Spatial theory and African urban studies

Ato Quayson (New York University)
Environment and Geography
David Hume, Lecture Theatre B
Session slots:
Friday 14 June, 8:45 - 10:30
Friday 14 June, 10:45 - 12:30

Short abstract:

This panel proposes to look at the ways in which new and old spatial theories might be applied to African urban studies without necessarily converting African studies to mere instantiations of such theories.

Long abstract:

What passes for theory in African Urban Studies is dominated predominantly by cases and examples from Western cities and critics. Thus we find that Western theory is drawn upon while African cities tend to elude much of this theory. Without necessarily debunking such theories, the question that needs to be asked urgently is what happens when we use African cities not as mere raw materials but as the very starting points for theorizing the urban. What might focusing on traffic congestion in Lagos, lorry parks in Accra, food vending in Zanzibar and soup kitchens in Johannesburg do for how we theorize the African urban. And in what ways does this theorizing help to illuminate the conditions of global South and global North cities? The following are potential topics: - How are Western spatial theories to be revised for application to African cities? -- What are the forms of spatial thinking available in African oral and philosophical discourses that might assist in thinking about the African urban? -- What is space in relation to the configuration of modern and traditional spaces in cities? -- What might the differences between spaces of assembly (lorry parks, train stations, football stadiums, etc.) and those of commerce (markets) contribute to a theory of urban space in Africa? -- What is the relationship between politics and spatial relations? -- How does urban planning create particularly recalcitrant and enduring spatial logics for African cities? Abstracts of 300 words to be sent to Ato Quayson <aq10@nyu.edu>.