DW AngolaAesthetic Dissent: Urban Redevelopment and Political Belonging in Luanda, Angola

Aesthetic Dissent: Urban Redevelopment and Political Belonging in Luanda, Angola

22/02/2017

Over the previous decade, African cities experienced a wave of frenzied construction driven by imaginations of world-city status. While these projects provoked new discussions about African urbanism, the literature on them has focused more on the paperwork of planning than actual urban experiences. This article addresses this lacuna by investigating residents' reactions to the post-conflict building boom in Luanda, Angola. I show that Luandans' held highly ambivalent orientations towards the emerging city. Their views were shaped by suspicions about pacts between Angolan elites and international capital that recapitulated longstanding tensions over national belonging. These concerns were voiced via discussions of the very aesthetics of the new city. Buildings became catalysts for expressions of dissent that put into question the very project of state-driven worlding. The paper therefore argues that the politics of aesthetics are central to grasping the contested understandings of urbanism currently emerging in various African cities.

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