Secondary cities in Africa: Between metropolises and small towns
Date and Start Time 29 June, 2017 at 09:00
This panel focusses on the unspectacular middle ground between metropolises and small towns in Africa, that has largely been neglected in urban studies. It looks at ordinary urban practices in secondary cities and how its inhabitants imagine their city.
Most studies on urbanity in Africa focus on mega-cities, whereas secondary cities, the unspectacular middle ground between metropolises and small towns, have largely been neglected. However, as the World City Report by the UN (2016) demonstrates, more and more people live in secondary cities which act as nodal points between the rural and the urban. Further, due to decentralization processes their political and financial independence increases. Theoretically, secondary cities have typically been approached through metaphors, for example by labelling them as 'shadow cities' (de Boeck, Cassiman, and Van Wolputte 2009) or describing them as 'disappearing into ruin and decay' (Myers and Murray 2006). Yet, Bell and Jayne (2009) are right in stating that small and secondary cities are as urban as metropolises. If we overlook urban forms that emerge in secondary cities, the image of urbanity is incomplete.
By rejecting conceptualisations that focus solely on size, secondary cities cannot easily be grasped. One characteristic is their geographical distance to the heart of the state, the highest administrative level. Therefore, secondary cities often breed forms of governance that result in specific modes of state-society interactions that would not work in capital cities. Our aim in this panel is to look at ordinary urban practices in secondary cities and how their inhabitants imagine their city. How do the urban 'rhythm' (de Boeck 2015) and various forms of 'encounter and distanciation' (Förster 2013) in secondary look like? We especially invite empirical papers but also those which reflect theoretically and conceptually on secondary cities.
Discussant: Jesper Bjarnesen
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Popular culture practices in a Tanzanian secondary city and small towns
I will compare popular culture as practiced in a secondary city and in small towns in Tanzania, focusing on HipHop and film translation. To what extent does access to social media platforms blur the differences between popular culture production in metropoles, secondary cities and small towns.
In this paper I will take a comparative perspective on popular culture as practiced by young people in a secondary city, Morogoro, and in the small towns Masasi and Nachingwea. More precisely, I will look at HipHop-related music and at film translation practices. Both phenomena are mainly associated with the metropolis Dar es Salaam and most research on these practices has focused on Tanzania's biggest urban centre. I have written several papers on the basis of my fieldwork in these towns, first and foremost on Morogoro which I conceive of as "secondary city" as in my view in the Tanzanian context it is not useful to apply the concept of secondary city only to Mwanza, the second largest urban agglomeration.
I would thus start by discussing briefly the concept of secondary city and its usefulness in the Tanzanian context from a perspective on popular culture production. Further, I want to re-examine my corpus by looking specifically at the similarities and differences in terms of popular culture production in those secondary and small towns which differ significantly in terms of size, location and infrastructure. Finally, my data from conventional fieldwork will be complemented by audiovisual sources which are available online via YouTube and other social media networks. I will discuss how increased access to them affects the opportunities and the visibility of artists in these places and raise the question to what extent these actually blur the differences between popular culture production in metropoles, secondary cities and small towns.
Young Men in Swakopmund: Namibia's Third Largest City.
Based on 24 months fieldwork in Swakopmund, Namibia between 2014 and 2016, this paper explores the disparity between men's representations of themselves and the stories of their everyday lives, created as they build lives for themselves in one Namibia's third largest city.
At the last census (2011), Swakopmund was the third largest city in Namibia. With the population steadily increasing, it continues to be a draw for young men from all over Africa. During my fieldwork, the city was often described to me as a paradise, with easy living and the ready availability of money often from overseas: tourists on one hand, mining on the other, with other opportunities such as sporadic work on Hollywood movies. Swakopmund is seen as 'safe urbanity' - away from rural life with the opportunities of a city but less challenging than larger metropoles such Windhoek.
These (often off-the-cuff) remarks bely a different reality. The disparity between men's representations of themselves - expressed through a culture of 'machismo' - and the stories of their everyday lives indicates a longing for 'something else'. Men project an image of 'traditional dominance' in their relationships with women, who increasingly desire more companionate relationships in line with changing gender norms. Men must often submit to the desires of their wives and girlfriends for fear of losing them to a 'better man', one who is able to provide more.
This paper focuses on the lives and roles of men (and, by extension, women) in Swakopmund. It concentrates especially on men who have worked in the uranium mining industry; looking at how they represent themselves to (and co-exist with) other men, and how they handle their changing relatedness to women in the city of Swakopmund.
Gender and the Right to the City in a Secondary South African City
The paper explores gender, health and environment from a gendered right to the city perspective in the secondary city of Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
This paper explores the gendered nature of urbanization in post-apartheid South Africa, and how it relates to questions of citizenship, place and concepts of the right to the city. Based on primary research in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu Natal, the paper discusses how in post-1994 South Africa, poor black households in urban areas are predominantly female-headed, and located in geographical spaces that remain strongly marked by race- and class-based patterns of apartheid era urban geography. In addition, female heads and their households are differentially reliant on different forms of state assistance, including subsidized housing. Is this gendered relationship with the state progressive and empowering for women, or, rather, does this type of citizenship limit women's opportunity for justice and equality? What are the implications for a gendered understanding of processes of urbanization? Finally, how can a right to the city framing illuminate this discussion of gender, citizenship and place in urban South Africa?
From "Demented" to "Democracy" in Pietermaritzburg: Continuities and Conflict in the Growth Model of Development in Natal's second city, the 1960s to the Present
Competition to attract industry to Pietermaritzburg from rival Durban resulted in high environmental and social damage. Worrisome continuities exist between growth-obsessed planning of the apartheid era and the municipality’s current developmental vision.
Pietermaritzburg was the first capital of the colony of Natal, and its largest city until the late 19th century. A long period of economic and demographic stagnation set in in the early 20th century, however and, in the shadow of the burgeoning port of Durban eighty kilometres away, Maritzburg acquired the reputation of a "Sleepy Hollow." The Depression then induced an acute crisis most visible in the sprawling slums of the city's so-called black belt. An innovative experiment in local government and social medicine in the 1940s and early 50s centered upon peri-urban Edendale. However, frustration with this alternative model eventually led the city to embrace the industrialization policy favoured by the apartheid government. Desperate to attract industry away from the more attractive Durban, city council adopted policies that profoundly changed the built and natural environment of the city and environs, with long-term devastating costs to the majority population. This paper examines some specific instances where competition with its main civic rival resulted in high environmental and social damage. It concludes with an alert to worrisome continuities between growth-obsessed planning of the apartheid era and the developmental vision of the current, democratically-constituted municipality.
Mindelo, Cape Verde: urban values and practices in a small town
Definitions of the urban usually mention density and amplitude. I contrast these idea with ethnographic data on Mindelo, Cape Verde. The inhabitants of Mindelo are fully aware of their smallness, but they have no doubt about their urban condition, which is revealed in local life styles and values.
This paper addresses the issue of scale in urban anthropology. The vocabulary used in defining the urban usually includes terms such as density, amplitude, heterogeneity, global flows, and disordered growth. I contrast these ideas with ethnographic data on the City of Mindelo, in Cape Verde. The country is a tiny archipelago off the west coast of Africa. Mindelo, its second largest city, has approximately 70,000 inhabitants - quite different from the millions of city dwellers usually mentioned in the literature about urban contexts in Africa. Cape Verdeans are fully aware of their smallness, which is revealed in frequent references to this subject in official discourses, in everyday conversations, in artistic productions. Despite all this, the inhabitants of Mindelo have no doubt about their urban condition. If our focus is on scale, we must be attentive to the relative character of numbers. Mindelo concentrates a large part of the inhabitants of the small country, as well as capital, technologies, jobs, and means of communication. But this is not the only issue to be considered. The urbanity of Mindelo is fundamentally related to the history of the island where it is located. The island was exploited as an important Atlantic port, with characteristics typical of urban environments, such as salaried employees, profitable trade and dependence on agricultural inputs produced in neighboring islands. This urbanity is revealed today not only in the local economy, but especially in life styles and local values.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.