African Cities: Development Dreams and Nightmares (HIST-206)


Nairobi, Kenya, city centre. Holy Family Basilica. Taken from the Kenyatta International Conference Centre. Public Domain. taken by ninara,

Instructor: Professor Hanson

African cities in the present demonstrate the failure of models of development with the aim and ideal of industrialization. African cities in the past contributed to dynamic and prosperous civilizations. What happened? This course examines the as-yet-unattained aspirations of modernity through the lens of African urban history using fiction, film, current scholarship and city archives. Each class session works along two timelines – the history of African cities over millennia, and the 60-plus year history of the endeavor of economic, social, and political progress which goes by the name development. Beginning with Timbuktu and Cairo, the course explores the emergence and decline of trading centers, the rise of colonial cities, and the dilemmas of postcolonial economies and polities. Dar es Salaam, Nairobi, Kampala, Kinshasa, Harare, Johannesburg, Lagos, Accra, and Dakar are among the cities studied. Designed for those seeking only an introduction to development as well as those with further ambitions, the course assumes no previous knowledge of Africa, but at the same time creates opportunities for those doing a Development Studies Nexus to reflect on or prepare for an internship, and to work on professional skills.