African Cities

Alternative Visions of Urban Theory and Practice

By (author) Professor Garth Myers

Publication date:

14 April 2011


Zed Books



ISBN-13: 9781848135086

In this groundbreaking book, Garth Myers uses African urban concepts and experiences to speak back to theoretical and practical concerns. He argues for a re-visioning - a seeing again, and a revising - of how cities in Africa are discussed and written about in both urban studies and African studies. Cities in Africa are still either ignored - banished to a different, other, lesser category of not-quite cities - or held up as examples of all that can go wrong with urbanism in much of the mainstream and even critical urban literature. Myers instead encourages African studies and urban studies scholars across the world to engage with the vibrancy and complexity of African cities with fresh eyes. Touching on a diverse range of cities across Africa - from Zanzibar to Nairobi, Cape Town to Mogadishu, Kinshasa to Dakar - the book uses the author's own research and a close reading of works by other scholars, writers and artists to help illuminate what is happening in and across the region's cities.
'An audacious and inspiring work. Although engaging with, and profoundly knowledgeable of, current trends and theories in urban studies and human geography, Garth Myers nonetheless also opens up these disciplines to other, alternative visions of African cities to be found in literature and the arts. These bold gestures offer an infinitely more complex, nuanced, and above all, hopeful representation of African urban environments, which moves beyond the popular image of a continent mired in corruption and failure and towards a reading of African cityscapes as the very essence of global modernity. Anyone with an interest in Africa, or in what our cities may become, should read this book.' David Richards, University of Stirling 'A significant contribution to the recent scholarly writing and research on cities in Africa. Garth Myers challenges conventional theories and models that have largely imprisoned the study of cities in Africa in conceptual straightjackets that are not particularly helpful in understanding what is actually happening on the ground. By taking the 'always-moving spaces of African cosmopolitan urbanism' as his point of departure, he offers fresh insights that can enable us to rethink prevailing ideas and stereotypes about cities in Africa. This pioneering book is a must-read for anyone interested in grasping the dynamics of urbanization not only in Africa but also in the Global South more generally.' Martin J. Murray, Professor of Urban Planning, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and Adjunct Professor, African Studies, Center for Afroamerican and African Studies, University of Michigan 'Garth Myers' work is a major and timely contribution that puts the study of African cities back on the intellectual map. His work provides a major synthesis as well as a critical reflection on prominent themes in the rapid urbanization of African cities. This books uniquely balances theory and practice in a very accessible way. This book is essential reading for planners and scholars and everyone else in between that wants to better understand contemporary urbanization in Africa.' Richard Grant, Professor, Department of Geography and Regional Studies University of Miami and Senior Research Scientist, Adjunct Professor, The Earth Institute, Columbia University 'With precise attention to the heterogeneous histories that have shaped African cities, the diverse aspirations, agendas, and projects these cities have embodied, and to the range of geographies at work, Myers is able to specify the ways in which African cities crucially contribute to remaking understandings about cities in general.' AbdouMaliq Simone, Goldsmiths, University of London 'Gareth Myers's African Cities offers a creative and critical conversation between the growing literature on the theories and practices of urban studies and the cutting edge research exploring the ethnographies, geographies, histories as well policy discussions of cities in Africa. Myers's pays close attention to the patterns, processes, forms and functions of African cities in connection, not only to the urban economies of knowledge produced about them, but to ways in which they are inhabited and imagined by ordinary residents, politicians and urban experts. He maps astutely the (mis)location of Africa in urban studies as well as in the production of its concepts, methods, theories and approaches. African Cities provides thought-through arguments, insightful critique and challenging synthesis of both the urban and African studies literature to trace urban stories to reframe the urban studies theoretical and practical knowledge. By including lessons from the multifaceted diverse, complex and unpredictable experience of African cities and urban societies, Myers opens up new realms of inquiry and interpretation in urban studies.' Mamadou Diouf, Leitner Family Professor of African Studies and History, Columbia University 'This is a fascinating book that usefully contributes to a slow growing body of knowledge in the field of the informal African city. It is an astonishing collage of knowledge, facts, figures and critical reflections on African cities nicely carved into a series of themed discussions. A must read for every scholar of urban theory with an interest in the developing world context.' Ronnie Donaldson, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa