It might be a minute before I get to writing about this book in any detail because, well…I’m writing the book. But last weekend I did a takeover of @thearchitectsproject Instagram page, where I talked about the history of spatial colonization and its legacies in 20th century Accra. I wrote way more than you normally find in most Instagram captions. If you want a preview of the book, check it out!
In part because of COVID and in part because of the realities of my own limitations, this book is not quite what I first envisioned but, in some ways, the change – shifting focus on this earlier period and really thinking about what the history of informalization and the colonial roots of informality mean for a city like Accra has been exciting. And it’s gratifying to hear from a diverse range of practitioners and scholars that this is relevant and engaging and interesting for them, as well. This book makes an argument about how categories become naturalized through scholarship, policy, and practice, and it seeks to place fields like history, anthropology, urban studies, urban planning, architecture, development studies, and geography in conversation to think about where our conceptual categories come from and what it means to decolonize our disciplines at the conceptual level. It is a scholarly book, but in many ways, I see practitioners and policymakers are my audience. As I wrote in the comments for one of the posts:
If we acknowledge this violent history of informalization and its connection to colonialism, what would it look like to build a just city? What models, policies, and practices would we need to abandon? Who would we need to listen to? In whose interests would we work? Where would we invest?
My book’s about colonial Accra, but I’m always also thinking about the now, about why and how this history matters, about what we can and should learn from it. And, as a humanist, I’m always thinking about the kinds of violence that we perpetuate – often unknowingly – due to our lack of careful engagement with the past and with people.
I feel like I have new energy for the book after this. Looking forward to getting back to it soon. Three-ish chapters drafted. Intro draft is next, mobilized by some of the ideas and exchanges that came through this exercise. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: public engagement is scholarly and productive.
For other recent examples of my work in public forums, see:
For a recent example of scholarship (that will be chapter 4 of the new book in revised form) and the work of my fellow contributors in a special issue on African histories of technology click here: https://muse.jhu.edu/article/761593/pdf