The African continent is rapidly urbanizing absent the employment opportunities that were historically associated with cities and lacking too the conventional facilities, infrastructures, and technologies generally associated with urban life. While many efforts to “modernize,” redesign, and re-plan African cities focus on making them “world class”—serving as urban gateways to Africa for a new elite and technically proficient class—in reality cities from Lagos to Kigali are equally shaped by the activities, needs, and desires of those displaced, precisely to accommodate such efforts at modernization. As one response to such trends this course challenges some of the predominant ways in which “development” is understood to be occurring in African cities in order to think about the paradoxes of development in relation to informal and unplanned infrastructure and the new modes of life, livelihood, and leisure that are emerging in contest with formal architecture and design. Second, the course responds to the emerging literature of climate change inclusive of sea-level rise, coastal erosion, and rising temperatures that are having some of the severest consequences for the sub-Saharan region.
The displacement of sizeable urban populations as both a consequence of “world class” city-making and climate change render African cities sites of two contending conditions: the one is a prevailing sense of crisis and precarity; the other, in the form of a response, is to attend to such prevailing conditions of crisis through ingenuity. Ingenuity comes in many forms including the corralling of resources, the building of informal homes, and in a general disposition to “getting by” in the face of limited resources, services, and infrastructures. Cities in sub-Saharan Africa face specific challenges to which specific responses are essential. As the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report notes: “The rapidly expanding cities of Africa … where energy poverty currently undermines adaptive capacity… have the opportunity to benefit from renewable energy technologies to enable clean energy access to citizens.” In other words, African cities are poised to mobilize not only extant forms of cultural ingenuity, but to do so by leapfrogging over older technologies in order to benefit from new clean renewable energy sources and infrastructures. This tension between the absence of and possibility for infrastructure informs the cities and questions covered in this course.
Acknowledging this tension as the operative condition of African city life from megalopolises like Cairo to threatened UNESCO world heritage sites like Saint-Louis, Senegal; “African Cities, Development, and Climate Change” reimagines what we understand by terms such as “development,” “employment,” “infrastructure,” “sustainability,” and “citizenship.
1) Introduction to the major themes of the course, assignments, expectations
2) Defining African Urbanism
3) Informal Cities, Informal Economies
4) Shaky Infrastructure
5) Planning for African Climate Change
6) Refuse Politics
7) The Politics of Exposure
8) Hashtag Climate Activism
9) Climate Change and Rural-Urban Migration
10) Climate Change and Cross-Border Migration
11) Adaptation, Sustainability, Citizenship
Students will think through the relationship between development, growth, and environmental peril and the possibilities for creative adaptation to climate change in African cities.
Class work and Evaluation
Reading Notes and Class Discussion
This class is run as a seminar and relies on your attendance and participation. Please arrive a few minutes before class time to minimize disruption to others. In preparation for our twice weekly meetings, please complete all readings the weekend before class and submit one (1) single-spaced page of notes (WIN exercise) on Monday at the beginning of class—these must be well-written using correct spelling, grammar, and syntax. Please include the title of the book or article, the author’s name, and quote at least one passage from each reading (no citation necessary, just the page number if available). The best notes will:
1) synthesize the main argument(s) of each reading and relate the readings to each other
2) briefly provide your response (as distinct from your opinion) to the readings and how they tie into the larger themes of the course
Assigned readings, available on Moodle, should be read in the order they are listed in the syllabus. In some weeks there is a fair amount of reading so look ahead and begin reading well in advance of Monday’s class session!
Once during the semester, you will do a team oral presentation of 10-15 minutes on a current event or issue that relates to that week’s topic. Presentations occur on Wednesday. Your presentation should bring something new to the conversation. You may gather information from news sources, social media or popular culture. Teams should run their ideas by the instructor (Prof. Makhulu) during Monday office hours of the week before the week of the presentation.
The final paper 8-10 double spaced pages in length is due at the end of the semester, i.e. Friday, May 22.
Paper Draft Workshop
In writing your final paper, you will have a chance to get peer feedback on a draft. This is an excellent way to refine your argument. It is also a way for you to share your ideas with each other (writing is best done in collaboration!). In groups of two or three, you will exchange drafts a few days before the in-class draft workshop. You will be responsible for reading and commenting on the other papers in your group before the workshop. During the workshop, you will discuss your comments with the other writers in your assigned group.
Assignments and Grades
1) Attendance and participation inclusive of one group presentation—20%
(no more than two (2) excused absences permitted)
2) “What I Noticed” or WIN exercises (1 single spaced page weekly response)—60%
3) Short final paper (8-10 double spaced pages)—20%
Bond, Patrick. 2002. Unsustainable South Africa: Environment, Development and Social Protest. Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal Press.
D’Alisa, Giacomo, Federico Demaria and Giorgos Kallis, eds. 2015. Degrowth: A Vocabulary for the New Era. New York: Routledge.
Fredericks, Rosalind. 2018. Garbage Citizenship: Vital Infrastructures of Labor in Dakar, Senegal. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Hansen, Karen Tranberg and Mariken Vaa eds. 2004. Reconsidering Informality: Perspectives from Urban Africa. Uppsala: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet.
Hart, Keith. 1973. “Informal Income Opportunities and Urban Employment in Ghana.” Journal of Modern African Studies 11(1): 61-89.
Livingston, Julie. 2019. Self-Devouring Growth: A Planetary Parable as Told from Southern Africa. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Lucht, Hans. 2012. Darkness Before Daybreak: African Migrants Living on the Margins in Southern Italy Today. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Makhulu, Anne-Maria, Beth A. Buggenhagen and Stephen Jackson. 2010. Hard Work, Hard Times: Global Volatility and African Subjectivities. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Maathai, Wangari. 2009. The Challenge for Africa. New York: Anchor Books (also see www.greenbeltmovement.org).
Moore, Jason W. 2015. Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital. New York: Verso.
Myers, Garth. 2011. “(I)n(f)ormal Cities.” In African Cities: Alternatives Visions of Urban Theory and Practice. New York: Zed Books.
Nixon, Rob. 2011. Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Simone, AbdouMaliq. 2004. “People as Infrastructure: Intersecting Fragments in Johannesburg.” Public Culture 16(3): 407-429.
Toulmin, Camilla. 2009. Climate Change in Africa. London: Zed Books.
Tousignant, Noémi. 2018. Edges of Exposure: Toxicology and the Problem of Capacity in Postcolonial Senegal. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.