Communication au colloque Practices of the State in Africa: Contested Social and Political Spaces (Naples, 26-27 mars 2015)

Locandina posterMarianne Morange et Amandine Spire ont présentés leur travaux dans le cadre d’un colloque international organisé à l’Orientale les 26 et 27 mars 2015 par Antonio Pezzano. Leur intervention s’intitulait ” What actual” right to the city for citizens of Cape Town and Lomé? Urban subjectivities and processes of socio-spatial reordering in two African metropolises”.

Le programme de la conférence

Capture d’écran 2015-04-02 à 11.49.11

Le résumé de notre communication

The literature on the right to the city, which has seen a major resurgence in recent years, focuses primarily on two subjects, which specifically interrogate the relationship of city-dwellers to the State: social movements/urban citizenship. In order that the claim of a right to the city might be codified, whether overtly or implicitly, numerous works (Purcell, Kyumulu, etc.) also emphasize the extent to which the right to the city manifests in widely diverse “questions”, any of which may well contradict or be in competition with any other.

In the framework of a comparative research program (DALVAA “Rethinking the right to the city from the Southern cities – perspectives on sub Saharan Africa/Latin America) we distance ourselves from these uses of the idea of right to the city and their emancipatory political ambitions. We put forth the right to the city as an exploratory notion that interrogates the processes of organization and normalization of postcolonial urban societies, from which we posit the hypothesis that they are partly marked by neoliberal rationalities currently under construction. The goal is to shift the analytical focus from an anti-establishment social group, politically constructed in conflict, to the subject (“the individual in socialization” to use Henri Lefebvre’s phrase), understood through his social and spatial practices. Through this shifting of focus, we aim to reveal the modes of control and the exercise of power in the city. Analyzing on the micro level, we attempt to interrogate the processes of the construction of norms through the prism of the position of subjects in the practices of control of public space. In Cape Town and Lomé, forms of resistance and of production of counter-rationalities in ordinary, and not conflictual or post-crisis, space-time will be analyzed using qualitative field data.

In Cape Town, we will analyze the control of a central historic square, which has been heritage-ized and “beautified” in the framework of a politics of neoliberal urban regeneration, the Greenmarket Square. This square is occupied by an “African” market, where artisanal items are sold, whose place in this urban project was renegotiated and redefined at the time of the FIFA World Cup (2010). Five years after this moment of crisis, we wonder about the functioning of spatial control through the new routines that were then established and the evolution of the individual and collective entrepreneurial subjectivities of the merchants in the square.

In Lomé, our reflection will begin with the post-flight spaces, in particular in Djabgblé (on the northeast edge of Grand Lomé), where citizens who fled due to the creation of the Grand highway bypass of Lomé between 2011 and 2014 were relocated. This large urban project, mostly financed by Chinese investors and with the strong support of the government, is a showcase for the modernization of the capital. The seizure of the necessary real estate for the creation of this large road (particularly to the east of the Tsévié road) led to the destruction of multiple places of residence and to the displacement of the commercial activities previously practiced there. The initial terms were negotiated by the CII (Interministerial Indemnity Committee) and varied widely from case to case. The responsible parties at the CII effectively compensated families differently while relying on certain residents to relate the politics of displacement in a way that might be acceptable to those affected. Meanwhile at the relocation sites, major conflicts over real estate arose between the original occupants and the residents affected by the urban project. How do these power dynamics create an alliance with or an opposition to the Ministry of Urbanization and the urban authorities tasked with taking action in the area on the outer edges of Grand Lomé? What can we learn from the practices of those affected, as well as from those citizens of the transformed site, about the acceptance of a new order and a new norm in the outer neighborhoods? In areas affected by forced removals, routine practices prevail while very little contestation to the urban project is observed, the differential treatment and the powerful coercion that accompanied the departure of those affected being rarely condemned.


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