Imperial Cities and the Politics of Urban Space: Santiago, Marseille, Libreville

AHA Session 130
Saturday, January 7, 2012: 9:00 AM-11:00 AM
Michigan Room B (Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers)
Sarah R. Hamilton, University of Michigan
Brodwyn Fischer, Northwestern University

Session Abstract

This session will explore the politics of citizenship and urban space in Santiago, Marseille, and Libreville.  By focusing on the urban experience of residents and contested efforts to change local landscapes, these papers contribute to a growing historiography that examines urban modernity within a colonial and post-colonial context (Prakash and Kruse (ed.), 2008).  The trope, “imperial cities,” refers to the legacy of empire in everyday life, as well as how networks of power are constructed and negotiated within urban spaces.

Edward Murphy’s paper, “Insurgent Ownership: Urban Land Seizures and Governance in Chile,” examines squatter movements in Santiago in the late 1960s and early 1970s and how residents challenged and conformed to notions of urban governance and property ownership.  In order to successfully establish their neighborhoods and become property owners, they had to prove their worth as citizens.  In “Modernizing the Imperial City:  Marseille, France 1945-1962” Minayo Nasiali explores the intersection of modernization and decolonization through quotidian debates about housing and social welfare in Marseille neighborhoods.  Residents imagined their neighborhoods in terms of who belonged and who deserved access to modern housing.  Concepts of ethnic difference were integral to local understandings of social welfare.  Rachel Jean-Baptiste’s contribution, “‘In the city, it is a mess!’: Conjugality, Home, Nation, and Urban Life in Post-Colonial Libreville, Gabon,”  explores the establishment of post-colonial govermentality through debates over conjugality and domesticity in the burgeoning capital city in the first two decades of political independence.  She traces evolving concepts of citizenship through debates over policies and practices of marriage, domesticity, and urban life.

Although the papers presented in this session discuss three distinct cities, the authors will explore the common themes of citizenship, governmentality, domesticity and perceptions of ethnicity.

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