P010 – Articulations of Urban Citizenship and Rights to the City in Africa
8 July, 14:00-15:30

Werthmann Katja / University of Leipzig
Sieveking Nadine / University of Leipzig / Guinard Pauline / École normale supérieure de Paris


“Urban citizenship” has become a catchword in global development parlance in the 2000s. Social theorists and policy makers have defined urban or “insurgent” citizenship as a membership created through urban residence, regardless of nationality. The notion can be linked to the slogan “right to the city” coined by Lefebvre (1968), encompassing rights to participation and rights to appropriation. Yet, whether these concepts contribute analytical power to discussions about urban transformations, inequalities and social justice, or what “rights to the city” can mean in practice remains controversial. We want to take up these debates in order to explore the multiple entanglements of current social and political processes in African cities. We are especially interested in how far urban residence (citadinité) and nationality (citoyenneté) are relevant for the dynamics of translocally and transnationally connected urban practices. In which ways do ethnic, religious, gender-based or other associations, movements and cultural initiatives engage with the city and/or the nation-state? Which rights are claimed by whom on what grounds? And which notions of participation, representation or membership (e.g. firstcomership, land claims, diasporas) are mobilized while articulating rights to the city.

Articulations de la citoyenneté urbaine et droits à la ville en Afrique
La notion de “citoyenneté urbaine” est devenue mot d’ordre dans les discours sur le développement à l’échelle globale. Citoyenneté urbaine ou « insurgé » a été conçue par des théoriciens sociaux comme une appartenance basée sur la résidence urbaine. La notion peut être lié au slogan du « droit à la ville » par Lefebvre (1968), englobant droits à la participation et droits à l’appropriation. Néanmoins, si ces concepts peuvent servir d’instrument analytique dans les débats sur les transformations urbaines, les inégalités et la justice sociale et ce que « droits à la ville » peut signifier dans la pratique reste controversé. Nous voulons recourir à ces débats pour explorer les enchevêtrements multiples des processus sociaux et politiques en cours dans les villes Africaines. Nous sommes particulièrement intéressés dans quelle mesure citadinité et citoyenneté sont pertinents pour les dynamiques des pratiques urbaines, de plus en plus enchâssés translocalement et transnationalement. Comment les associations ethniques, religieuses, basées sur le genre ou autres, les mouvements et initiatives culturelles engagent avec la ville et/ou l’état-nation ? Quels droits sont réclamés par qui et sur quelle base ? Quelles notions de participation, représentation ou appartenance sont mobilisés au cours de l’articulation des droits à la ville ?

Paper 1

Becker Heike / University of the Western Cape

Public Art Intervention and the Right to the City in Cape Town

Recent studies of South African urban movements such as the shack dwellers movement Abahlali baseMjondolo argue that they are mobilising for the ‘right to the city’, and that they are going beyond claims to ‘service delivery’ in advocating transformation of the city towards a new urban humanism. This point has been made particularly in Nigel Gibson’s (2011) work on the ‘Fanonian practices’ of movements of the urban poor for social transformation in contemporary South Africa. Gibson reads them through the connection of Fanon’s dialectic of liberation with the activists’ assumption of a Lefebvrian understanding of the right to the city as ‘a cry and a demand’. My paper argues that it is crucial to understand the role played by cultural initiatives in these struggles, and particularly the emergence of public art as a site of assertion of the right to the city. I explore how cultural initiatives in Cape Town interpret and engage an understanding of social justice and the right to the city, including both NGOs in the culture and development field, and subversive collective interventions, which engage with the right to the city in critical, often provocative forms of visual and performance art. Critical questions include, how the practices of these cultural initiatives articulate claims to the city, how they engage with both the city and the nation-state, and how their practices contest urban citizenship on grounds of class and residence regardless of nationality.

Paper 2

Martin Denis-Constant / Les Afriques dans le monde, Sciences po Bordeaux

Celebrating the Right to Urban Space in Cape Town

For more than a century and a half, the New Year has been celebrated in Cape Town (South Africa) with street parades and competitions of choirs and carnival troupes. Thousands of formerly classified coloureds revellers participate in these festivals born out of a street culture nurtured by material conditions prevailing in the neighbourhoods they used to inhabit before the 1970s. The streets were not only a meeting place but a space of creativity, the place of a vibrant denial of negative stereotypes imposed upon coloureds. The classification of these neighbourhoods as “white areas”, the ban on street processions implemented after 1976 undermined the social functions of the streets. They were met with symbolic struggles for the right to urban space that expressed, in addition to an implicit opposition to apartheid, the notion, widely spread among “coloureds”, that Cape Town, the “mother City” of South Africa, was “their” town and, consequently, that they were entitled to be full-fledged citizens.

Paper 3

Møldrup Wolff Stina / Aarhus University

Making Cities, Making Citizens

Within recent years, a new city-building business has made a storming entry on the African continent; the Satellite City. In Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s metropolis, several satellite city projects are currently on the drawing board. The Kigamboni New City project demands particular attention due to the sheer scale in terms of areal size and capital investment, as well as the fact that construction is to take place within an already densely inhabited urban area. Current residents of Kigamboni are therefore faced with eviction and resettlement if and when construction plans proceed. Through ethnographic research, I explore how residents in Kigamboni are articulating their rights and access to the city in light of uncertainty, as well as how claims to urban land are made through negotiations of indigeneity, various forms of land ownership and strategic engagement with local and central state actors. I argue that the imminent threat of resettlement has prompted the proliferation of contesting discourses of what constitutes ‘the good life’ for urban dwellers in Tanzania. While oppositional, these discourses draw lines to historic political and urban developments in Tanzania, as well as offer new perspectives on the state’s recent desire to make Dar es Salaam a ‘world city’ and the room for citizens’ participation in this transformation.

Paper 4

Prais Jinny / Columbia University

Defining and Performing Urban Citizenship in Colonial Accra, 1930-1940

This paper examines how African journalists living in Accra, Ghana during the interwar years sought to define and promote “urban citizenship” among the city’s newly educated men and women using the space of the local press. To do this, they launched popular-styled newspapers that idealized their own class aspirations as they defined and performed a type of urban citizenship that was a bricolage of global influences. Often articulated as the “New African,” the urban citizen embodied hope for the future of a self-governing West Africa within the British Empire. To be sure, discussions regarding African involvement in municipal politics played an important role in their newspapers, however, this paper focuses on the articulation and structure of the urban citizen (as endowed with both class and gendered dimensions) within newspaper accounts of leisure, in particular activities associated with Accra’s dance halls and nightclubs. It considers the possibilities for urban citizenship and its social, cultural, and political limitations during the late colonial period. It asks how the urban citizen, imagined by African journalists, challenged the colonial image of a tribal and rural African subject to present alternative subjectivities for West Africans to identify with and inhabit in their quests for a “New Africa.”

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