Are Cities in Africa “Unknowable”? Anthropological Approaches to Urban Africa
Katja Werthmann from Universität Leipzig, Institut für Afrikastudien will give the talk: Are Cities in Africa “Unknowable”? Anthropological Approaches to Urban Africa"
The seminar is open to all, including bachelor and master students. No registration is required. After the seminar, drinks and snacks will be served in our lunchroom.
This article reviews anthropological contributions to the study of urban Africa since the 1930s. Although the field of urban studies in Africa has always been multidisciplinary, anthropologists introduced methodological innovations and made specific contributions to the study of cities as life-worlds and to central topics such as ethnicity, gender relations, housing, migration or voluntary associations.
The pioneers of urban anthropology in Africa were South African researchers like Monica (Hunter) Wilson and Ellen Hellmann who looked at informal economies, changing social relations and emerging middle class aspirations among labour migrants well before the researchers at the Rhodes Livingstone Institute. Other important early contributions include Balandier’s and Miner’s studies about Brazzaville and Timbuktu.
These and other anthropological approaches to cities in Africa anticipated perspectives and topics that only later became part of the anthropological mainstream: the attention to individual experiences, the focus on new forms of social organization rather than on “culture”, the appropriation of modernity through material culture and alternative life-styles, and the application of unconventional methods. Today, anthropological research in urban Africa covers a broad range of issues. However, these anthropological contributions have been overlooked both within and outside the discipline.