Advanced search
1 file | 386.22 KB

Imagined disease and racial segregation: multiple dreams of open space in Kinshasa and Dar es Salaam

Luce Beeckmans (UGent)
Author
Organization
Abstract
It is strange to encounter an open space in the middle of Tanzania’s congested capital, Dar es Salaam. Similarly, one might wonder why there exists a golf course and a zoo besieged by traffic jams in the bustling city centre of Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The key to understanding the intriguing anomalies in the urban geographies of these capital cities lies in tracing back their histories. After the First World War colonial governments in British Dar es Salaam (1924) and Belgian Kinshasa (1931) dreamed of implementing a physical separation between Africans and Europeans. Although the British indirect rule/association, in fact provided an excellent basis to legitimate racial segregation, the British in Dar es Salaam just like the Belgians in Kinshasa, who applied a policy that was greatly inspired by both British and French rule, but was nonetheless overtly racial, felt forced to legitimate racial segregation with a sanitary discourse. In both colonies similar explanations underpinned the sanitary discourse, such as the statement that a physical distance would prevent malaria mosquitos flying over from the African quarter to the European quarter, or that it would prevent the contamination by germ-ridden rats ‘as these are less likely to move from area to area over an open space’ – all explanations which were far from scientifically proven, and were even broadly contested by empirical observations. This shared use of a sanitation discourse thus shows the controversial character of the planned intervention, but also suggests a certain transnational exchange with regard to the implementation of racial segregation in sub-Saharan Africa. Indeed, a remarkable similarity exists in the place-naming of the separation zones between Africans and Europeans in both capitals: the ‘Neutral Zone’ in British Dar es Salaam and the French equivalent ‘Zone Neutre’ in Belgian Kinshasa. With regard to the ‘neutral zones’ several archival records highlight both in Dar es Salaam and Kinshasa the powerful influence of British and South African sanitation experts (in South Africa already in the beginning of the 20th century a sanitary discourse was used as a pretext and legitimation of racial segregation, a phenomenon that has been called a ‘Sanitation Syndrome’ by Maynard W. Swanson), as well as a significant transnational dialogue between the colonial powers. Through influential manuals, international and above all inter-continental conferences such as the Conference of Principal Medical Officers and Senior Sanitary Officers in Lagos in 1912, the Inter-Colonial Conference on Yellow Fever in Dakar in 1928 and the Sanitary Conference of Chief Health Officers in Cape Town in 1932, these ‘all-purpose experts’ turned racial segregation, and in particular the implementation of ‘neutral zones’ in the urban fabric, into a legitimate sanitary measure, with considerable impact on town planning. Moreover, under the influence of the discipline of Tropical Medicine racial segregation also evolved from a temporary solution in the battle against infectious diseases, to a permanent prevention measure. Therefore, even though epidemics are foremost medical phenomena, in the colonial context they clearly also functioned as political constructions and ideological instruments. This was clearly the case in Dar es Salaam and Kinshasa where imagined diseases formed the basis for racial segregation, as both cities, in contrast to for instance Dakar in 1914, never even faced an outbreak of infectious disease. Although the ‘neutral zones’ became only partly implemented, today they form one of the rare open spaces in the congested city centres of Dar es Salaam and Kinshasa. Only now they seem to fulfil their legitimising sanitation objectives by operating as a lung for the congested city. However, the ‘neutral zones’ still mark a segregation in the urban fabric (albeit more socio-economic than racial nowadays) and are highly inaccessible to most citizens. Moreover, today these rare open spaces stand under high real estate pressures to develop the sites for high-standard commercial and housing purposes. Considering the enormous lack of open space in city centres of Dar es Salaam and Kinshasa, as well as the segregation these open spaces still embody, many more valuable projects could be imagined to turn these open spaces both into sites of encounter and healthy environments accessible to all urban dwellers.
Keywords
Colonial Dakar and Dar es Salaam, Segregation, Urban planning

Downloads

  • dreaming-science-programme2.pdf
    • full text
    • |
    • open access
    • |
    • PDF
    • |
    • 386.22 KB

Citation

Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:

Chicago
Beeckmans, Luce. 2015. “Imagined Disease and Racial Segregation: Multiple Dreams of Open Space in Kinshasa and Dar Es Salaam.” In Dreaming of Health and Science in Africa : Aesthetics, Affects, Poetics and Politics, Abstracts.
APA
Beeckmans, Luce. (2015). Imagined disease and racial segregation: multiple dreams of open space in Kinshasa and Dar es Salaam. Dreaming of Health and Science in Africa : Aesthetics, Affects, Poetics and Politics, Abstracts. Presented at the Dreaming of Health and Science in Africa : Aesthetics, Affects, Poetics and Politics.
Vancouver
1.
Beeckmans L. Imagined disease and racial segregation: multiple dreams of open space in Kinshasa and Dar es Salaam. Dreaming of Health and Science in Africa : Aesthetics, Affects, Poetics and Politics, Abstracts. 2015.
MLA
Beeckmans, Luce. “Imagined Disease and Racial Segregation: Multiple Dreams of Open Space in Kinshasa and Dar Es Salaam.” Dreaming of Health and Science in Africa : Aesthetics, Affects, Poetics and Politics, Abstracts. 2015. Print.
@inproceedings{6909427,
  abstract     = {It is strange to encounter an open space in the middle of Tanzania’s congested capital, Dar es Salaam. Similarly, one might wonder why there exists a golf course and a zoo besieged by traffic jams in the bustling city centre of Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The key to understanding the intriguing anomalies in the urban geographies of these capital cities lies in tracing back their histories. 
After the First World War colonial governments in British Dar es Salaam (1924) and Belgian Kinshasa (1931) dreamed of implementing a physical separation between Africans and Europeans. Although the British indirect rule/association, in fact provided an excellent basis to legitimate racial segregation, the British in Dar es Salaam just like the Belgians in Kinshasa, who applied a policy that was greatly inspired by both British and French rule, but was nonetheless overtly racial, felt forced to legitimate racial segregation with a sanitary discourse. In both colonies similar explanations underpinned the sanitary discourse, such as the statement that a physical distance would prevent malaria mosquitos flying over from the African quarter to the European quarter, or that it would prevent the contamination by germ-ridden rats ‘as these are less likely to move from area to area over an open space’ – all explanations which were far from scientifically proven, and were even broadly contested by empirical observations. This shared use of a sanitation discourse thus shows the controversial character of the planned intervention, but also suggests a certain transnational exchange with regard to the implementation of racial segregation in sub-Saharan Africa.
Indeed, a remarkable similarity exists in the place-naming of the separation zones between Africans and Europeans in both capitals: the ‘Neutral Zone’ in British Dar es Salaam and the French equivalent ‘Zone Neutre’ in Belgian Kinshasa. With regard to the ‘neutral zones’ several archival records highlight both in Dar es Salaam and Kinshasa the powerful influence of British and South African sanitation experts (in South Africa already in the beginning of the 20th century a sanitary discourse was used as a pretext and legitimation of racial segregation, a phenomenon that has been called a ‘Sanitation Syndrome’ by Maynard W. Swanson), as well as a significant transnational dialogue between the colonial powers. Through influential manuals, international and above all inter-continental conferences such as the Conference of Principal Medical Officers and Senior Sanitary Officers in Lagos in 1912, the Inter-Colonial Conference on Yellow Fever in Dakar in 1928 and the Sanitary Conference of Chief Health Officers in Cape Town in 1932, these ‘all-purpose experts’ turned racial segregation, and in particular the implementation of ‘neutral zones’ in the urban fabric, into a legitimate sanitary measure, with considerable impact on town planning. Moreover, under the influence of the discipline of Tropical Medicine racial segregation also evolved from a temporary solution in the battle against infectious diseases, to a permanent prevention measure. Therefore, even though epidemics are foremost medical phenomena, in the colonial context they clearly also functioned as political constructions and ideological instruments.  This was clearly the case in Dar es Salaam and Kinshasa where imagined diseases formed the basis for racial segregation, as both cities, in contrast to for instance Dakar in 1914, never even faced an outbreak of infectious disease.
Although the ‘neutral zones’ became only partly implemented, today they form one of the rare open spaces in the congested city centres of Dar es Salaam and Kinshasa. Only now they seem to fulfil their legitimising sanitation objectives by operating as a lung for the congested city. However, the ‘neutral zones’ still mark a segregation in the urban fabric (albeit more socio-economic than racial nowadays) and are highly inaccessible to most citizens. Moreover, today these rare open spaces stand under high real estate pressures to develop the sites for high-standard commercial and housing purposes. Considering the enormous lack of open space in city centres of Dar es Salaam and Kinshasa, as well as the segregation these open spaces still embody, many more valuable projects could be imagined to turn these open spaces both into sites of encounter and healthy environments accessible to all urban dwellers.},
  author       = {Beeckmans, Luce},
  booktitle    = {Dreaming of Health and Science in Africa : Aesthetics, Affects, Poetics and Politics, Abstracts},
  keywords     = {Colonial Dakar and Dar es Salaam,Segregation,Urban planning},
  language     = {eng},
  location     = {Cambridgeshire, Hinxton Hall, Wellcome Trust Conference Center, UK},
  title        = {Imagined disease and racial segregation: multiple dreams of open space in Kinshasa and Dar es Salaam},
  url          = {https://africanbiosciences.wordpress.com/events/dreamingscience/},
  year         = {2015},
}