Infrastructures of encounter: Radio, place and peace in post-conflict Abidjan

Authors: Fabien Cante*, University of Birmingham
Topics: Urban Geography, Africa, Communication
Keywords: encounters, social infrastructure, urban Africa, media geographies, peace geographies
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Blue Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Echoing recent calls to conceive peace as everyday socio-spatial practice (Courtheyn 2018; Williams 2015), this paper examines the kinds of peace geographies that are enacted by local radio in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire. It argues that peace can be better understood by starting from the perspective of urban social life and its everyday infrastructures (Simone 2010; Koch & Latham 2012).

In the post-conflict Ivoirian metropolis, radio stations are prime vectors of peace-building discourse articulated by the state and international agencies. In this discourse, urban dwellers must be taught how to live together; recent conflict (2002-2011) is held as evidence that habits have been lost, and media are envisioned as conduits for top-down mass pedagogy.

Looking ethnographically at the practices through which abidjanais residents do share the city as a public space, however, delineates a very different geography of peace. Producers and listeners, for the most part, do not engage local radio to teach/learn about peace but to participate in an open-ended sociability of encounter, from which unforeseen social bonds can emerge across lines of gender, ethnicity, class and generation, along with a shared yet boundless and ever-shifting sense of place.

In addition to re-affirming the generative value of urban encounters (Wilson 2017), this paper calls for an approach to peace that begins from African urban dwellers' disposition toward encounters – what Simone (2012) calls "popular research" – and which re-positions the peace-building work of media as one of re-animating (see Amin 2015) everyday urban sociality.

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