Political Geography, Urban Development and National Identity in Tanzania

Authors: Garth Myers*, Trinity College
Topics: Political Geography, Africa, Urban Geography
Keywords: Africa, political geography, urban development, national identity
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 12:40 PM / 2:20 PM
Room: Washington 3, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Tanzania contains four cities that have served as national capitals at some point over the last 130 years. Bagamoyo served briefly as capital of German East Africa early in the colonial period, and Zanzibar’s capital status diminished with the union of the People’s Republic of Zanzibar with Tanganyika to form the United Republic of Tanzania in April 1964. The United Republic’s African socialist orientation included an ambition plan to shift the capital from Dar es Salaam to Dodoma. All four cities play a role in contestations over national identity and urban development in Tanzania’s 21st century political geography. Bagamoyo is now being developed as a major center for culture-and-arts tourism as well as an alternative port to Dar es Salaam. Zanzibar retains a strong national identity of its own, manifest in the city of Zanzibar, even as the union government seeks to erase the territory’s autonomy. And the forceful rejuvenation under President John Magufuli (2015-) of the long-moribund program to genuinely move Tanzania’s entire government to Dodoma has raised many eyebrows, even in an increasingly controlled authoritarian political context. Long considered a shining light of national unity amidst diversity in comparison to its neighbors, Tanzania’s identity is in as much flux as its capital cities’ roles in the political and cultural economy. This paper examines the contemporary challenges of national identity through the lens of contestation for political-economic significance in these four cities.

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