This book introduces readers to the anthropology of urban life in Africa, showing what ethnography can teach us about African city dwellers’ own notions, practices, and reflections.
Social anthropologists have studied city life in Africa since the early 20th century. Their works have addressed a number of questions that are relevant until today: What happens to rural people who move to the city? What kinds of livelihoods do they pursue? How does city life affect moralities and practices connected with gender roles, marriage, parenthood, and intergenerational relations? In which social situations are ethnic and other collective identifications relevant? How do people make a home in the city? What forms of authority and leadership become relevant in urban governance? How do people talk about city life? This book asks what anthropologists have come to learn about Africans’ views on city life. It provides a critical acclaim of ethnographies in English, French, and German and elucidates anthropology’s contribution to understanding city life in Africa. It highlights the significance of female, African and Diaspora scholars for an emerging urban anthropology of Africa. The chapters are organized according to everyday activities of city dwellers: moving, connecting, governing, working, dwelling, and wayfinding.
The book will be an essential read for students and researchers of social anthropology, African and urban studies, but also for professionals in research and development organizations, thinktanks, and other institutions concerned with urban Africa.
Table of Contents
Preface, 1. Introduction, 2. Moving, 3. Connecting, 4. Governing, 5. Working, 6. Dwelling, 7. Wayfinding, 8. Discussion and outlook, Bibliography
Katja Werthmann is an anthropologist and a full professor at the Institute of African Studies at Leipzig University, Germany.
"City Life in Africa is a book I wish I read before embarking on my own journey into ethnographic studies of popular music in the East African urban space. Katja Werthmann carefully puts together a compelling analysis of studies from different disciplinary areas to unearth some hidden studies of urban Africa that inadvertently revises the history of anthropology of cities in Africa. Through City Life in Africa Katja Werthmann challenges received histories of studies of African urban centers by showing how unacknowledged scholars in Africa were studying the city before the famed so-called founders of urban anthropology."
Mwenda Ntarangwi, author of East African Hip Hop: Youth Culture and Globalization and Reversed Gaze: An African Ethnography of American Anthropology, co-editor of African Anthropologies: History, Critique and Practice
"Katja Werthmann’s City Life in Africa connects theory firmly to ethnographic practice and shows us how to attend to the subtle turns that culture takes within the urban sphere. It will prove to be a major contribution to African urban studies and all related areas."
Ato Quayson, Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies, Stanford University