Africa's Nocturnal Cities
Date and Start Time 01 July, 2017 at 14:00
Dominated by geographies of the everyday, Urban Studies has often overlooked what happens when night falls. What are the spatial tactics, labours, and insurgencies of urban actors after dark? In response to dominant diurnal thinking, this panel will explore everynight life in Africa's cities.
Dominated by geographies of everyday life, Urban Studies has often overlooked what happens when night falls. Surprisingly little consideration has been given to the everynight city: the spatial tactics, labours, and creative insurgencies of urban actors after dark. There is growing acknowledgement that human geography and sociology suffers from nyctalopia: night blindness. This is especially true with respect to urban Africa. In response to a field dominated by diurnal thinking, this panel will seek to understand quotidian nightlife in Africa's cities.
Nocturnal cities have their own geography and citizenry. Night is not simply a darker version of day. Instead, night-time is associated with its own nodes and rhythms, audiences and workers. Darkness presents possibilities for anonymity, transgression and abandon in the city, at the same time as it connotes inaccessibility and surveillance. The night can be a place of terror and shadow, as well as of glistening illumination, with all the associations of developmental modernity and consumptive excess.
Drawing together scholars from across disciplines, the panel will elucidate key questions surrounding Africa's nocturnal cities. How are night cities produced, experienced, used, and controlled in different settings across the continent? How might we understand day-night shifts in the ways that urban spaces, socialities and subjectivities are organised? What methodological and theoretical challenges underpin social studies' neglect of the night? Papers will be considered from those working in night-time economies; nocturnal regulation; experiences and meanings of urban darkness; influences of the rural night, as well as everynight practices of work and play.
Chair: Dr Beth Vale
Discussant: Muriel Champy
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
'They go out to be seen': space, place and recognition in Johannesburg nightclubs
Amid widespread interest in the everyday, few have considered spatial tactics of urban everynight life. This paper investigates Johannesburg nightclubs as sites of quotidian political labour, through which young people contest and claim social space, as well as their place in it.
Urban studies have given increasing attention to the everyday life of cities. Yet surprisingly little consideration has been given to their everynight life: the spatial tactics and creative insurgencies of urban residents after dark. Where authors have attended to the nocturnal city, those focused on 'pleasure' have often negated the subtle politics of nigh-time play, embedded in expressions of identity, attachment and resistance.
This paper investigates Johannesburg nightclubs as sites of quotidian political labour, through which young people contest social space and their place in it, thereby contributing to the city's affective and socio-political cartography. The tactical remodelling of the nocturnal city through nightclubbing traces lines of desire (material, emotional, sexual), affiliation, and expediency. These in turn map onto young people's expressions of their social and political identities, as well as their attempts at place-making in a 'post-apartheid' context.
Night and the City: Perspectives from Johannesburg and Lagos
Turning away from the narratives of poverty, violence, and criminality that haunt both Johannesburg and Lagos, this paper interrogates the way a relationship to the city is mediated through nocturnal experiences, and how the night itself is instrumentalized to put the city into order.
Cities have long entertained a specific relationship to the night. As places where lighting and nocturnal leisure were experienced early, it is in cities that night time has been placed at the center of ideologies of modernity and corruption. Cities are thus a crucial setting to observe the formation of nocturnal identities, that is to say, identities that are produced and reproduced through nocturnal outgoings, experiences and consumption. In Johannesburg and Lagos, I reflect upon the relationship between the city, as a material but also symbolic landscape, and the night, as a time space that radically alters it. Turning away from the narratives of poverty, violence, and criminality that haunt both Johannesburg and Lagos, this paper interrogates the way a relationship to the city is mediated through nocturnal experiences, and how the night itself is instrumentalized to put the city into order. In contrasting ways, the nocturnal geographies of Johannesburg and Lagos reveal the politics of the night. In Johannesburg where night is a time space both feared and desired, public spaces undergo a process of reconquest that is challenged by the night. Under the pretense of the right to the city, middle and upper classes have made of the night a frontier to be conquered in order to feel not only in the city but also of the city. In Lagos however, nocturnal places are withdrawn from public space. Instead of a reconquest, the politics of the night there lead to dynamics of avoidance and deterritorialisation from the city.
Lilongwe - Characteristics of Social Security after Dawn
Housing over 1.2 M people, Lilongwe seems to halt at night. But for many life starts just then–guards, hospitality workers, prostitutes and the young generations on a search for alternatives in spending their nights. This paper examines how they can stay safe and which spots manage to absorb them.
When 'Cities, like cats, will reveal themselves after dark', as English poet Rupert Brooke claimed over a century ago, then what is it that nightlife in Malawi's capital would reveal? Prompted to synch the rhythms of everyday life with early dawns, the residents of Lilongwe appear to withdraw from the urban landscape when night falls. The following life unfolds a world of segregation and integration, of open and closed doors, of laughter and crying; and sounds, smells and feels like a city that may have grown accustomed to the decelerated life after dark. However, some places become vivid when pockets of light brighten the nocturnal urban landscape.
Low densities, more walls than open space bordering its streets and very limited transport options at night resulted in coping strategies by Lilongwe's residents to face the nightly nuisances and dangers. Some spots boost social security practices which originated in shared knowledge while the urban fabric is continuously extending and adapting. However, some people have begun to lose their ability to cope with the nocturnal city, as Barbara A. Rohregger argues.
We attempt to provide detailed insights into Lilongwe's nightlife incorporating various types of existing social constructs, how they are perceived and why and where they prevail. Therefore, this paper tells stories of people's 'everynight' life and analyses how social security can be achieved and positively affect the functionality of cities, always contrasted with its daytime equivalents and particularities of different parts of the society.
The Future of African Cities
A number of speculative novels make use of African urban landscapes as a space of projection for future dreams and current disappointments. This paper will look at a number of novels from the continent and its diaspora and trace how time is employed as an artistic intervention into the present.
The traumatic legacies of the Middle Passage and Colonialism both affect(ed) how certain codes are inscribed and utilized. African science fiction and speculative fiction offer different accesses to national and global futures. Lauren Beuke's Zoo City (2010) and Moxyland (2008), Keziah Jones' Captain Rugged (2014), Kodjo Laing's Major Gentil and the Achimota Wars (1992), and Abdourahman A. Waberi's In the United States of Africa (2009) produce and negotiate different possible futures. The codes employed and established speak strongly to Afro-American fictional texts such as Samuel R. Delany's Dhalgren (1975), or Ralph Ellison's Invisble Man (1952). The city becomes a space in which networks, kinships, and relationships can be re-imagined, especially in communities that are locked out of local and national formulations of futures. This locking-out takes the form of discriminatory practices such as urban segregation and redlining.
It is at this juncture that new forms of dreaming and identity-formation can take root and begin to effect change. Time is re-configured and re-negotiated, making use of resources such as the archive and artistic practices. These create a counter-balance to the official and power-reliant representational spaces that control, define, and design the urban landscape. By inserting the creative, resistant subject within this landscape, exclusionary spaces become imbued with the social. This reconfiguration is furthered through imagined cities and alternative ways of living in existing cities.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.