007, funded largely by the EU, aimed at the increase of connectivity and flood prevention. However, due to the accumulation of sedimentation and (city-) waste at the road and lacking funds and cooperation for maintenance, the water started to 'go out of place' again.

On the other hand, in the anticipation of the construction of the city's second center in the wetlands through a PPP, global notions of urbanity, where water should be controlled and certain work practices pushed 'outside', meet localized imaginations and lived (watery) experiences. Negotiations thereby largely unfold 'indirectly' via the material co-configuration of the wetlands by the different actors (e.g. signboards, cultivation or excavation) and the 'reading' by the counterpart.

Panel P089
Contested waterfronts in Kenya, Cameroon and Côte d´Ivoire