Social Construction of Peri-Urban Places and Alternative Planning in Zanzibar

Abstract

Increasingly, scholarship on urban Africa has focused on the social construction of place in informal neighbourhoods. In this approach, researchers often highlight the fluidity, contingency, or creativity of the urban poor majority. Efforts to remake planning processes to work with or be driven by these informal everyday place-making strategies can be quite inspiring. Yet I question whether these ideas as put into practice in cities can be anything more than survival strategies of the abject poor. Historical-geographical roots and social relations with the state make each informal neighbourhood a particular case, and these factors have significant influence on people�s capacity to make new, alternative statements with their urban places, or to create alternatives that might be replicated. This essay is based mainly around fieldwork in 2006�8 in Zanzibar�s peri-urban West District shehia (locations) of Mwera and Welezo, including assessment of the built environments, interviews, archival work, and participant observation. I document ways in which these neighbourhoods are, despite newness, rooted in history and geography, and how residents� peri-urban everyday place making depends upon their relationships with the state. The internal heterogeneity of place making and social positioning proves difficult to contend with or deploy for alternative planning.

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© The Author 2010. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Royal African Society. All rights reserved.

 

Details

Publication Type Essay
Publisher African Affairs
Year 2010
Author(s) Myers, Garth Andrew
Other Numbers Accession Number: adq044
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