Emergency Democracy and the "Governing Composite"

Simone, AbdouMaliq. 2008. Emergency Democracy and the "Governing Composite". Social Text, 26(2 95), pp. 13-33. [Article]

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Recent years have witnessed a substantial extension of thoughts and work on cities in Africa. Much of this work has tried to get out of the conceptual frameworks that usually render African cities as failed cities, cities always in need of something more — whether it be infrastructure, governance, or economic development. As David Satterthwaite so ably demonstrates, cities in the global South in general are caught in a series of powerful myths that represent them as more parasitic and more economically fragmented than cities elsewhere. The prevailing notion is that of an urban fabric overrun, unable to accommodate all of the escalating demands made of it; of environmental degradation spawned by widespread impoverishment; and of increased social conflict among residents who find few institutional platforms to promote coherence and collaboration. In the following discussion, I emphasize the implications of trying to see the emerging fabric of urban Africa as the result of a productive deployment of sensibilities, practices, effort, and collective formations that are made possible by the very uncertainties incumbent within cities deeply punctuated by fragmented infrastructures, social contestation over the uses to be made of the city, and political regimes thoroughly made partial through their entanglement within diverse networks of exchange. In particular, this essay deals with the often peculiar process through which actors come to make their mark on collective transactions and the way in which idiosyncratic constellations of such actors provide a workable balance between the provisional and incessantly mutating practices required to viably “make do” in most African cities and a sense of order, if only temporary.

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Date Deposited:

23 Apr 2010 07:24

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 15:28

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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