Urban land contestations and political mobilisation

(re)sources of authority and protest in West African municipalities

in Social Anthropology/Anthropologie sociale
Author:
Sten HagbergUppsala University Sten.Hagberg@antro.uu.se

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Gabriella KörlingStockholm University gabriella.korling@socant.su.se

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The paper is based on anthropological research on socio‐political opposition in West African municipalities. We analyse how land schemes for urban development are at the centre of social contest and political mobilisation in municipalities, by developing examples from peri‐urban areas of Bamako, Mali and Niamey, Niger. We point to several contradictions that lie at the heart of zoning, one of the most dominant forms of urban land management and urban development in many cities in West Africa. They concern, first, who actually benefits from zoning projects and the promises of development and modernisation; second, the dual role of zoning projects as sources of both public resources and private enrichment; third, the gradual replacement of village populations and the rekindling of a politics of belonging; and, finally, the emergence of new political moralities in the face of corruption and mismanagement. We conclude that urban land contests are simultaneously sources and resources of authority and protest. While the skilful and creative combination of these sources and resources is an asset in municipal politics, political mobilisation is also fuelled by protest movements of those marginalised in urban land management schemes, carving out new spaces for socio‐political opposition in West African municipalities.

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