The Provision, Planning and Building of Employment-tied Housing.

Language, Agency and Governance in three Housing Projects in Kenya, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, c. 1940s to 1970s

In the decades immediately before and after independence, an unprecedented demand for housing – a basic requirement in urban life – impelled governments into thinking about the provision, planning and building of houses. What used to be a question of welfare in late colonial thinking came to overlap with the sensitive issue of who should enjoy a legitimate existence in African cities and hubs of commercialisation and industrialisation and of how that existence would be imagined from various perspectives. Ever since then, housing has remained a pressing issue of urbanisation and a key theme of relevance in the history of colonial Africa and thereafter.

Worker housing represented the commonest built element in the colonial landscape and dominantly shaped cultural urban spaces. It refers to housing planned, designed and implemented by the state, municipalities and/ or employers and provided to a skilled and semi-skilled labour force in various settings of employment.

Three case studies (Livingstone in Zambia, Lubumbashi in DRC, Thika in Kenya) serve as magnifying lenses to understand the constantly changing frictions and relations between the state, key employers and society. We focus on medium-term changes and continuities in housing conditions of (and for) men and women living and working in the mining industry, commercial agriculture and as clerks in local administration. 

 Call for Papers: ‘Reframing’ (post-) colonial housing through African workers

Within the framework of VAD Conference 2018, Leipzig

Our project is organising a panel entitled 'Reframing' (post-)colonial housing through African workers within the framework of the Conference of the African Studies Association in Germany (VAD), Leipzig University. The theme of the 2018 Conference is "African Connections"

The conference takes place from 27 - 30 June 2018.

We are looking forward to your proposals for contributions to our panel:

'Reframing' (post-) colonial housing through African workers

Worker housing represented the commonest built element in the colonial landscape. It is understood as a distinct component of broader ambitions of colonial powers to shape the physical spaces of (public and private) city lives of African workers and as a means to gain both their consent and achieve domination. The panel will trace, in historical perspective, the aspirations of colonial powers with respect to the governing of African workers in different cities. 

The panel will ask for ways and means through which African workers came to ‘reframe’ (responded to) the housing orders imposed on them by the respective colonial powers, be it via adaptation, ignorance, resistance, transformation, subversion or even profit. Our understanding is that housing represented a terrain shaped by processes stretching beyond its immediate physical landscape – processes of contestation through which multiple perspectives of a variety of players come to be heard. We invite case studies from any forms of employment during the colonial and post-colonial era: be it mining, agriculture, infrastructure buildings and/or administration. 

We look for contributions which will trace interconnectivity at various levels and scales, ranging from local via transnational to global, e.g. by connecting the individual experiences to their respective metropolises. We will point to mobility and transfer of ideas, designs, concepts, experts, policies and practices across regions and continents both at individual and structural level.

Deadline for proposals is 15 December 2017

A list of all panels of the conference as well as all relevant information is to be found here

 Lecture Series Winter Term 2017: Housing for workers (and others) in African cities

Within the lecture series entitled Housing for workers (and others) in African cities held this semester at the Department of African Studies, University of Vienna, we have four established scholars as guest speakers. 

Thursdays, 15:00-17:00; Department of African Studies, Seminar Room 1

Come and join one of the lectures:

Invited guests
  • Luce Beeckmans, Ghent University, Belgium, Department of Architecture and Urban Planning
    • 30 November 2017, Topic: The city about to dissolve. The SICAP neighborhoods of Dakar: past, present, future
  • Cristina Udelsmann Rodrigues, The Nordic Africa Institute, Uppsala, Sweden
    • 07 December 2017, Topic: Configuring the living environment in mining areas in Angola: contestations between mining companies, workers, local communities and the state
  • Robert Home, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, Land Management
    • 14 December 2017, Topic: Worker housing in colonial and postcolonial Africa: Legal history and field research from South Africa, Kenya, Zambia and Nigeria
  • Garth Myers, Trinity College, Hartford, Urban International Studies
    • 11 January 2018, Topic: Hybridity and Transversal Linkages in Tanzanian Architecture and Urban Planning