Abstracts and manuscripts is being solicited for a book on Colonial Architecture and Urbanism in Africa: Intertwined and Contested Histories.
The volume aims explore the cultural role of colonial architecture and urbanism in the production of meanings, in the inscription of power and discipline, as well as in the dynamic construction of identities. Like other colonial institutions such as the courts, police, prisons, and schools that were crucial in establishing and maintaining political domination, colonial architecture and urban planning played pivotal roles in shaping the spatial and social structures of African cities during the 19th and 20th centuries.
The study of architecture and urbanism in the historiography of colonial Africa with few exceptions has received scant attention partly because historians tend to minimize the relationship between built environment and colonialism. Even when architecture and urban planning has been the focus of inquiry, the relationship between architecture and urbanism on one hand and colonialism on the other has not clearly delineated and carefully studied.
Historically, the literature on the subject treats colonial architecture and urbanism as a reflection of economic interests of imperial powers. These approaches emanate from the assumption that colonialism was essentially an economic project. Thus, culture as a dynamic of that process largely remains unexamined. The large body of work that has appeared in the past two decades provides a framework, upon which this edited volume will be based, begins from quite different assumptions: that is, it is precisely the cultural dimension of colonialism that evinces its centrality in the development of imperial identity and nationhood. As Dirks Nicholas (1992:1)) has suggested, “colonialism not only has had cultural effects that have too often been either ignored or displaced into the inexorable logics of modernization and world capitalism, it was itself a cultural project of control.” Colonial knowledge both enabled colonial conquest and was produced by it; in certain ways culture was what colonialism was all about”. In a similar vein, Edward Said (1993:11-12) has argued that the critical element of the cultural sphere in the “process of imperialism” which occur by predisposition, by the authority of recognizable cultural formations, by continuing consolidation within education, literature, and visual and musical arts.” While acknowledging the importance of culture, Cooper and Stoler (1997:18) emphasize that, “cultural work in which states engage and the moralizing mission in which they invest are discursive fields both grounded and constitutive of specific relations of production and exchange.” These scholars also caution us that the category of colonial project itself includes a multitude of different practices, that colonial power is never monolithic and changes over time, and that the resistance of colonized subjects must always seen as part of the story.
Social historians of Africa have now begun to study the complex ways in which colonial subjects contested the intricate workings of colonial power, particularly in language, identity and in the reorganization of space (Fabian 1986). By moving away from identifying discrete epochs of economic changes, this new approach to inquiry examines the creation and recreation of social boundaries, places of contest and their cultural representations, as well as the process by which knowledge emerges as a particular "type of power" (Foucault, 1980; Camoroff and Camoroff, 1991, Dirks, 1992). Thus the new inquiry suggests a more complex way of considering colonialism and its intricate modalities of power, the multilayered channels of its operation, its disciplinary methods, the hierarchy of surveillance, inspection and punishment by which its power has been inscribed in both time and space.
We welcome contributions that examine colonial architecture and urbanism in Africa in a single region, social or historical context. Throughout colonial Africa as it was true elsewhere, colonial architecture and urbanism assumed different trajectories revealing important tensions, competing agendas of settlers and metropolitan powers, doubts about the legitimacy of projects and unpredictable responses from “unruly natives” which complicated the original intention.
As a working hypothesis, colonial architecture and urbanism in Africa created a built environment that fit discursively, into the administrative apparatus of the empire: architecture and urbanism sought to project the authority of the European powers at the same time stabilized the fragile European identity at the colonial frontier; the intentional and semiotic function of architecture and urbanism in the colonies made them an appropriate sites for imperial projects; the production of buildings and plans are themselves the outcome of social production and these ‘texts’ reproduced the contradictions and limitations of the empire. Since Africans were subjects of these architectural and urban planning schemes, they responded in a variety of ways, which emerged out of their material and historical circumstances. Subversion, accommodation, appropriation, neglect and destruction were hidden transcripts to contest the hegemony of colonial architecture and urban planning schemes.
In setting out to explore the connections, contributors are encouraged to explore colonial architecture and urbanism as discursive cultural projects in Africa. Like writing which was widely used by colonial powers to appropriate people through the medium of writing and regulate their lives through the world of writing (Hawkins, 2002), architecture and urban planning also functioned in a similar way. More than other material instruments of the empire, architecture and urbanism made the empire visible and tangible. As “black mark on white paper” or “the world of drawing on paper” architecture and urbanism sought to regulate the daily lives, habits and desires of the indigenous people as well as European settlers. Indeed, it was the cultural destination of architecture and urbanism and the connection between them and colonialism that the volume seeks to broaden the discussion.
Our goal is to assemble 12 to 14 chapters for this volume that cover a wide range of colonial cities and urbanism in Africa. Final submission should be 25-30 double-spaced pages. Drawing, maps and photographs are welcome.
The deadline for submission of title and abstract of proposed paper is June 15, 2005. Abstract of proposal should be 200 words. Completed manuscript, February 15, 2006.
The University of South Africa Press has agreed to publish the volume. The edited book on colonial architecture and urbanism will be of critical importance to scholars and students of colonialism. It will also participate in the ongoing debate on architectural, urban and postcolonial studies, which seeks, in part to reconfigure modes of cultural analysis and academic disciplines which focus on the operations of power and its deployment within the field of architecture and urban planning in Africa and elsewhere in the world.
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