Accepted paper:

Speculative spaces: being in permanent transit in Maputo, Mozambique


Morten Nielsen (National Museum of Denmark)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the place-making effects of being in ’permanent transit’ for a large group of urbanites having invaded several construction sites around Maputo, Mozambique, as a series of orchestrated attempts at being resettled and, through that, compensated with land elsewhere in the city.

Paper long abstract:

Based on recent ethnographic fieldwork in Maputo, Mozambique, this paper explores the peculiar place-making effects of being in 'permanent transit' for a large group of urbanites living on the outskirts of the city. In recent years, the pace of both public and private construction projects in Mozambique has been drastically increased, not least through the growing number of collaborative initiatives between the Frelimo government and several semi-national Chinese construction consortia. To a growing group of poor urban settlers having hitherto been occupying land illegally, however, the construction sites seem to reverberate with meanings and intentions altogether different from those of the Chinese and Mozambican cadres praising the modernist visions guiding the many building projects. In a series of orchestrated events, these urbanites have invaded the projected construction sites; not as an attempt to gain access to the land, but, rather, to provoke an official resettlement process and, through that, compensation with legitimate property rights to land elsewhere in the city. Although this strategy has, in fact, been successful for some urbanites, to the large majority, they end up living on the fringes of the construction sites for exnteded periods of time or, equally likely, being provisionally moved to adjacent areas while awaiting the government's decision. In this paper, I consequently trace the speculative place-making strategies of urban settlers being caught in permanent transit with a particular emphasis on the spatio-political cosmologies activated while living in a state of spatial and temporal deferral.

panel P121
Spirit of place