Northwestern University

Wed 12:00 PM

Urban Development in West Africa: The Conflicting Visions of Residents and Planners

recurring see all events in this series

When: Wednesday, April 27, 2016
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM  

Where: 620 Library Place, PAS Conference Room, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Cost: Free

Contact: Program of African Studies   847.491.7323

Group: Program of African Studies

Category: Lectures & Meetings


Abstract: To many observers, the form of African cities appears chaotic. Although some neighborhoods may be laid out in formal grids, other so-called “spontaneous” neighborhoods are perched on hills, nestle in flood plains, and increasingly, invade villages on the urban periphery. This presentation, based on short-term ethnography in Dakar, Ouagadougou, and Bamako, will show how the contemporary form of major West African cities reflects the conflicting interests and visions of different groups. On the one hand, urban planners and municipal authorities hold rationalist views of ideal cities; they should have clear zoning and infrastructure that meets national, even international, standards. On the other hand, residents want a place to call their own; although they desire water and electricity, schools and clinics, they often prioritize access to building plots, legal or illegal. Long-term residents of inner-city neighborhoods strategize to preserve their homes even as they negotiate with authorities to get better services. Younger residents and immigrants often turn to the urban periphery, where they collude with existing customary owners to procure building lots. Because these groups indeed have different goals, the resulting form of cities, a result of their negotiations, is usually far from the rational vision of planners.

Bio: Dolores Koenig is Professor of Anthropology at American University in Washington DC. She is on sabbatical at NU this year as a Buffett Center Visiting Scholar and an affiliate of the Department of Anthropology. She has worked extensively in West Africa on issues of agricultural development and forced resettlement caused by rural and urban development projects. Her work following those relocated at the Manantali Dam in western Mali has appeared in articles such as: Notions of Participation in Development Projects: Involuntary Resettlement at Manantali in Cultures et pratiques participatives: Perspectives comparatives and The Environmental Effects of Policy Change in the West African Savanna: Resettlement, Structural Adjustment and Conservation in Western Mali (with Tiéman Diarra) in Journal of Political Ecology. More recent work on urban relocation in West Africa and India includes: Activists in Urban Forced Resettlement in Development-induced Displacement and Resettlement: Revisiting the Knowns and Revealing the Unknowns and Multiple Actors and Contested Terrains: Strategies of Pro-poor Action in Contemporary Urban Restructuring in Journal of Developing Societies.

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