Inside a construction boom: politics, responsibility and the temporalities of urban development

Marco Di Nunzio (University of BIrmingham)
Taibat Lawanson (University of Lagos)
Economy and Development
50 George Square, G.01
Thursday 13 June, 16:15-18:00
Thursday 13 June, 17:55-19:40

Short abstract:

African cities are booming. This panel explores how exceptional regimes of production, dispossession, urban politics, moral responsibility and finance are reconfiguring the landscape of African cites, while imposing ideas of the necessary, the inevitable and the certain on African urban citizens.

Long abstract:

Large infrastructural projects, new housing developments and high-rise buildings are reshaping the landscape of African cities. Construction booms, such as the ones African cities are now witnessing, explode at exceptional times of economic growth. The time projections for such booms are affected by the fact that economic growth is hoped to be "structural" and not "conjunctural", that is, triggering a continuous and cumulative expansion of the economy. Construction booms and economic growth are there to last, projections say. The idea of continuous growth is often a myth, as downturns cause resources to dry up. At the same time, the idea of economic growth as continuous and construction booms as lasting moments in the history of a city are "real fictions" that significantly affect policies of urban development and governmental ideas of responsibility. Economic growth is believed to hold the promise of a more just and abundant society, while construction booms are taken as living proofs that a better society is about to emerge. Spectacular highways and brand new high-rise buildings stand in the present as time machines connecting ordinary citizens to a future of urban abundance. The objective of this panel is not to prove these projections wrong, but to explore how construction booms are made possible through exceptional regimes of production, dispossession, urban politics, moral responsibility, and finance that rest on the assumptions that these booms are there to last and that economic growth will deliver benefits to society as a whole.