P200 – Urbanization and Expatriate Communities
10 July, 14:00-15:30

Büchele Julia / Centre for African Studies Basel


African cities are hubs for expatriates employed by embassies, national development organizations, NGOs and transnational companies. These transnational migrants not only pursue their careers, but also rent houses, shop, travel, send their children to international schools, join sport clubs, visit restaurants and employ domestic staff. More often than not they are deployed with their spouses and children, who engage with their temporary home in their own different ways. While individual expats and their families have a temporary stay, the infrastructure that caters to them may alter cities and towns in a profound and enduring way. There are longstanding debates about the implications, legitimization and effects of transnational actors such as development aid or issues of land grabbing by foreign companies. However, individual foreigners working in these fields have not yet been systematically addressed in African Studies. This panel therefore is calling attention to the manifold activities of expats beyond their work life. Contributions in this panel look at the life of expatriate communities in African cities and issues related to urbanization and inequality form different perspectives. How does this diverse group of temporary foreigners shape the local places they live and work in? In what ways do urban spaces, especially in fast growing cities, become the subject of contestation? How are certain places framed as “expat places”? And what constitutes “expat communities”?

Urbanisation et communautés des expatriés

Les villes africaines sont des centres socio-spatiaux pour beaucoup d’expatriés embauchés par des ambassades, ONGs et entreprises multinationales. Ces expatriés non seulement poursuivent leurs carrières ; ils louent aussi des maisons, font des courses, voyagent, mettent leurs enfants dans des écoles internationales, deviennent membres de clubs de sport, dînent dans les restaurants et recrutent des employés de maison. La plupart du temps, ils vivent avec leurs conjoints qui se consacrent temporairement au domicile et ce, de différentes façons. Tandis que le séjour de ces migrants transnationaux individuels et leurs familles est limité, l’infrastructure urbaine qui les accueille modifie les villes de façon profonde et durable. Les nombreux débats sur les acteurs transnationaux en Afrique (par exemple, l’aide de développement ou l’appropriation de terrain) s’intéressent rarement aux individus étrangers qui travaillent dans ces milieux. Ce panel attire donc l’attention sur les nombreuses activités des expatriés au-delà de leur travail. Les contributions dans ce panel analysent de différentes perspectives les mondes de vie des expatriés dans les villes africaines et s’intéressent aux questions d’urbanisation et d’inégalité. Comment ce groupe divers d’étrangers temporaires marque-t-il l’espace local ? Comment ces espaces deviennent-ils des sujets de contestation, surtout dans les villes à croissance rapide ? Comment s’établissent les “espaces d’expats”? Et qu’est-ce qui constitue la “communauté des expatriés” ?

Paper 1

Carboni Michele / CRENoS, Centre for North South Economic Research

Soi Isabella / Università degli Studi di Cagliari

Italian(ity) in Zanzibar. Implications and Influences of the Italian Presence

In the mid-1980s Zanzibar opened its economy to the free market, and tourism was recognized by local authorities as a sector to develop and to attract investment.
The rapid growth of the industry has radically changed the main island of the archipelago with dramatic environmental and socio-cultural implications.
The development of tourism has opened up new mobilities through flows no longer exclusively related to the Indian Ocean. As a consequence, the ever-cosmopolitan urban scape of Zanzibar Town has also undergone significant change.
Among the newcomers, Italians played a significant role as first investors in the new business. The investments created employment opportunities initially for seasonal workers and then on a more stable basis. At the beginning of the 1990s the number of Italians permanently living in the archipelago was still small, but the development of the sector made it grow significantly. Today Zanzibar might host about 200 Italian residents who live permanently in the archipelago.
Despite the clear influence on the landscape and the soundscape of Zanzibar Town, there is no such thing as “Little Italy”. This raises the question of the extent to which can we then talk about an “expat community” and/or “expat places”?
Based on observations and interviews, this paper aims to explore the evolution and the current peculiarities of Italian(ity) in Zanzibar: where Italians work and live, their relationship with the locals and with the Italian authorities.

Paper 2

Büscher Karen / Conflict Research Group, Ghent University

Analysing Patterns of ‘humanitarian urbanism’ from two NGO-towns; Gulu (Northern Uganda) and Goma (Eastern D.R. Congo)

Based on fieldwork conducted in the towns of Goma (Eastern D.R. Congo) and Gulu (Northern Uganda) between 2008 and 2013, this paper presents an ethnographic analysis of dynamics of ‘humanitarian urbanism’ in two cities in Central Africa, both characterized as a ‘humanitarian hub’, ‘NGO-pole’ and by a large international -expat- presence.
Both towns have experienced a significant urban expansion in the wake of violent conflict dynamics. Their urbanisation process has strongly been linked with and influenced by the increasing presence of international donor- development- and humanitarian organisations and their staff. These international actors have actively shaped and reshaped the cityscape by their impact on issues of housing, service delivery, infrastructure and local economic markets. Since both towns are at a different ‘stage’ in the process of ‘humanitarian urbanisation’, this comparative study offers interesting insights in the characteristics of this particular form of urbanism, its effects, its opportunities and pitfalls.

Paper 3

Brand Magdalena / CRESPPA-CSU / Université Paris 8

The Heterosexual Sociability of the French Expatriate in Bangui : the French Community in Bangui Watched from the Point of View of the Domestic and Sexual Work of Central-African Women

In my presentation I want to show how the french politics of expatriate work in Bangui (Central African Republic) is not limited to wage labor, but has effects on the private domestic spaces (home) and the public domestic spaces (restaurants, bars and night clubs). I will present how the french politics of expatriate work organizes the masculine heterosexual sociability of their employees in the private and public spheres. I will show how these heterosexual sociability is based on a division between French women and Central-African women, which is a division of domestic and sexual work. I propose to analyse how the French expatriate community is constructed at the intersection between wage labor, domestic and sexual work, and, to look how this intersection produces relations of power and resistance between French expatriates and the Central-African women who work in the bars and in the night clubs of the city.

Paper 4

Quashie Hélène / Institut des Mondes Africains, EHESS, Paris

Expats in the City: Living Immersed in or at the Margins of Urban Society? (Senegal, Madagascar)

Dakar and Antananarivo are two capital cities which have included European migrations in many areas since the Independence of Senegal and Madagascar. The professional and social networks of NGOs, embassies, private international schools, research institutes, small business and multinational companies have kept growing since then. Dakar and Antananarivo have become key locations for European institutions and enterprises in West Africa and in the Indian Ocean. European migrations often cross between those two sub-Saharan regions.
This paper focuses on expatriate lifestyles, which are mostly French in Dakar and in Antananarivo. Although these two urban spaces have different geographical configurations, European life-worlds look alike. They divide between communitarism and discovery of local environment. The use of urban space leads both to immerse in and to be excluded from local society. Furthermore, the social identity of “expat” reveals local contestation, based on class confrontation and framed by unequal transnational mobility. How do European foreigners cope with being “ethnicized” within local society? Most of their social networks and practices are related to their standard of living, despite differing conceptions of “cultural immersion”. Facing up to many local barriers, the social ties they build reveal (in)ability to deal with inequality, class dynamics and cultural stereotypes.

Paper 5

Heer Barbara / University of Basel

Expatriates as Drivers of Neighbourhood Transformation in Maputo

The lifestyles and expectations of expatriate communities constitute important drivers for current social and spatial developments in Maputo. Since the end of civil war and the transition to neoliberalism new types of neighbourhoods have emerged that aspire to global standards of luxury living and suburban aesthetics. They disrupt the colonial duality of the European city centre and the African periphery. This paper will dwell on these new spatialities of affluence in the city of Maputo as they have yet received little scholarly attention. How do expatriates’ everyday spatial practices (Lefebvre 1976) look like and how do they contribute to the production of the city? Because expatriates are usually tenants and stay temporarily in Maputo, most of them do not involve themselves directly in neighbourhood politics or land markets. In their self-understanding many NGO workers and embassy personnel see themselves as committed to values like social justice, poverty alleviation and sustainability. But their private consumption choices with regards housing, imported goods and transport contribute to processes of gentrification, exclusion of the poor from central neighbourhoods and privatisation of urban spaces. By linking expatriates’ lifestyles with larger processes of spatial transformation in Maputo this paper aims to contribute to the growing ethnography of expatriate lifeworlds in African cities.

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