EASA2014: Collaboration, Intimacy & Revolution


Intimate collaborations and gendered spaces in African cities

Location M-648
Date and Start Time 01 August, 2014 at 16:00


Nadine Sieveking (Georg-August-University Göttingen) email
Katja Werthmann (University of Leipzig) email
Sandrine Gukelberger (Ruhr-Universität Bochum) email
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

This panel examines how the gendered dimensions of intimate collaborations characterizing urban dwellers' every-day and night-lives, including the curtailing of intimacy through forms of avoidance and segregation in private or public domains, contribute to new kinds of urban sociality in Africa.

Long Abstract

Recent research has highlighted multifaceted processes of fragmentation and increasing inequalities in urban Africa. While these trends have been related to and interpreted in terms of neoliberal transformations and new modes of (dis-)connectedness on global scales, their intimate and gendered dimensions have not attracted much attention.

This panel focuses on gendered dimensions of urban life that are characterized by intimate collaborations in various spheres, including the family, kin or peer group, friends and sexual relations, private habitations, as well as work places, public spaces, political organizations or other kinds of 'strategic groups'. People's intimate relations - or the curtailing of intimacy through forms of avoidance and segregation - result in complementing or competing patterns of activities and movements which may have different meanings and relevance for urban dwellers' every-day and night-lives.

In our panel we want to examine how the gendered dimensions of intimate collaborations contribute to shaping urban spaces. We invite empirically grounded papers that address this topic from various angles and perspectives. The papers should address the following questions:

- How are 'intimacy' and 'collaboration' defined, perceived, circumscribed or performed in a given context?

- Who are the actors in which types of collaboration? In what way is gender relevant for the type of collaboration?

- "Intimacy" implies knowing about relative social closeness to some and distance to others. How is this knowledge acquired?

- Do 'intimate collaborations' contribute to new kinds of urban sociality or professional life in Africa?

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Times of friendship, spaces of sociability: youth activism and everyday solidarities in Mubarak's Egypt

Author: Henri Onodera (University of Helsinki)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines the intersections of urban space and everyday sociability in the lives of young activists in Mubarak’s Egypt. Friendship ties provided them with intimate loci of trust, belonging and reciprocity, but were shaped by social cleavages e.g. class, gender and partisan membership.

Long Abstract

During 2000s, certain quarters of down-town Cairo served as important social hubs for young prodemocracy activists. As they lived around Greater Cairo area and their everyday trajectories involved criss-crossing the city, a constant practical question for many was: Where to sit down? And with whom? Some frequented in a set of cafeterias, both Western-style and the more popular coffee houses, others in public parks, restaurants or at a street corner. Those, who had access to the headquarters of political parties, associations, trade unions, and newspapers, would invite their friends to spend time at these premises.

This paper examines the role of down-town coffee shops, especially in the quarter of el-Bursa, for the daily practices of social networking among young activists during Mubarak's late presidency. The quarter is of walking distance from the main arenas of contentious politics, and provides a space of congregation, leisure, and sociability. In addition to the social web, it represents an important urban space where friendship ties, political coalitions, and collaboration were negotiated on a daily 'face-to-face' basis. In a patriarchal society, it was also one of the few places in central Cairo where unmarried young men and women could socialize with relative ease. The quarter provides its clientele with a hybrid sense of cosmopolitan belonging, nationalist glory of 1920s 'belle époque' era, and relatively inexpensive popular consumerism.

The paper bases on 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Cairo between 2007 and 2011. Theoretically it is anchored in anthropological approaches to friendship and everyday sociability.

Mama's Luanda: feminine religious trajectories in Luanda

Author: Natalia Zawiejska (Jagiellonian University)  email

Short Abstract

The religious feminine networks are important part of Luanda’s everyday life experience. Women church departments play relevant role in (re)mapping and (re)shaping of the city space but also extend official activities on private life grounds infiltrating intimate women's psychological and corporal experience.

Long Abstract

The proposal is based on the fieldwork conducted in Luanda between December 2013 and February 2014.

According to latest estimative the population of Luanda is reaching the level of 7 million of inhabitants. The city centre has capacity to shelter merely few percent of Luanda's population pushing most of the city dwellers to suburban or rural style quarters, with high level of informal human-space relations. Most of suburban districts lack city planning and mapping, what imposes on inhabitants numerous (re)mapping activities, depending on various social and group belongings.

During the last two decades Luanda has also experienced tremendous growth of churches and places of worship which are deeply marking the city life experience. Most of Angola's population adheres some religion and the number of declared atheists is very low and insignificant turning Luanda a religion saturated city.

Religious life and experience is in Luanda strongly marked with women presence and activities. Women departments, organizations and ministries are crucial for most of the denominations. Even though in some of the religious movements, denominations and churches women are not able or allowed to benefit all offices and accumulate religious charisma, women constitute the most active and powerful force within the church society group. This influential presence is visible at the institutional level in organizing numerous activities on the level of congregation, municipality and province but also transgresses administrative framework infiltrating family, kin, work group and reaching feminine psychological and corporal experiences.

Women religious networks extensively participate in (re)mapping of Luanda at the same time (re)formulate and (re)shape everyday city life experiences.

Staging cultural intimacy as social critique in Senegalese contemporary choreography

Author: Nadine Sieveking (Georg-August-University Göttingen)  email

Short Abstract

Focusing on two examples of contemporary choreography from Senegal I examine the ambivalent performing of 'cultural intimacy' on stage, which articulates social criticism concerning the female condition in society but also indicates the translocality of Senegalese urban life.

Long Abstract

Many contemporary choreographers from Africa are staging through their work perspectives on African urban life which are characterized by social criticism. I analyse this kind of art with reference to Herzfeld's notion of 'cultural intimacy', which not only entails the acquaintance with a culture but also especially focuses on that part of a cultural identity that insiders do not want outsiders to get to know. I argue that in contemporary dance the performance of 'cultural intimacy' is used as an important creative device to critique the female condition and the established gender order in society. I further show that this kind of socially engaged performance is based on border-crossing professional networks and transcultural artistic practices which are transgressing the boundaries of intimacy.

Focusing on two contemporary dance pieces that are staging intimate aspects of urban Senegalese women's everyday life, the paper considers these performances as simultaneous expressions of belonging as well as longing for becoming 'other'. Reconstructing the biographical trajectories and tracing the entanglements of the choreographers' professional and family relations I examine how their art contributes to the multiple translocal connections of Senegalese urban life. Thereby I dismiss the view of contemporary dance in Africa as a culturally alien or alienated practice while instead contributing to a better understanding of this translocally and transnationally embedded art world as part of ongoing societal transformations and the creation of new gendered urban spaces.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.