Architecture and politics in Africa - making, living and imagining identities through buildings

This event will be in Zoom

Convenor: Julia Gallagher (SOAS, University of London)

This one-day virtual conference explores politics in sub-Saharan Africa through an examination of public architecture including parliaments, airports, prisons, ministries, libraries, universities, schools, shopping malls, public housing, cathedrals, palaces and the AU headquarters.

To date, there has been no effort to systemically connect debates about Africa’s domestic and international politics with the study of architecture. Yet buildings are materially and symbolically interwoven with political power, administration and relationships, as well global flows of money, goods and contracts. The work discussed will explore how buildings are commissioned, financed and built, how they enable elites to project power and how they form a basis for popular conceptions of the state and its international relationships, drawing on case studies from across the continent. 

Panel one: Making 10.00am-12.00pm

  • Grounding Africa’s international relations: global ambitions and airport expansion in Ethiopia - Joanne Tomkinson, SOAS, UK and Dawit Yekoyesew, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia
  • Building heaven on earth: rhetoric and ritual in the politics of Ghana’s national cathedral - Emmanuel Kusi Ofori-Sarpong, Central University, Ghana
  • What society makes of the state: reading Cote d’Ivoire’s public architecture - Julia Gallagher, SOAS, UK & Ariane Ndjore, Félix Houphouët-Boigny University, Cote d’Ivoire
  • ‘Made by China’: the strains of sovereignty in Malawi’s Chinese funded Parliament - Innocent Batsani Ncube, SOAS, UK
  • The architecture of state education: nation-building and citizenship in Senegal’s schools - Kuukuwa Manful, SOAS, UK

Panel two: Living 1.00-3.00pm

  • New homes for a new state: foreign ideas in Ghana’s public housing programmes - Irene Appeaning Addo, University of Ghana
  • Colonial legacies, race and shopping: aspiration and division in a Zimbabwean mall - Tonderai Koschke, University of Munich
  • Public spaces, public goods?: reinventing Nairobi’s public libraries - Marie Gibert, independent scholar, Kenya
  • State violence and complicit buildings: finding truth in a South African police station - Yusuf Patel, University of Johannesburg, South Africa

Panel three: Imagining 3.30-5.30pm

Pan-African imaginations: popular imagery and the African Union building in Ethiopia - Daniel Mulugeta, SOAS, UK

Re-imagining pre-colonial tradition: the reconstruction of an Asante palace - Tony Yeboah, Yale University, US

From prison to freedom: overwriting Nigeria’s colonial past - Laura Routley, Newcastle University, UK

Peace-making architecture: the hopes and realities of South Sudan’s oldest university - Awut Atak, University of Kingston, UK

Reflections on architectural education: radical architectural pedagogy in South Africa - Absalom Makhubu, University of Johannesburg, South Africa

The proposal builds on a research project being carried out at SOAS, University of London. It receives funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 772070).

You can attend as many or few panels as you are able. Registration will close two hours before the event begins.

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