Accepted Paper:

The places à vivre of N'Djamena in Chad: alternative sociopolitical water spaces?  


Ismaël Maazaz (University of Edinburgh )

Paper short abstract:

Based on field research conducted in N’Djamena in Chad, this paper focuses on the Places à vivre (living squares) network as original “commoning endeavours” (Stavrides 2016) generating innovative social practices rooted in local neighbourhoods.

Paper long abstract:

Local cooperative schemes for effective resource governance in African have captured increased attention lately, more particularly with regards to access to water in urban settings (Mirumachi and Van Wyk 2010; Kim, Keane, and Bernard 2015). In N'Djamena, the Places à vivre (PaV, living squares) network gradually appeared in the 2000s. Funded by municipal authorities with the support of international donors, and put into place by Chadian and European contractors, this set of eight public squares aims at providing alternative sources of freshwater for residents of neighbourhoods disconnected from the Société tchadienne des eaux (STE) official network. Additionally, PaVs were designed as social spaces hosting activities ranging from neighbourhood association meetings to hairdressing or scrabble playing. In the challenging settings of a city marked by a conflictual history, PaVs embody original "common spaces" (Stavrides 2016) fostering social practices rooted in N'Djamena's diverse neighbourhoods and came to express public ownership by urbanites. However, they also face significant issues as exemplified by the lack of sustainable funding in time of striking recession and local attempts of political instrumentations.

Based on field research conducted in N'Djamena and focusing more particularly on the PaV of Chagoua, a dynamic neighbourhood of southern N'Djamena, this paper analyses the living square as alternative public spaces. After detailing the infrastructure and the governance of the PaVs, the paper delves into their social functions as common spaces implanted in neighbourhood across N'Djamena and the challenges lying ahead for the various actors involved.

Panel P106
Respatializing informality in urban Africa