African Cities Reader


[A creation of the African Centre for Cities & Chimurenga]

Call for Submissions 2012
April 2012

The African Cities Reader is a journal-like platform where Africans tell their own stories, draw their own maps and represent their own spatial topographies as our cities continue to evolve and adapt at the interstice of difference, complexity, opportunism, and irony. The intervention is premised on the fact that the cultural, livelihood, religious, stylistic, commercial, familial, knowledge producing and navigational capacities of African urbanites are typically overlooked, unappreciated and undervalued. The aim of the African Cities Reader is to bring their stories and practices to the fore through a variety of genres and experiments in criticality.

The third African Cities Reader will explore the unholy trinity of land, property and value-the life force of cities everywhere - especially in an era of late modernity marked by a speculative impulse that takes on a spectral character as it instigates adventures of city imagineering, deal-making, and symbolic reinvestment. The material effects of which is often displacement, violence, day light robbery and night time seduction. This incessant (re)making of the African city is a game that leaves few untouched or unmoved.

As too many demands are placed on too few infrastructural endowments, land and living space come at a premium. Ingrained differential standards of what constitutes "acceptable" or "adequate" levels of consumption create a grotesque reflection of class and other markers of hierarchy in the built landscape. And in the absence of widespread formal and regular sources of income, most city dwellers are forced to hedge every shred of connection, cunning, positioning and affiliation to retain a foothold or expand their room for manoeuvre. The third instalment of the African Cities Reader will bring these constitutive dynamics to life.

Specifically, we are looking for imaginative reflections on the recent phenomenon of investment in urban utopias for the global middle-class unmoored from the messy realities of emergent urbanisms. In fact, the investment, construction, marketing and governance dynamics of these experiments reflect a fascinating geography of rapidly changing geo-economics in an increasingly multi-polar world. At the other end of the spectrum, we are also curious about the enduring traces of autonomous artist colonies or spaces; often modest material interventions but with powerful symbolic effects. Asef Bayat draws our attention to what he calls "the quiet encroachment of the ordinary" - survival practices of urban majorities that involve the relentless occupation of resources at the expense of elites to simply get by, but which add up to a redefinition of land-use, settlement patterns and resource flows in the city. (Bayat, A. (2000) 'Social Movements, Activism and Social Development in the Middle East', Civil Society and Social Movements Programme Paper, Geneva: UNRISD). Stories, theorisations and illustrations that flesh out this proposition are invited.

Furthermore, the new and emerging forces of power and investment cannot but imprint themselves on the urban fabric. Their power and status demands a built manifestation. So, we are curious to better understand the changing visual landscapes and cultures as religious, commercial, ethnic, security and other forces announce their power and intentions. How might these symbolic economies be redeployed and ridiculed as ordinary people move in and out of their intentions of place-making?

Developmentalist discources on tenure security as a gateway to urban citizenship has been part of the mainstream for at least three decades. What has this resulted in? Why is there still such an abiding optimism about the magical powers of title and tenure security? Where might these discourses go to next? How can they possibly make sense of the vast peri-urban dynamics that now dominate the lived reality of most African cities?

Finally, since African cities and towns (including new ones) will have to accommodate at least another four hundred million people over the next two decades, what is the future of land, property and value? What alternative imaginaries are available to us to think about the bare fact of co-existence, being, and home? Is there even a horizon to be thought or imagined? What might the hue of that horizon be?

In keeping with previous manifestations, the third African Cities Reader remains open to multiple genres (literature, philosophy, faction, reportage, ethnographic narrative, etc.), forms of representation (text, image, sound and possibly performance), and points of view. The African Cities Reader insists on embodying the rich pluralism, cosmopolitanism and diversity of emergent urbanisms across Africa. Thus, the Reader invites and undertake to commission writing and art by practitioners, academics, activists and artists from diverse fields across Africa in all of her expansiveness.

Submissions will be accepted until Wednesday, 31st August 2012, and should be submitted electronically in Word format and low-res jpg to the email address below. Submissions may vary in subject matter and will be assessed on their relevance to theme. All work should accompany a short abstract, biography and relevant contact details.

Explore the first and second African Cities Reader below.

For further information contact:
Liepollo Rantekoa
T) +27(21)4224168

Editors: Ntone Edjabe & Edgar Pieterse

African Cities Reader II: Mobilities & Fixtures

The African Cities Reader is a biennial publication that brings together contributors from across Africa and the world to challenge the prevailing depiction of urban life on the continent and redefine cityness, Africa-style. It is a joint creation of Chimurenga Magazine and the African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town.

The second installment of the Reader is centered on the theme 'Mobilities and Fixtures'. In this issue Sean O'Toole interviews architect David Adjaye about African cityscapes, snapshot photography and failed utopias; Victor Lavalle uncovers the making of mercenaries in Uganda; Martin Kimani follows the African visa-seeker in the tragi-comedy that is the post 9/11 airport; Sherif El-Azma explores Cairo by foot; MADEYOULOOK and Santu Mofokeng imagine the didactic possibilities of trains; Manu Herbstein documents the 'car-doctors' of Accra; Chris Abani discovers the African city of Las Vegas; and Michael Watts examines oil cities.

Other contributors include Jonny Steinberg, Brian Chikwava, Dominique Malaquais, Mowoso Collective, Doreen Baingana, Teju Cole, Ed Kashi, Sean Christie, Khulile Nxumalo, Nicole Turner, Iain Chambers, Tim Cresswell and many more.

The African Cities Reader is edited by Ntone Edjabe and Edgar Pieterse.

Read it online here or or get a copy of the print edition from Chimurenga.

For further information about the African Cities Reader please contact Terry Ayugi at +27 (21) 422 4168.

Title: African Cities Reader II: Mobilities & Fixtures
ISBN number:  978-0-9814273-4-8
Text:  English
Editors:  Ntone Edjabe and Edgar Pieterse
Publishing date:  May 2011
Price*: ZAR250; USD35; EURO25
* Price excludes shipping costs"

African Cities Reader I: Pan-African Practices

The African Cities Reader, an annual compendium of writing and art from multiple genres, forms of representation, and points of view, embodies and reflects the rich pluralism, cosmopolitanism and diversity of emergent urbanisms across Africa. The first installment of the Reader brings together contributors from across Africa and the Diaspora to challenge, examine and critique the prevailing depiction of urban life on the continent. The theme, Pan-African Practices, is explored from multiple vantage points to produce a fresh look at the trajectories and interiorities of the urban African experience.

In the launch issue Rustum Kozain muses over the cultural and alternative relations built, negotiations and dealings made as a resident of Cape Town (South Africa); Jean-Christophe Lanquetin's SAPE Project is captured in a pictorial narrative; Gabeba Baderoon and Karen Press poetically expound on the daily traversing of the personal and the (institutional) impersonal; James Yuma investigates the intersection between religion and national narrative in the Democratic Republic of the Congo whilst Valentine Cascarino asks how would a recontextualisation of Kinshasha in Johannesburg (South Africa) fare?; Annie Paul explores the practice of death and burial rituals in postcolonial Jamaica; and Vyjayanthi Rao, Filip de Boeck and Abdou Maliq Simone discuss Kinshasa's Invisible City and other African cities.

Other contributors include Chris Abani, Akin Adesokan, Leslie Lokko, Achal Prabhala, Allan Kolski Horwitz, Marcus Neustetter, Jyoti Mistry, Rustum Kozain, and Ashraf Jamal amongst others.

The African Cities Reader is a collaboration between the Africa Center for Cities and Chimurenga. The African Cities Reader was edited by Ntone Edjabe and Edgar Pieterse.

Read it online here or get a copy of the print edition from Chimurenga:

Title: African Cities Reader
ISBN number: 0-9814272-8-7
Text: English
Editors: Ntone Edjabe and Edgar Pieterse
Publishing year: April 2010
Price*: ZAR250; USD35; EURO25
* Price amounts exclude shipping costs

Soft cover, black
Inside black; 4 pages full colour