Religious Urbanisation and the ‘Infrastructural Turn’ in Urban Theory: reflections from Lagos and Kinshasa

Authors: Gareth Millington*, University of York, David Garbin , University of Kent, Simon Coleman, University of Toronto
Topics: Urban Geography, Africa, Religion
Keywords: infrastructures, religion, Africa, Lagos, Kinshasa, megacity
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Blue Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Following recent research in Lagos and Kinshasa, this paper examines examples of urban infrastructure financed and provided by (mainly Pentecostal) religious organisations. These include electricity and water supply, bridges, as well as new homes, schools, universities and hospitals. The questions that preoccupy us in this paper are: what is distinctive about this African mode of religious urbanisation? How should we understand it? And, what kinds of urban social relations do these ‘infrastructural experiments’ result in? On a fundamental level, infrastructural projects delivered by religious actors challenge the assumption in urban studies that contemporary urbanisation has become a secular process, driven solely by relations between market and state. As such we consider the degree to which urban theory adequately makes sense of infrastructure that is understood by its providers and users to exist by ‘faith of God’. Evocations of ‘lively’ infrastructures, the ‘poetics’ of infrastructure and ‘enchanted’ materialities go some way towards comprehending such developments, but critical questions concerning responsibility for urban planning and infrastructural delivery, inclusivity and the (non-secular) urban imaginaries tied to these new infrastructures remain. We address these issues and more broadly we examine the novel ‘relation between things’ associated with an ‘alter-city’ being built by religious organisations both within but also as an extension of/ in opposition to the mega-city itself.

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