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Rethinking the colonial city: spatialized histories of urban and racial segregation in colonial Kinshasa and Lubumbashi

Luce Beeckmans (UGent) , Sofie Boonen (UGent) and Johan Lagae (UGent)
Author
Organization
Abstract
Since the 1980s it has become commonplace to consider colonial cities as physical urban realms segregated along racial lines, with the segregationist policy — often combined with a discourse on the “sanitary syndrome” — resulting in a binary structure separating the so-called European town from the native town. While scholars of the social sciences have since long highlighted the complexities of colonial urban societies and questioned the binary scheme of ‘colonizer’-‘colonized’, few researchers have ventured into a similar analysis of the spatiality of the colonial city. If urban space has become a key notion in African urban history in the last decade, studies of what Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch called “spatialized space” are indeed still rare. This paper will argue that much is to be gained from detailed mapping and dissecting the physical colonial urban landscape. In fact, urban segregation was both embedded in as well as strengthened by building and planning strategies and practices, with official colonial policies often being compromised in the process of implementation. Two case-studies from the Belgian colonial context will be put to the fore: Kinshasa and Lubumbashi. By discussing the colonial planning in these two urban settings from a comparative perspective and doing so on a variety of scales (from the masterplan to the individual building or place) and in relation to shifting ideas on native policy, this paper will highlight both specific and more widely shared aspects of colonial urban segregation. Particular attention will be given to the discrepancies between the planning models, often formulated in the métropole, and the urban landscape that was actually realized. It will be shown that the tension between theory and practice was to some extent linked to specific local conditions of topography, culture, economy and social habits, but also resulted from differences in the agency of, for instance, intermediate figures. By documenting and analyzing of the evolutions over time of the so-called “zone neutre” or cordon sanitaire in both Kinshasa and Lubumbashi, following an approach that pays attention to racial separation as well as to social stratification within these two particular colonial urban societies, our analysis aims to go beyond the binary analytical framework of the segregated colonial city and will plea for a more complex understanding of (the physicality of) colonial cities.

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MLA
Beeckmans, Luce, Sofie Boonen, and Johan Lagae. “Rethinking the Colonial City: Spatialized Histories of Urban and Racial Segregation in Colonial Kinshasa and Lubumbashi.” ECAS (European Conference on African Studies) Conference, Abstracts. 2009. Print.
APA
Beeckmans, Luce, Boonen, S., & Lagae, J. (2009). Rethinking the colonial city: spatialized histories of urban and racial segregation in colonial Kinshasa and Lubumbashi. ECAS (European Conference on African Studies) Conference, Abstracts. Presented at the ECAS (European Conference on African Studies) Conference.
Chicago author-date
Beeckmans, Luce, Sofie Boonen, and Johan Lagae. 2009. “Rethinking the Colonial City: Spatialized Histories of Urban and Racial Segregation in Colonial Kinshasa and Lubumbashi.” In ECAS (European Conference on African Studies) Conference, Abstracts.
Chicago author-date (all authors)
Beeckmans, Luce, Sofie Boonen, and Johan Lagae. 2009. “Rethinking the Colonial City: Spatialized Histories of Urban and Racial Segregation in Colonial Kinshasa and Lubumbashi.” In ECAS (European Conference on African Studies) Conference, Abstracts.
Vancouver
1.
Beeckmans L, Boonen S, Lagae J. Rethinking the colonial city: spatialized histories of urban and racial segregation in colonial Kinshasa and Lubumbashi. ECAS (European Conference on African Studies) Conference, Abstracts. 2009.
IEEE
[1]
L. Beeckmans, S. Boonen, and J. Lagae, “Rethinking the colonial city: spatialized histories of urban and racial segregation in colonial Kinshasa and Lubumbashi,” in ECAS (European Conference on African Studies) Conference, Abstracts, Leipzig, Germany, 2009.
@inproceedings{4170090,
  abstract     = {Since the 1980s it has become commonplace to consider colonial cities as physical urban realms segregated along racial lines, with the segregationist policy — often combined with a discourse on the “sanitary syndrome” — resulting in a binary structure separating the so-called European town from the native town. While scholars of the social sciences have since long highlighted the complexities of colonial urban societies and questioned the binary scheme of ‘colonizer’-‘colonized’, few researchers have ventured into a similar analysis of the spatiality of the colonial city. If urban space has become a key notion in African urban history in the last decade, studies of what Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch called “spatialized space” are indeed still rare. This paper will argue that much is to be gained from detailed mapping and dissecting the physical colonial urban landscape. In fact, urban segregation was both embedded in as well as strengthened by building and planning strategies and practices, with official colonial policies often being compromised in the process of implementation. Two case-studies from the Belgian colonial context will be put to the fore: Kinshasa and Lubumbashi. By discussing  the colonial planning in these two urban settings from a comparative perspective and doing so on a variety of scales (from the masterplan to the individual building or place) and in relation to shifting ideas on native policy, this paper will highlight both specific and more widely shared aspects of colonial urban segregation. Particular attention will be given to the discrepancies between the planning models, often formulated in the métropole, and the urban landscape that was actually realized. It will be shown that the tension between theory and practice was to some extent linked to specific local conditions of topography, culture, economy and social habits, but also resulted from differences in the agency of, for instance, intermediate figures. By documenting and analyzing of the evolutions over time of the so-called “zone neutre” or cordon sanitaire in both Kinshasa and Lubumbashi, following an approach that pays attention to racial separation as well as to social stratification within these two particular colonial urban societies, our analysis aims to go beyond the binary analytical framework of the segregated colonial city and will plea for a more complex understanding of (the physicality of) colonial cities.},
  author       = {Beeckmans, Luce and Boonen, Sofie and Lagae, Johan},
  booktitle    = {ECAS (European Conference on African Studies) Conference, Abstracts},
  language     = {eng},
  location     = {Leipzig, Germany},
  title        = {Rethinking the colonial city: spatialized histories of urban and racial segregation in colonial Kinshasa and Lubumbashi},
  url          = {http://www.uni-leipzig.de/~ecas2009/index.php?option=com_docman&task=cat_view&gid=169&limit=200&limitstart=0&order=date&dir=ASC&Itemid=24},
  year         = {2009},
}