Other Desires: The African City, Introduction and Panel 1: Deep Histories of Modernity

Friday, April 8, 2016
Wood Auditorium

Other Desires: The African City examines the ways in which rapid urbanization on the African continent in the twenty-first century has given rise to increasing speculation about African cities as sites of innovation and creativity amongst spatial practitioners, artists, and musicians, as well as cultural, economic and academic institutions globally. The one-day conference considers emerging spatial practices, urban narratives and identities within African cities, but also the ways in which African cities provide a conceptual framework through which to interrogate notions of desire, liberation, beauty, memory, the reinvention of traditions, and belonging that the modern city embodies.

Introduction

Panel 1: Deep Histories of Modernity: The Archive Revisited
Mamadou Diouf, Leitner Professor of African Studies, MESAAS, Columbia University- Moderator
Manuel Herz, Professor for Urban and Territorial Studies, University of Basel
Ikem Stanley Okoye, Associate Professor, African Art and Architecture, University of Delaware
Kiluanji Kia Henda, visual artist
Kenneth Frampton, Ware Professor of Architecture, Columbia GSAPP – Respondant

Full Description:

“The insistent paradox of all Modernities is namely that they are simultaneously inward-looking and totally open to all influence and receptive to rich dialogues.” -Okuwi Enwezor (2001:14)

Rapid urbanization on the African continent in the twenty-first century has given rise to increasing speculation about African cities as sites of innovation and creativity amongst spatial practitioners, artists, and musicians as well as cultural, economic, and academic institutions globally. This cataclysmic transformation of African societies and cities also harbors a number of spatial, political, and epistemological challenges to entrenched histories and theories of urbanism, spatial practices, and modes of representation that are deeply rooted in the logics of panoptic time, crisis, and exploitation. However, it also presents creative opportunities and productive activities, through which African cities increasingly become sites for a diverse range of economic, political, cultural, collective, and individual desires.

This 1-day conference proposes a return to spatial considerations of cities that are attentive to not only emerging spatial practices, urban narratives, and identities within African cities, but also to the ways in which African cities provide a conceptual framework through which to interrogate notions of desire, liberation, beauty, memory, the reinvention of traditions, and belonging—characteristics that the modern city putatively embodies. Thus infrastructural development, environmental change and adaptation, cultural production, archival practices, and new modes of representation will be considered in relation to how they might give rise to new spatial, technological, and intellectual trajectories within a matrix of complex power relations.

Ultimately, this conference seeks to trouble the centrality of the industrial western city as the only paradigm of modernity across a range of disciplines (including but not limited to architectural history and urban studies) and also to expand the vocabularies and imaginaries that we bring to bear in our discussions on globalization and desires for various modernities.

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