Call for papers: African cities in war, analysing dynamic relations between urbanisation and violent conflict in Africa

Deadline: 15 September 2015 - 12:00am


Conveners: Karen Büscher

Armed conflict in contemporary Africa takes different forms; violent contestations in Burundi, political violence in Nigeria or violent insurgencies in the Sahel region have added to complex and protracted situations of civil war in the Central African Republic, the D.R. Congo and South Sudan. The impact of violent conflict on African cities is very diverse, as well as the role and function urban centres occupy within dynamics of war and violence. Cities can become symbolic targets for armed groups, they can at the same time represent sites of security and protection, they can be key hubs in war economies, in armed groups’ mobilisation and hosts of humanitarian assistance. Reality demonstrates that war dynamics reinforce the conflictual nature of African urbanism as well as reinforces Africa’s fast urban expansion, resulting in increased pressure on existing cities and at the same time the emergence of new conflict induced urban centres.

Yet, as much of the armed confrontations take place in the rural hinterlands, violent conflict dynamics in Africa are rarely understood from an urban perspective. However, these dynamics often have extended urban roots and connections. To understand the crucial role of the ‘urban’ in dynamics of violent conflict is crucial in order to seize their future potential as hosts for post-conflict reconstruction and peace-building programmes.

This edited volume/special journal issue offers an opportunity to fill the gaps within African conflict studies, characterized by a persistent rural focus in debates on the transformative power of violent conflict, emerging political constellations and discussions on governance and public authority in armed conflict. The central argument of this volume being that urban centres are critical locations of dynamics of violent conflict in Africa, we aim at a presentation of African violent conflict-cities as crucial sites of socio-spatial and political transformations and productions. A protracted situation of civil war for example profoundly impacts on cities’ economic and political significance, their identity, their external connections as well as their internal organisation. Besides investigating these transformative effects of current war dynamics on African cities, this volume also wants to take a look at new urban centres that emerge from armed conflict-settings, developing new forms of urbanisation, revealing distinguishing urban characteristics. The objective of this special issue is thus also to offer a crucial contribution to a more profound understandings of processes of war-urbanisation or ‘violent conflict urbanism’ in Africa.

We invite contributions focusing on the urban dimensions of protracted violent conflict or fragile post-conflict settings from various academic disciplines such as urban studies, conflict and peace-studies, anthropology, human geography, etc.. Contributions can both theoretically and empirically discuss dynamics of violent conflict urbanism in Africa, starting from (yet not limited to) the following topics: Armed conflict and long-term political, economic, social and spatial transformations in African cities; violent conflict and changing regional, national and global position of African cities; conceptualisation of urbanisation emerging from protracted violent conflict.

Ideally, this collection of papers shall offer a multidisciplinary approach to the complex relation between urbanisation and violent conflict dynamics, covering different African conflict-regions and covering different roles or positions Africa cities can claim in a context of armed conflict such as:

– The city as a site of insurgency (armed mobilization, militarized urban governance, violent urbanisation)

– The city as a site of protection (forced displacement, urban elites and security arrangements, humanitarian presence)

– The city as a site of production (urban war economies, emerging identities, opportunities from crisis)

– The city as a symbolic target (armed groups’ urban connections, city and sovereignty, urbicide)

Please send your abstract (max 500 words) and biographic note (max. 100 words) to Karen Büscher (Conflict Research Group, Ghent University). Email: [email protected]


Photo Credit: United Nations Photo

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One Response to “Call for papers: African cities in war, analysing dynamic relations between urbanisation and violent conflict in Africa”

  1. Charles Oduor

    Good analysis…sending a paper as well


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