Authors: Eric Prieto*, University of California
Topics: Urban Geography, Third World, Africa
Keywords: informal urbanism; Africa; urban cultural studies; literature
Session Type: Lightning Paper
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Forum Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded
Rapid urbanization has created significant challenges worldwide, especially in the Global South, where over 50% of the urban population lives in substandard housing in informal (ie. illegal, under-served) settlements, often in conditions of extreme poverty. This is a well-known and long-studied problem in the social sciences, but less so in the humanities. That is starting to change, however, especially since the publication of the 2003 UN Habitat report, The Challenge of Slums, and Mike Davis's polemical Planet of Slums (2005), which have helped to bring this phenomenon to the forefront of public consciousness. My project explores the ways in which literary representations of urban informality interact with work being done in the social sciences through what I call, following Henri Lefebvre, their "transductive" approach to representing urban processes, which foregrounds the phenomenological perspective of lived experience. My presentation highlights the case of the Guinean novelist Tierno Monenembo, whose literary career has been obsessively devoted to the bas fonds of the informal city. His work provides a powerful example of the ways in which creative writing with a transnational perspective enriches our understanding of urban dynamics, beginning with the cities that Monénembo has lived in and written about, including Conakry (Guinea), Abidjan (Cote d'Ivoire), and Lyon (France). Such works, which leverage the relative advantages of literature as a paralogical mode of spatial and geographical exploration, can push the theoretical representations of urban planners and policy makers in new directions by foregrounding the bottom up logic of transductive thinking.