Global Urban History
May 27, 2017 12:16 PM   Subscribe

Global and urban history has been converging in recent decades. My own interest is captured by the liminal space between culture and history and geography. Some favourites include Lagos: Mapping a Pre-Colonial West African City and the extremely well done the racism behind Kampala.
posted by infini (4 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
These are a great bunch of links.

The Kampala post rambles a bit and makes a bunch of strange leaps, including an attempt to minimize the destruction created by Idi Amin, but the urban planning portion, with the description of the white center, the Indian middle ring, and the native outer ring rings true as it matches what the British did in many places, including their other colonies in Africa, in India, and in East Asia. The white settlers were placed in the safest and cleanest part of the area with access to fresh air. They were then surrounded by an intermediary. Typically that intermediary group was Indian. They dealt with the local peoples and administered the machinery of colonialism. The intermediary also took the brunt of the blame and the anger for both their own actions and those of the British both before and after independence.
posted by ajayb at 2:09 PM on May 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

Loved this post, bt it will take a bit of digestion. Going to look up the Lagos 1845 event in Johnson's "History of the Yorubas".

Given that European visitors to the region produced most of the surviving written and illustrated accounts of nineteenth-century Africa, this approach presents a set of serious analytical challenges in terms of accessing local perspectives. The interpretation of these sources is fraught with the tension of close readings along and against the grain,
Well, yes. So far, so Laura Mulvey, or elaborations thereof.

BUT!!! Osuaofia in London is very funny!! And is exactly about reacting to neo-Colonial malarky. (and very patriarchal with it!)
posted by glasseyes at 3:36 PM on May 27, 2017

I found The Racism Behind Kampala's focus on "Asians" problematic and it could do with some editing, but it's still shockingly good. When I started reading colonial histories I began to realise that there was a standard toolkit used by colonial governments: when they couldn't just displace the indigenous peoples they imported a servant class to act as a buffer, or elevated a local group to serve the same purpose. So across South East Asia you have descendants of Indian and Chinese clerks and merchants who remain simultaneously privileged and oppressed; in Africa you have (e.g.) the Tutsi and other groups that were both ennobled and stigmatised (often justified by "racial science" that pretended they were somehow superior ); and across the Middle East you have literal monarchs that were installed to justify European rule at one remove. We haven't even begun to untangle all this and I don't know if we ever will.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:17 PM on May 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

All of this reminds me of a paper I read on racial segregation in colonial Freetown, Sierra Leone. The stated reason was malaria control, but the fact that Africans were treated as contagions, simply by dint of being African, and the inconsistent application of the segregation, showed the cracks in that explanation. It's an interesting look at the intersection of the ostensibly scientific practice of public health and the more venal concerns over social status, racial purity, and political dominance.
posted by Panjandrum at 12:29 PM on May 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

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