The stereotype of Africa as a predominantly 'natural' space ignores the existence of vibrant and cosmopolitan urban environments on the continent. Far from merely embodying backwardness and lack, African cities are sites of complex and diverse cultural productions which participate in modernity and its dynamics of global flows and exchanges. This volume merges the concerns of urban, literary and cultural studies by focusing on the flows and exchanges of texts and textual elements. By analysing how texts such as popular and canonical fiction, popular music, self-help pamphlets, graffiti, films, journalistic writing, rumours and urban legends engage with the problems of citizenship, self-organisation and survival, the collection shows that despite all the problems of Africa, its cities continue to engender forward-looking creativity and hope. The texts collected here belong to several different genres themselves, and they are authored by both distinguished and younger scholars, based in and outside of Africa. The volume explores the textualities emerging from the cities of Senegal, Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Above all, it calls for an end to disabling hierarchical categorisations of both texts and cities.
This book was published as a special issue of the Journal of Postcolonial Writing.
1. Introduction: City, text, future Ranka Primorac
2. A city that keeps a country going: In praise of Dakar Donal Cruise O’Brien
3. Corresponding with the city: Self-help literature in urban West Africa Stephanie Newell
4. Philly Lutaaya: Popular music and the fight against HIV/AIDS in Uganda Joel Isabirye
5. Remapping urban modernities: Julie Ward’s death and the Kenyan grapevine Grace A. Musila
6. The modern city and citizen efficacy in a Zambian novel Ranka Primorac
7. Lusaka Laura Miti-Banda
8. The urban palimpsest: Re-presenting Sophiatown Meg Samuelson
9. Myth and legend in urban oral memory: Bulawayo, 1930–60 Terence Ranger
10. Afterword: Modernity and transformation in African cities Jennifer Robinson
11. Ivan Vladislavic and the possible city James Graham
12. City, identity and dystopia: Writing Lagos in contemporary Nigerian novels Rita Nnodim