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African Studies Urbanism and Urbanization
by
Garth Myers

Introduction

Africa is typically seen as both the least urbanized continent and the most rapidly urbanizing one. Its modern scholarly literature on urbanism and urbanization includes titles dating back more than seventy-five years to the work of the former Rhodes-Livingstone Institute in the Zambian Copperbelt, but urban studies in general experienced a retreat of sorts throughout much of the 1970s and 1980s. Since then, however, there has been a dramatic resurgence of African urban studies. Across the social sciences and humanities and across the continent, a wide range of works have emerged that examine the ways cities in Africa are developing. Both the urbanization process and the character of urbanism on the continent come under scrutiny in this work. Major debates concern the presence or lack of distinctions between African cities and those elsewhere. Thus major questions involve whether African cities are anomalies or dystopias, whether they exhibit unique patterns worthy of scrutiny, and whether they are following expected routes of development. The new literature of African urban studies is very vast and diverse, but it is possible to discern several key themes, as reflected in the headings and subheadings in this article. For each of these, the bibliography reflects only a sample of the many works available that examine the themes presented.

General Overviews

The first challenges that confront scholars of urbanism and urbanization in Africa are the size, diversity, and complexity of the continent. The works listed here address broad themes across a range of cities, covering development, postcolonialism, urban theory, planning, survival, and governance. UN-Habitat 2010 is in the vanguard of a larger effort of gathering and analyzing urban data across the continent. The two edited volumes, Simone and Abouhani 2005 and Demissie 2007, are samples of a wider phenomenon that tries to address the interdisciplinary concerns for urbanism and urbanization across this very broad continent. Beall, et al. 2010 is typical of the periodic stocktaking of the state of the field, and like Simone 2004, it also typifies the ways African urban studies scholars often combine theoretical approaches with applied, activist agendas for improving cities on the continent. O’Connor 1983 and Myers 2011 are general and thematic overviews that might also function as textbooks for courses on African urban studies.

  • Beall, Jo, Basudeb Guha-Khasnobis, and Ravi Kanbur. “Introduction.” In Special Issue: African Development in an Urban World: Beyond the Tipping Point. Edited by Jo Beall, Basudeb Guha-Khasnobis, and Ravi Kanbur. Urban Forum 21.3 (2010): 197–204.

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    An article that introduces a special issue of the only major Africa-based urban studies journal, Urban Forum.

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  • Demissie, Fassil, ed. Postcolonial African Cities: Imperial Legacies and Postcolonial Predicaments. New York: Routledge, 2007.

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    An edited collection that brings together key works that engage with postcolonial cultural studies on the continent with chapters on film, art, music, literature, and photography.

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  • Myers, Garth Andrew. African Cities: Alternative Visions of Urban Theory and Practice. London: Zed, 2011.

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    Synthesizes research in the late 20th and early 21st centuries by scholars across the continent, organized around five major themes: postcolonialism, informality, governance, violence, and cosmopolitanism.

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  • O’Connor, Anthony. The African City. London: Hutchinson University Library, 1983.

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    This book has long provided a benchmark for urban geography on the continent. It is particularly useful for its much-discussed typology of six urban forms typically found in urban Africa: indigenous, Islamic, European, colonial, dual, and hybrid.

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  • Rakodi, Carole. The Urban Challenge in Africa: Growth and Management of Its Large Cities. New York: United Nations University, 1997.

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    This book is a broad survey of urban management. As such it is beyond the category of urban planning alone. Still, it provides an excellent introduction to cities on the continent.

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  • Simone, AbdouMaliq. For the City Yet to Come: Changing African Life in Four Cities. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004.

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    This experimental book contains cogent analysis of urban issues and African responses to them, emphasizing four cities but also discussing a wide range of urban contexts.

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  • Simone, AbdouMaliq, and Abdelghani Abouhani, eds. Urban Africa: Changing Contours of Survival in the City. Dakar, Senegal: Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, 2005.

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    This edited volume represents a valuable contribution to the urban literature on Africa from one of the continent’s leading think tanks, the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), but with chapters covering the continent from south to north and east to west, Cape to Cairo and Dakar to Mogadishu.

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  • UN-Habitat. The State of African Cities 2010: Governance, Inequality, and Urban Land Markets. Nairobi, Kenya: UN-Habitat, 2010.

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    UN-Habitat program’s second comprehensive assessment of the state of things in urban Africa, the first having been published in 2008.

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Bibliographies, Review Essays, and Data Sources

Bibliographies, review essays, and online data sources meant specifically for African urban studies are still rare. This reflects in part the general neglect or disregard that the field endured for a number of decades. It is exceedingly rare to find the kind of comprehensive bibliography of urban studies for one country that Obudho 1985 provides for Kenya, to say nothing of the near impossibility of a bibliography for the whole continent. The African Studies Association helpfully commissioned the two major review essays included in this section, Mabogunje 1990 and Coquery-Vidrovitch 1991, each of which is the length of three to four average African Studies Review articles combined. Unfortunately, no follow-up works of comparable breadth or depth have been pursued, although Stren 1994 covers some of the same terrain, and Tarver 1994 takes a handbook approach, providing something of an advanced encyclopedia for urban studies in Africa. McLaughlin 2009, one of the many books of broader interest that now appear as electronic resources, has the added feature of audio files for hearing African urban languages. The Internet has opened up great possibilities for African urban studies research. Two exciting portals are South African Cities Network and African Centre for Cities.

Urban Histories

As a discipline, African history has increasingly turned its attention to cities on the continent as historians seek to tell the unfolding story of urbanization on the continent. The importance of the environment, the significance of precolonial state formations, and the roles of religion and culture stand alongside the rise of European power—and eventually colonialism—for the stories of urbanism and urbanization in Africa. Cooper 1983 represents a rather early intervention from historians into African urban studies. The next comparably broad approach (Anderson and Rathbone 2000) came nearly two decades later. French historians’ scholarship on urban Africa grew into a much stronger subcategory led by Coquery-Vidrovitch 2005 (published in 1993 in French). European scholarship on African urban history has generally proven quite productive, as Locatelli and Nugent 2009 shows. To some extent historians of urban Africa based in the United States have produced fewer broad volumes, but Salm and Falola 2005 is one. With the growth of scholarship on African urban history, there have been more urban history courses, and textbooks seeking to meet the needs of these courses include Goodwin 2006 and Freund 2007. Urban historians also take a regional approach, as in Burton 2002, an edited volume.

Histories of Specific Cities

As much as historians have sought to tell the narrative on a continent-wide basis, there are more works that examine the history of an individual city or of a set of cities in a region. In part because so many cities in Africa were relatively small until the late 20th century, widely available histories of specific cities are still comparatively rare, but the titles cited here represent a sample of how that lacuna is being addressed. Lloyd, et al. 1967 represents an early study of this sort, in this case of the historic city of Ibadan. Archaeologists have been crucial to urban historical studies, as exemplified by Jama 1996. Urban social history and the study of urban popular culture became increasingly common in the 21st century, as seen in Fair 2001 on Zanzibar and Brennan, et al. 2007 on Dar es Salaam. Urban labor history has a long trajectory in the historiography, from Penvenne 1995 on. Urban economic histories are often intertwined with architecture and urban planning and with the politics therein, as seen in Byerley 2005, Freund and Padayachee 2002, and Myers 2003.

  • Brennan, James, Andrew Burton, and Yusuf Lawi, eds. Dar es Salaam: Histories from an Emerging Metropolis. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Mkuki na Nyota, 2007.

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    This edited volume represents a groundbreaking shift in one of the most heavily researched countries on the continent, Tanzania, toward its cities.

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  • Byerley, Andrew. Becoming Jinja: The Production of Space and Making of Place in an African Industrial Town. Stockholm: Department of Human Geography, Stockholm University, 2005.

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    One of a handful of excellent monographs produced by participants in the People, Provisioning, and Place research group at the University of Stockholm.

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  • Fair, Laura. Pastimes and Politics: Culture, Community, and Identity in Post-Abolition Urban Zanzibar, 1890–1945. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2001.

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    A model study for urban social history for a specific city (in this case, Zanzibar) built from a combination of exhaustive archival research and extensive interviews with ordinary people.

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  • Freund, Bill, and Vishnu Padayachee, eds. (D)urban Vortex: South African City in Transition. Pietermaritzburg, South Africa: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2002.

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    An edited volume of modern economic history focused on South Africa’s relatively underappreciated third city.

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  • Jama, Ahmed D. The Origins and Development of Mogadishu, AD 1000 to 1850. Studies in African Archeology 12. Uppsala, Sweden: Department of Archeology, Uppsala University, 1996.

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    The value of this work increases with time, as it was a very rare study of Mogadishu’s long history, completed before the civil war there made such work impossible and destroyed so much of the city.

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  • Lloyd, Peter C., Akin L. Mabogunje, and Bolanle Awe, eds. The City of Ibadan. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1967.

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    This classic work presents a series of papers from the University of Ibadan in the mid-1960s, including a famous essay on the city’s morphology by one of the coeditors, Akin Mabogunje, whose works have long served as pivotal pieces for African urban studies.

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  • Myers, Garth Andrew. Verandahs of Power: Colonialism and Space in Urban Africa. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2003.

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    A comparison of the British colonial planning legacies for Nairobi, Lusaka, Zanzibar, and Lilongwe.

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  • Penvenne, Jeanne. African Workers and Colonial Racism: Mozambican Strategies and Struggles in Lourenço Marques, 1877–1962. London: James Currey, 1995.

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    This innovative book argues for the importance of focusing on masculine identity, racial politics, and the intimate experience of workers for understanding labor history in Maputo.

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Urban Economics

The resurgence of African urban studies has been in many respects an outgrowth of the fixation on development in African studies more generally since the 1980s. Since so much of development studies is concerned with the economy and much research suggests strong ties between economic development and urbanization, a significant vein of research inquiry has developed that examines the interplay between development—or the lack thereof—and the growth of African cities. Economic policies and the critique thereof were fundamental to many early works of the resurgent African urban studies, such as Simon 1992, Darkoh 1994, and Mainet 1985, and the urban and local dimensions of national economic development policies continue to be at the forefront of works like Hampwaye 2008 and Fraser and Larmer 2010. The gender dynamics of urban economies have been another key theme since the outset of African urban studies, even before works like Clark 1994 were published. Fewer works tackle the broader picture of all urban economic intersections with urban life, as Bryceson and Potts 2006 does, or seek to push policy makers to think beyond ordering social forces into a development straitjacket, as Pieterse 2010 does.

Structural Adjustment

One of the distinctive features of African urban studies has been the analysis of the urban implications of structural adjustment programs (SAPs) imposed by international financial institutions upon the vast majority of African countries as a means of debt recovery. Although a wave of debt forgiveness seems to have cooled the intensity of the analytic lens on SAPs, this literature remains a vital arena of debate among urban scholars. It remains common in African studies, for example, to think that development policy has had an urban bias, and structural adjustment policies seem to patently have many antiurban dimensions. Becker, et al. 1994 examines these flaws from a rigorous economic perspective. The emphasis on empirical documentation of the spatial and social impacts of the reforms is strong in Briggs and Yeboah 2001, a comparison of Accra and Dar es Salaam; Guyer, et al. 2002, which looks at southern Nigerian cities; Konadu-Agyemang 2001, a study of Accra; and Kondoro 1995, a study of Dar es Salaam. Ann Schlyter has spent her career critiquing wave upon wave of reform in Lusaka, Zambia, and Schlyter 2002 is but one of her many works that could be on this list. The same can be said for the work of Paul Jenkins on Mozambique and Angola; Jenkins 2002, on Luanda, is listed here.

  • Becker, Charles M., Andrew M. Hamer, and Andrew R. Morrison. Beyond Urban Bias in Africa: Urbanization in an Era of Structural Adjustment. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1994.

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    These three economists collaborated in developing an empirical assessment of the importance of urban growth for economic development as a whole, evidencing their counterargument to the rural emphases of SAPs.

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  • Briggs, John, and Ian Yeboah. “Structural Adjustment and the Contemporary Sub-Saharan African City.” Area 33.1 (2001): 18–26.

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    A rigorous comparative study of SAP’s impacts on urbanization in two African cities.

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  • Guyer, Jane I., LaRay Denzer, and Adigun Agbaje, eds. Money Struggles and City Life: Devaluation in Ibadan and Other Urban Centers in Southern Nigeria, 1986–1996. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2002.

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    This edited volume studied a key dimension of SAPs, currency devaluation, and its impacts in southwestern Nigeria over the course of a decade.

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  • Jenkins, Paul. “City Profile: Luanda.” Cities 19.2 (2002): 139–150.

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    The focus here is not explicitly on SAPs, but it does profile the impacts of neoliberalism in the city, as with Jenkins’s other works on Maputo.

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  • Konadu-Agyemang, Kdwadwo. “Structural Adjustment Programs and Housing Affordability in Accra, Ghana.” Canadian Geographer 45.4 (2001): 528–544.

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    A careful empirical assessment of the impacts of SAPs on Accra’s housing market.

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  • Kondoro, J. W. A. “The Impact of SAPs on Urban and Industrial Pollution in Tanzania: The Case Study of Dar es Salaam City.” In Policy Reform and the Environment in Tanzania. Edited by Mboya Bagachwa and Festus Limbu, 227–249. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Dar es Salaam University Press, 1995.

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    A rare analysis of how SAPs impacted the city’s environment—the only urban chapter in this edited volume.

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  • Schlyter, Ann. Empowered with Ownership: The Privatisation of Housing in Lusaka, Zambia. Roma, Lesotho: Institute of Southern African Studies, National University of Lesotho, 2002.

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    A title in the impressive, career-long cycle of books that Schlyter has published on compounds (townships) in Lusaka.

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Informality and Poverty

The increasing informalization of economy and society in African cities, whereby much of the economic activity and social organizing takes place off the books and outside of the regulatory reach of states, has been a mainstay of the urban studies literature on the continent for several decades. The literature has expanded and changed form as more noneconomic elements of informality have gained attention. From housing to labor organizing, new facets of informality increasingly emerge on the scholarly landscape created by Hart 1973. Some reconsiderations of informality, such as those in Hansen and Vaa 2004 and Abdoul 2005, expand toward sociocultural understandings. Political science analysis, as in Tripp 1997, remains surprisingly rare. Yet one enduring feature is poverty, since the expansion of the informal sector, generally speaking, has not significantly reduced the incidence of urban poverty, as housing policies critiqued in Macharia 1992 and Kironde 2006 make clear. A trend has involved analysis of worker organizing in the informal sector, led by Lourenço-Lindell 2002 and Lindell 2010.

Urban Environments and Environmental Justice

Most environmental studies research in Africa remains rural and based on conservation concerns, but the rapid growth of cities on the continent has given rise to increasingly significant environmental problems that are hard to separate from economic ones, and a scholarly literature analyzing these, often under the rubric of urban political ecology, has evolved, as exemplified by Njeru 2006. Intriguingly, there are also more social movements built around calls for environmental justice, generally seen as an equitable distribution of negative outcomes in the environment from urban development; these movements are assessed for the continent’s cities in Myers 2008 and Patel 2006. Perhaps because of the country’s experience with the urban extremes of white-minority rule under apartheid, South African cities have the most extensive literature addressing both urban environmental problems and urban environmental politics, as seen in Dixon and Ramutsindela 2006, Ruiters 2002, and Scott and Oelofse 2005.

Urban Land

For most city dwellers in Africa, the greatest environmental problem is access to quality land for residential construction. The urban economic development on the continent that is most observable is overwhelmingly that of housing construction, often undertaken informally. Yet this growth of residential areas literally rests on insecure grounds, since most African cities are plagued by inadequate or nonexistent land registration and titling data, as Kombe and Kreibich 2000 shows for Tanzania. Significant efforts to formalize land markets and foster the development of real estate have been a major focus of scholarly study. Reform efforts inspired by the Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto, who has argued for formalizing the informal property rights of the poor, are often heavily criticized in their African manifestations, as noted in Home and Lim 2004 and Manji 2006. Since these reforms entail legal changes, as Manji 2006 points out, it is often crucial to focus on the workings of the law in cities, as McAuslan 2007 does. Many scholars argue that we still understand very little about the workings of informal land markets, but studies such as Gough and Yankson 2000 and Ikejiofor 2006 are filling in this gap.

Urban Politics

Political science has yet to turn its attention to urban politics in most African countries, at least to any significant degree. Yet the foundational texts here remain highly relevant. As Kenya’s widely documented urban political violence in late 2007 and Ivory Coast’s political impasse in 2011 both showed, the city provides a crucial theater for political transformation and popular movements for democratization. Ironically, urban politics were crucially important to an earlier generation of more sociologically oriented scholarship, including Epstein 1958 and Cohen 1969. Political science literally seemed to “skip town” throughout much of the 1970s and 1980s outside of South Africa on the continent, with notable and invaluable exceptions like Baker 1974 and Chege 1981. The wave of democratization and multiparty electoral politics that began across the continent in the late 1980s and blossomed in the early 21st century produced a new round of studies on urban dimensions of that wave, such as Murunga 1999. Urban politics’ ties to urban planning flew under the scholarly radar in many African cities, even while works like Florin 2005 suggested the possibilities for extreme political alienation in cities like Cairo well before the wider world took note. South Africa’s distinct urban politics in the postapartheid era gave rise to the fascinating analysis offered in Ballard, et al. 2006, while Pieterse 2005 aims to speak to reformulating urban politics not just on the rest of the continent but in the urban world in general.

  • Baker, Pauline H. Urbanization and Political Change: The Politics of Lagos, 1917–1967. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974.

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    An early example of urban political science on the continent in what has become its largest city.

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  • Ballard, Richard, Adam Habib, and Imraan Valodia, eds. Voices of Protest: Social Movements in Post-Apartheid South Africa. Pietermaritzburg, South Africa: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2006.

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    Analyzes the transformation of civil society from the apartheid era of civic organizations and streets committees into new forms after the end of that era.

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  • Chege, Michael. “A Tale of Two Slums: Electoral Politics in Mathare and Dagoretti.” Review of African Political Economy 20 (1981): 74–88.

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    Urban work from a political scientist known for broader studies. This piece proved far ahead of its time in understanding electoral politics in Nairobi’s informal settlements, which exploded in political violence in 1982 and 1989 and most notably in 2007.

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  • Cohen, Abner. Custom and Politics in Urban Africa: A Study of Hausa Migrants in Yoruba Towns. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969.

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    An important baseline study for understanding contemporary ethnic politics in many Nigerian cities.

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  • Epstein, A. L. Politics in an Urban African Community. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1958.

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    One of the major works produced by the Copperbelt anthropologists of the colonial era.

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  • Florin, Bénédicte. “Urban Policies in Cairo: From Speeches on New Cities to the Adjustment Practices of Ordinary City Dwellers.” In Urban Africa: Changing Contours of Survival in the City. Edited by AbdouMaliq Simone and Abdelghani Abouhani, 29–67. Dakar, Senegal: Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, 2005.

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    A chapter that draws attention to the gap between state urban rhetorical flourishes and the lives of Cairo’s ordinary people—a good preface for political upheaval in 2011.

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  • Murunga, Godwin. “Urban Violence in Kenya’s Transition to Pluralist Politics, 1982–1992.” Africa Development 24.1–2 (1999): 165–198.

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    An analysis of patterns of connection between the movement for democratization in Kenya and the state’s role in urban violence.

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  • Pieterse, Edgar. “At the Limits of Possibility: Working Notes on a Relational Model of Urban Politics.” In Urban Africa: Changing Contours of Survival in the City. Edited by AbdouMaliq Simone and Abdelghani Abouhani, 138–173. Dakar, Senegal: Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, 2005.

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    Analyzes how urban political practice can become more deeply democratic in African cities.

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Governance

In lieu of extensive scholarly analysis of party politics in urban areas or city government politics, much of the scholarly attention has focused on governance, a fairly shifty term for the processes for organizing and carrying out decision making in cities. The late 20th and early 21st centuries have brought a substantive shift from government to governance, as urban governments are increasingly asked to jettison their interventions into the economy and management of urban settings in favor of the private sector and community-based organizations. This shift is front and center for Lerise 2000, for those chapters that are Africa-focused in McCarney and Stren 2003, and for Swilling 1997. Blundo and Le Meur 2009 has both a rigorous theoretical lens and a range of empirical settings for assessing governance reform, while Fourchard 2007 seeks out the routes and roots of urban political violence in governance decisions and processes. Simone 2006 challenges readers to think differently about what the author considers “pirate” governance among the majority of urban residents who live in informal settlements beyond the governing order. Pieterse 2010 takes its cues from works like Simone 2006 to argue for moving beyond the drab policy orientation of so much of the governance literature and to bend our ears toward the ungoverned, ungovernable, or piratically governed realities of so much of urban Africa.

Services and Service Delivery

Perhaps the most tangible arena for observing the changing nature of urban governance in Africa lies in the delivery of urban services. The ties are intimate between this delivery and the trajectory of democratization, as argued in Pillay, et al. 2006. Whether the service is Housing, water (Kjellén 2006, Yeboah 2006), solid waste (Adama 2007, Myers 2005), sanitation, or electricity (McDonald 2008), it is evident that African cities have been asked to rethink the delivery of these services via a reduction in the roles for government and a corresponding expansion in both private-sector and popular-sector (nongovernmental community group) involvement. The outcomes from the reform of urban service delivery vary as much as the strong views for or against different policy approaches, as Mitullah 2008 thoughtfully shows for Nairobi.

Urban Planning

Urban planning has relationships to the realm of governance and service delivery of course, but it is a separate professional dimension with a literature of its own. A profound and ongoing turn toward alternative theories of planning, as in Harrison 2006, and cogent critiques of its past practice, such as Njoh 2003, have made for a lively literature. Both Kalipeni 1999 and Nnkya 2007 offer more applied critiques that extend from the foundational edited volume Stren and White 1989, which outlines the state of planning problems at the dawn of the new era of democratic transition in the late 1980s.

Urban Sociology and Anthropology

As African cities have expanded, African urban societies have changed. Yet from Mitchell 1969 and other early works, such as Little 1974 and Mayer and Mayer 1971, through more contemporary work, such as Hansen 2000, sociologists and anthropologists working in African cities have drawn scholarly attention to the innovative and creative means for networking and place making found even in some of the poorest urban communities. Two edited volumes, Bekker and Leildé 2006 and Konings and Foeken 2006, highlight the comparative approaches to issues of urban social-psychological identities and neighborhood attachment, for example.

  • Bekker, Simon, and Anne Leildé, eds. Reflections on Identity in Four African Cities. Stellenbosch, South Africa: African Minds, 2006.

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    A social psychology–oriented study comparing identity in cities in West and South Africa.

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  • Hansen, Karen Tranberg. Salaula: The World of Second-Hand Clothing and Zambia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

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    This extraordinary book combines careful ethnography among urban Zambian used-clothing market participants with a globalized understanding of the flows of these commodities.

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  • Konings, Piet, and Dirk Foeken, eds. Crisis and Creativity: Exploring the Wealth of the African Neighbourhood. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2006.

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    An exciting edited volume that seeks to bridge sociological and geographic approaches to understanding urban neighborhoods.

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  • Little, Kenneth. Urbanization as a Social Process: An Essay on Movement and Change in Contemporary Africa. Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1974.

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    The third of Little’s important trilogy of books on African urban society. Little argues against seeing migration as mere demographic change, instead emphasizing the social and cultural changes set in motion by Africa’s urbanward movement.

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  • Mayer, Philip, with Iona Mayer. Townsmen or Tribesmen: Conservatism and the Process of Urbanization in a South African City. Cape Town: Oxford University Press, 1971.

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    This controversial study set in Port Elizabeth laid claim to the notion that Xhosa migrants often used traditionalist culture to resist modernization. Its findings have been subjected to substantial criticism, but it remains an essential text of African urban studies even with its evident flaws.

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  • Mitchell, J. Clyde. Social Networks in Urban Situations: Analyses of Personal Relationships in Central African Towns. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1969.

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    One of the standard pieces of urban sociology created in the Copperbelt, this book continues to influence scholars around the world. A rare early case of Africa-based research driving change in Western urban studies.

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Urban Life

Many outside observers seem prone to seeing African cities as disasters and failures, and it is fascinating to note that much of African urban studies scholarship has worked to counter the prevailing stereotypes by giving voice to the ways Africans bring cities alive. New forms of association and connectivity, like those studied in Tostensen, et al. 2001 and Simone 2010, come alongside often shocking youth cultures, like those highlighted in de Boeck and Plissart 2004, to make African urban life both unique and dynamic, according to the rather diverse accounts of the authors included here. One long-standing emphasis has been on the interplay between local and cosmopolitan cultures in Africa’s cities, a theme stretching from the early sociological studies cited elsewhere in this bibliography to works like Ferguson 1999 and Goerg 1999. Works such as Peil 1981 set the stage for another place of research emphasis over the years differentiating cities and suburbs or periurban settings, while Lugalla and Kibassa 2003 represents a body of work that documents the great hardships of African urban life for many residents.

Urban Popular Culture and Music

Despite poverty, informality, deprivation, dislocation, and violence, many African cities are centers of cultural creativity of world importance. Scholarship on popular culture has been particularly important in delving into the creativity of African performers as both commentators on and agents of social and political change in cities of the continent, as seen in the mental maps of the city discussed in Moyer 2004. This is also a theme taken up in many of the chapters in Falola and Salm 2005 and in Diouf 2008. Scholarship on music is a particularly productive dimension of popular cultural studies, as in Basu and Lemelle 2006, Moorman 2008, and Nyairo 2006 and carrying over into the barbershops discussed in Weiss 2009.

  • Basu, Dipannita, and Sidney Lemelle, eds. The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Culture. London: Pluto, 2006.

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    This edited volume is one of the first to draw attention to the dynamic transformation of African popular music via engagement with rap and hip-hop from the Americas and vice versa. Forward by Robin D. G. Kelley.

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  • Diouf, Mamadou. “(Re)Imagining an African City: Performing Culture, Arts, and Citizenship in Dakar (Senegal), 1980–2000.” In The Spaces of the Modern City: Imaginaries, Politics, and Everyday Life. Edited by Gyan Prakash and Kevin M. Kruse, 346–372. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008.

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    Examines the complex ways music, art, and other forms of cultural performance influence Dakar’s politics and vice versa.

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  • Falola, Toyin, and Steven J. Salm, eds. Urbanization and African Cultures. Papers originally presented at an international conference held at the University of Texas at Austin, 28 March–30 April 2003. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2005.

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    A volume from the annual African Studies Conference at the University of Texas with an urban theme.

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  • Moorman, Marissa J. Intonations: A Social History of Music and Nation in Luanda, Angola, from 1945 to Recent Times. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2008.

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    One of a number of studies examining the interrelationships of music and nationalism in postcolonial African cities.

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  • Moyer, Eileen. “Popular Cartographies: Youthful Imaginings of the Global in the Streets of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.” City and Society 16.2 (2004): 117–143.

    DOI: 10.1525/city.2004.16.2.117Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The means of place making and mental maps of street youths.

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  • Nyairo, Joyce. “(Re)Configuring the City: The Mapping of Places and People in Contemporary Kenyan Popular Song Texts.” In Cities in Contemporary Africa. Edited by Martin Murray and Garth Andrew Myers, 71–94. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.

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    A literature scholar’s interpretation of the lively representations of Nairobi in sociopolitical hip-hop music.

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  • Weiss, Brad. Street Dreams and Hip Hop Barbershops: Global Fantasy in Urban Tanzania. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009.

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    An anthropological exploration of youth cultures in the country’s cities.

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Urban Arts

Beyond music, cultural creativity across the continent’s cities extends to all of the visual arts (photography, sculpture, painting, and film). Contemporary artists based in African cities often straddle the worlds of African arts and those of Western cities. Nigerian popular films are popular and influential across the continent, as Barrot 2008 shows. Photography is central to the work and scholarship of Okwui Enwezor, as seen in Enwezor 2002. Formal art exhibitions celebrating contemporary African art and popular urban art are increasingly common, as shown in Roberts and Roberts 2003 and Njami 2005, while art scholars and street artists on the continent scramble the map of the world to juxtapose African cities with cities elsewhere, as Malaquais 2006 does.

  • Barrot, Pierre, ed. Nollywood: The Video Phenomenon in Nigeria. Oxford: James Currey, 2008.

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    An exploration of the explosion of Nigeria’s video film industry, influential across Africa.

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  • Enwezor, Okwui, ed. Under Siege: Four African Cities: Freetown, Johannesburg, Kinshasa, Lagos. Contributions from a conference held in Lagos, Goethe-Institut Inter Nationes, 16–20 March 2002. Ostfildern-Ruit, Germany: Hatje Kantz, 2002.

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    This conference volume brings together both amazing art and photography and state-of-the-art scholarship led by the exceptional photographer Okwui Enwezor.

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  • Malaquais, Dominique. “Douala/Johannesburg/New York: Cityscapes Imagined.” In Cities in Contemporary Africa. Edited by Martin Murray and Garth Andrew Myers, 31–52. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.

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    An art historian’s take on the representations and imagery of three cities and the substantive and symbolic relationships between the cities in the images.

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  • Njami, Simon. Africa Remix: Contemporary Art of a Continent. London: Hayward Gallery, 2005.

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    A companion book to the largest public exhibition in the history of African art. At least one-third of the book is urban in focus.

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  • Roberts, Allen, and Mary N. Roberts. A Saint in the City: Sufi Arts of Urban Senegal. Los Angeles: UCLA Fowler Museum, 2003.

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    Award-winning companion book to the groundbreaking exhibit at the Fowler Museum in Los Angeles that explores the artistic presence of the Mouride Sufi Islamic brotherhood’s marabou (saint) Amadou Bamba in Dakar and other cities in the country.

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Women, Gender, and Urban Society

The influences of feminism and women’s studies are broad and deep in African urban studies. The emphasis on reanalyzing domestic space through gendered scholarship in Bank 2011 is also found in many studies across this bibliography. The same can be said for the social history of masculinity at the heart of Martin 1995, a study of Brazzaville. Sex workers have been central to many studies, but White 1990 set the standards very high in scholarly terms. Women’s economic roles and economic spatiality are analyzed across many studies, but Sheldon 1996 has enduring importance as a volume that brings these emphases together. One crucial arena for gender studies in urban Africa, though, has clearly been the reconsideration of the meanings of marriage and family in Cooper 1997, Jeater 1993, and Mann 1985.

Housing

Where people live and how they make their homes are fundamental questions about the urban experience. Virtually every study in this bibliography has something to say about housing, but this section includes some of the works that place housing at the center of their priorities. Government housing policy, whether in the colonial era (Marris 1961, Cooper 1987), apartheid era (Ramphele 1993), or independence era (Amis and Lloyd 1990), is often a topic of housing research. Many works focus on informal settlements, such as Obudho and Mhlanga 1988, and occasionally make ambitious comparative reaches toward studying slum housing outside Africa as a part of the work, such as Huchzermeyer 2011. A focus on the everyday domestic experience of urban Africans connects this arena of scholarship with the wider literature of urban anthropology and sociology over the last half of the 20th century, as in Hansen 1997.

  • Amis, Philip, and Peter C. Lloyd, ed. Housing Africa’s Urban Poor. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1990.

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    This edited volume brings together expertise from cities across the continent. It is notable for both French- and English-language chapters covering all regions of Africa.

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  • Cooper, Frederick. On the African Waterfront: Urban Disorder and the Transformation of Work in Colonial Mombasa. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1987.

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    Although the changing nature of labor in Mombasa is Cooper’s main interest, he is also profoundly interested in workers’ housing and their spatial lives in the city.

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  • Hansen, Karen Tranberg. Keeping House in Lusaka. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.

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    Just one of the many important and influential works Hansen has produced on Lusaka. This one focuses on people’s experiences of homemaking in a Mtendere housing estate.

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  • Huchzermeyer, Marie. Tenement Cities: From 19th Century Berlin to 21st Century Nairobi. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2011.

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    Part of this book’s significance comes in its novel pairing of Berlin and Nairobi, deliberately comparing tenement housing across cities that are not typically placed in the same conversations in urban studies.

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  • Marris, Peter. Family and Social Change in an African City: A Study of Rehousing in Lagos. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1961.

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    Marris began the genre of former colonial officers rethinking the urban projects of the late colonial era. His powerful critique is still a worthy read.

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  • Obudho, Robert, and Constance Mhlanga, eds. Slum and Squatter Settlements in Sub-Saharan Africa. New York: Praeger, 1988.

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    This multidisciplinary edited volume concentrates on understanding the roots of slum housing and looks at potential policy solutions.

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  • Ramphele, Mamphela. A Bed Called Home: Life in the Migrant Labour Hostels of Cape Town. Cape Town: David Philip, 1993.

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    A powerful study of living conditions in hostels at the end of apartheid and the ways residents make spaces and places out of abject circumstances. The book is enhanced by its wonderful photographs.

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Architecture

Parallel with the rise of emergent popular culture and of cultural studies in Africa and parallel to the literature on Housing, architecture and architectural studies are growing very rapidly on the continent. A new generation of African architects is challenging Western hegemony over the professional creation of built forms and critiquing Western architecture’s occasional forays onto the continent. The glories of architecture on the continent through the ages are the focus of Elleh 1997, but the more contemporary power dynamics shape Nnamdi Elleh’s analysis in Elleh 2002. Colonial architecture is commonly assailed in the literature, seldom as effectively as in Çelik 1997. Enwezor 2003 questions what superstars of Western architecture, such as Rem Koolhaas, might seek to do in African settings. The possibilities for moving past apartheid’s architecture (Judin and Vladislavic 1998) or of creating a new, Africa-centered architecture (Hughes 1994) appear in this literature. Both indigenous inspirations like those in Guèye 2002, a study of Touba, and hybrid models like the new capital cities discussed in Hess 2006 point toward new African built forms in urban contexts.

Postapartheid Cities in South Africa

South Africa has far and away the largest literature in urban studies on the continent. In keeping with the struggle to reintegrate the country into the continent socially, politically, and economically after the end of white minority (apartheid) rule in 1994, there is an emergent literature on what has been happening in South African cities in the postapartheid years. This is a literature that seeks to engage both with global urban studies and with the study of other cities on the continent. Smith 1992 and Smith 2004 are studies from the beginning and in the midst, respectively, of this literature’s development. Robinson 1998 is a sample of the author’s numerous articles contributing to this subfield. Urban planning scholars in particular have played an important role, as in Harrison, et al. 2008 and South African Cities Network 2011. Critiques of postapartheid urban planning often take on the socioenvironmental justice dimensions of postapartheid planning (Visser 2001) or the disconnections between plans and the desires or imaginations of communities, as in the Murray, et al. 2007 edited volume.

Cape Town

One could potentially fill out this bibliography with subsections on literally hundreds of African cities, but Cape Town has emerged with arguably one of the most extensive bodies of scholarship on urbanism and urbanization on the continent since 1990. Many works examine Cape Town in relation to other cities in the world, while others seek to connect or compare it with cities in the rest of Africa. Connections between urban planning and politics captivate scholars like Vanessa Watson (see Watson 2002), while housing and informal settlement are central to works such as Lemansky and Oldfield 2009 and Saff 1996. Both Robins 2008 and Western 2001 target sociocultural change in the city (and the political implications thereof), while McDonald 2008 offers a rebuttal to the neoliberal development policies pursued as part of the city’s efforts to place itself on the map of globally important cities. Samara 2011 analyzes the links between these policy choices and criminality.

Johannesburg

Its boosters and its scholars share a sense, whether accurate or not, that Johannesburg is the most significant city in Africa. Certainly it has the largest urban economy on the continent, and its ratings on measurements of global connectivity dwarf those of any other African city. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it has the deepest bibliography of any African city (the titles included here are a mere sample of significant works). It therefore follows that a slew of scholars have spent long and productive careers tracking its transformations, such as Keith Beavon and Alan Mabin (see Beavon 2004 and Mabin 2007, for example). Beall, et al. 2002 makes an explicit claim for the global importance of Johannesburg in regard to questions about inequality and segregation. Nuttall and Mbembe 2008, an edited volume, makes even grander claims for recentering the study of cities from this “African metropolis” in terms of postcolonial cultural studies. Jenny Robinson, whose work has been hugely influential in propelling this sort of recentering of the map of global urban studies, has also tackled less abstract planning visions for South African cities, as seen in Robinson 2008. Martin J. Murray has produced key works on the city, including Murray 2011.

  • Beall, Jo, Owen Crankshaw, and Susan Parnell. Uniting a Divided City: Governance and Social Exclusion in Johannesburg. London: Earthscan, 2002.

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    These coauthors use mixed methods and multidisciplinary emphases to place Johannesburg in a central global position for an intellectual analysis of urban divides and how postapartheid South Africa sought to overcome them.

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  • Beavon, Keith. Johannesburg: The Making and Shaping of the City. Pretoria: University of South Africa Press, 2004.

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    A tour de force of the city’s spatial story from its origins through the postapartheid era.

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  • Mabin, Alan. “Johannesburg: (South) Africa’s Aspirant Global City.” In The Making of Global City Regions: Johannesburg, Mumbai/Bombay, São Paulo, and Shanghai. Edited by Klaus Segbers, 32–63. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007.

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    A chapter from one of Johannesburg’s leading geographers looking at its strategizing and ambitious planning to become a world-class city of great global importance.

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  • Murray, Martin J. City of Extremes: The Spatial Politics of Johannesburg. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011.

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    One of several propulsive books on Johannesburg’s political sociology from Murray’s perspective.

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  • Nuttall, Sarah, and Achille Mbembe, eds. Johannesburg: The Elusive Metropolis. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008.

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    A daring edited volume that grew out of the editors’ engagement with the cutting-edge cultural studies journal Public Culture.

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  • Robinson, Jenny. “Developing Ordinary Cities: City Visioning Processes in Durban and Johannesburg.” Environment and Planning A 40.1 (2008): 74–87.

    DOI: 10.1068/a39127Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An empirical study of outcomes from city development strategy processes in Johannesburg and Durban. One of many significant contributions from this author.

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Globalization and Migration

As African cities have grown, so too have their connections with the rest of the world. Although many measures of globalization—such as those that rely on flows of foreign direct investment—discount the significance of globalization for Africa, it is most surely in the continent’s cities that the economic, political, and cultural forces of globalization are increasingly evident, as Grant 2009 documents for Accra and Falola and Salm 2004 shows for many cities across the continent. Other works, such as Prestholdt 2008, show the long history of forms of globalization in Africa’s cities. Some works emphasize economic dimensions, such as Guyer 2004, while Simone 2001 is among the works stressing more sociocultural themes. Englund 2002 and Potts 2010 focus on migration, movement, and mobility within Africa, highlighting the trends by which classic notions of rural-urban migration are problematic in 21st-century Africa. At the same time the movement of millions of Africans to cities on other continents is also stretching the significance of globalization, as European, Asian, and North American cities are increasingly connected to African cities. Works like Mercer, et al. 2008 highlight the implications of this phenomenon for development in cities and towns in Africa.

LAST MODIFIED: 10/25/2012

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199846733-0066

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