Mediating Coastal Geologies in Lagos, Nigeria

Authors: Ben Mendelsohn*, University of Pennsylvania
Topics: Cultural Ecology, Applied Geography, Africa
Keywords: Nigeria, media studies, urban culture, land reclamation, dredging, coastal cities
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Jefferson, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The future of the world’s coastal cities is deeply uncertain. As knowledge accumulates about climate change, sea level rise, population growth, and the political obstacles to managing their collective impacts, there is an anxious gaze pointed toward the global urban coast. This paper tracks historic and ongoing shifts along the rapidly urbanizing waterfronts of Lagos, Nigeria while arguing for the city’s importance as an understudied site along the global urban coast. Through the interdisciplinary lens of urban and environmental media studies, the paper shows how the nexus of sand, land, and water is mediated through a range of narrative, visual, economic, and bureaucratic channels. Scholars across the humanities and the social sciences have demonstrated that in generic terms, most any coastal city can be understood as a hub of many different flows: of media, language, capital, raw material, and human bodies. This paper further demonstrates that the circulatory node of Lagos as a postcolonial, coastal megacity—what has long been understood as a hub of maritime trade and colonial arrival, of the export and in some cases the return of human slaves, of Pan African aspiration, and of visual-cultural and literary production and hybridity—should be thought alongside another set of circulations and flows: of the ground itself. By understanding how and why sedimentary migrations are entangled with migrations of bodies, images, technologies, and knowledges, I argue that urban and environmental media studies can contribute new energy and new clarity for thinking the world’s precarious urban futures.

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