Claiming the territory – and retreating. The Bong Mining project and its histories.
Zooming in on a few particular built structures such as the hospital, the bungalow for junior staff, the swimming pool, the cement mill and the pier, we would like to discuss the multifold histories and spatial scales of the Bong Mining project in Liberia, one of the largest German investments in the "Global South" in the post-1945 period. An iron ore mine, with its own vast infrastructural network and production sites of construction materials as well as a large camp for local and foreign staff with its own social infrastructure was erected by Thyssen and a consortium of German construction companies between the late 1950s and late 1980s. The German presence came to an abrupt end with the evacuation at the beginning of the civili war in 1990s – yet in our investigation we are also interested in the aftermath of this investment bearing neocolonial traces, untangling complicated layers of memory – and forgetting –, while being acutely aware of our own positionality (cf. Stoler 2016).
Our investigation of this overlooked chapter in the history of German 'overseas' construction (Germ. Auslandsbau) is part of a larger research project "Conquering (with) Concrete. German Construction Companies as Global Players in Local Contexts" (2020-2024, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation) and shall serve in our talk as an inlet for discussing challenges of interdisciplinary research on the built environment.
Monika Motylinska, born in 1986 in Poland, is an architectural historian, currently a research fellow at the Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space in Erkner (Oct 2016-Sept 2018). Her ongoing research project investigates the GDR architecture abroad in the context of transnational networks and cultural transfer. In December 2016, she defended her PhD thesis at the Technical University Berlin on handling the post-war heritage in Germany.