Towns, public areas and discards. Encounters of the rural and the urban
Date and Start Time 30 June, 2017 at 14:00
This panel aims at questioning the encounters between the rural and the urban through the description of varied forms of occupation and conflictual uses of urban public areas by defilement behaviours, polluting activities and discards proliferation
In African towns, the diversity of public areas' use is a very good starting point to observe the encounters of the rural and the urban. This panel aims at questioning it through descriptions and analysis of the encounters between peasants and citizen habitus in the use of public areas. We want analysis of conflictual uses resulting from varied forms of public areas' occupations by informal activities generating litter, accumulating discards and multiplying scrapheaps. "Discards" includes here domestic rubbish, waste, sewage or mire but also abandoned rejects to be reutilized. The analysis of their discharge, accumulation or recycling in public areas may shed some light on unexpected social, economic, political and environmental stakes lying at the heart of urban governance and cohabiting in African towns. We would like to receive contributions on these matters and on the incivilities they generate. What does life and work on rubbish tips and urban scrapheaps reveal of the symbolic, economic and political conception of discards? How do refuse and sewage work as delimitating markers of the frontier between public and private areas and activities? How to relate continuing incivilities concerning litter and waste accumulation in public areas with urban governance? Conversely, what do citizen or civil society in order to face urban defaults and delinquencies and make up for it?
Chair: Sylvie Ayimpam & Emilie Guitard
Discussant: Jacky Bouju
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Excreta2Energy: Human Waste as Laboratory for Capital in Urban Ghana
Through what technologies, knowledge practices and political arrangements is the bodily waste of Ghana's urban underclass rendered a source of value? What are the ethical and economic implications of turning urban dwellers' excreta into electrical power to be sold back to them?
Drawn from Ghana's edge-city of Ashaiman, this paper examines the workings of an international NGO turned private utility invested in converting organic wastes - human faeces prime among them - into electricity through a massive biodigester. In development parlance this process is known by the short hand E2E, excreta to energy. The following questions are brought to fore: How does human waste in the global south emerge as a laboratory for development capital? What are the ethics of turning the excrement of the urban poor into new sources of value in the marketplace of urban sustainability? Why is the worth of urban bodies reduced to waste-making in lieu of productive labor? How do ideologies and practices of sustainability science obscure the appropriation of urban space and resources?
The paper traces the initial standing of Ashaiman's E2E program as a laboratory experiment, transition to field training exercise, and eventual emergence as a bona-fide business proposition funded by the leading lights of development finance. Georges Bataille's (1988) notion of general economy, centered on the co-production of waste and value, provides the theoretical touchstone along with sociologist Jason Moore's (2015) thesis regarding the contradictory transformations of nature in the context of late-capitalism. In this E2E experiment, the paper argues, the paired valuation of bodily waste and devaluation of the persons who produce it reflect a broader move to redraw and purposefully exploit "the boundary between the human and the non-human" in the search for new sites and sources of surplus.
La gestion de la propreté à Fès
La propreté est un concept producteur d'espace : le cas de Fès permet de montrer que la gestion de la propreté est complexe. La co-existence de schèmes sous jacents hérités des pratiques urbaines ou rurales génèrent des conflits et des représentations négatives de l'état de propreté de la ville.
L'état de la propreté urbaine est révélateur de la difficile compréhension de pratiques collectives et individuelles,où, de plus, le tout est plus complexe que la somme des individualités. Il ne s'agit pas de savoir quelles sont les quantités et les qualités des déchets à évacuer, l'article s'intéresse particulièrement au rôle des représentations sociales et spatiales et des schèmes sous-jacents qui les construisent. Et, quelles interférences dans les pratiques du quotidien qui, pourtant, se veulent encadrées ? Notre propos pose le problème de la co-existence de règles et donc de pratiques, à partir de l'exemple de Fès au Maroc. Nous montrerons qu'il existe une éducation à la ville multi-séculaire (et donc à la gestion de la propreté urbaine) qui se perd par l'urbanisation rapide et qui génère des pratiques et des représentations en matière de propreté urbaine bien différentes selon les quartiers de la ville et selon l'origine rurale ou urbaine des habitants. C'est cette confrontation entre des pratiques issues de la ruralité et des pratiques qualifiées d'urbaines qui participe à des représentations négatives de la propreté de la ville.
Metal dealing in Nairobi - enduring drastic urban transformations
This paper examines scrap metal dealers in Nairobi in the context of the current construction boom. We consider the socio-spatial and planning logics that allow people and materials to endure in a rapidly transforming city, even as the city seeks to dispose of its ‘disorderly’ leftovers.
This paper examines scrap metal dealers in Nairobi in the context of the current construction boom. Accelerated road and condominium construction in Nairobi have dramatically changed the areas west of the CBD, demolishing lowrise houses as well as informal settlements. We focus here on the effects of this destruction on the life of a scrap metal dealer. The construction boom demolished his home—when his settlement was cleared to make way for a new road—but it also provides him with a livelihood in the form of scrap metal appropriated from the myriad construction sites that dot the neighborhood. His scrapheap alongside the new road serves as a reminder of the settlement that was once there. It is also visible testament to the persistent presence of low-income residents in a city trying to erase them as they contradict visions of orderly urbanization.
We analyze the scrap metal trade through the lens of 'endurance.' The paper considers how both people and materials continue to exist and to create space for themselves in cities that seek to remove them or view them as waste. Drawing on theories of salvage, we consider the socio-spatial and planning logics that allow for pockets of endurance even as the city seeks to dispose of its 'disorderly' leftovers. These logics include the social networks that link urban and rural areas and allow people to both survive and to trade: kinship ties, and exchange networks including scrap traders, construction workers, and recycling companies.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.