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Accepted Paper:

Sedimentary relations: the materiality of urban riverbeds  


Cady Gonzalez (University of Florida)

Paper short abstract:

This presentation follows the uneven accumulation and flow of post-industrial and human waste particulates through the rivers of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to ground the instability and heterogeneity of urban political relations in urban terrain.

Paper long abstract:

Today, Addis Ababa is under renovation following the personal visions of Dr. Abiy Ahmed, recent Nobel Peace Prize winner and Prime Minister of Ethiopia. While infrastructural debates in Ethiopia often center on highways, railroads and dams, I am concerned with ‘urban natures,’ particularly urban riverways and green corridors. At the heart of my discussion is “Beautifying Sheger”—Dr. Abiy’s personal initiative to rehabilitate rivers and stimulate riverbasin economies that speaks as much to issues of managing urban growth and urban natures as it does the political project of state building. As the space where the wastes of industrial parks and the neighborhood seep in, coagulate and mount up, rancid riverbeds have held the streets of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in their noxious grip for decades. This presentation follows post-industrial and human waste particulates as they move downstream to understand the ways in which sanitation in the city is experienced and politicized through sediment. Drawing from 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork within three riverside slums, I illustrate how the rhythm and processes of accumulation and erosion of mineral and chemical deposits in urban riverbeds echo the varied, multifarious and unpredictability of urban terrain and the instability and heterogeneity of urban political relations.

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