Between spectacle and the every day: Geographical patterns of oil-fueled reconstruction in post-war Angola

Authors: Aharon De Grassi*, University of California - Santa Cruz
Topics: Political Geography, Africa, Development
Keywords: Infrastructure, Reconstruction, Oil, Spectacle
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: 8201, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Angola’s post-war landscape of oil-fueled reconstruction has involved a staggering amount of spectacular projects. Hundreds of projects worth billions of dollars have been completed across the country, with hundreds more in various stages of partial construction and planning. Airports, highways, stadiums, housing complexes, bridges, railroads, plantations, hydroelectric dams, factories, training institutes, shopping malls, apartment towers, hospitals, planned villages, supermarkets. Every hour of every day it was spectacle, spectacle, more spectacle, spectacle again, followed by spectacle, to the point of nauseating banality. Such projects could variously contribute to hegemonic rule, result from it, or help disrupt it. Hence the necessity of comprehending broader patterns of spectacle in Angola, rather than focus only a singular project, a few examples, or ‘certain schemes.’ As a counter to reification of spectacle when studied, I emphasize the diversity and connections of multiple spectacular projects, and situate them as partly constituted through their ‘mundane’ outsides. I also explore how such spectacularism was facilitated through particular technologies, venues, and forums. Amidst detached exoticizing and ineffective expository accounts – as well as unacceptable inequalities and levels of rural poverty in Angola – I conclude by exploring what an engaged scholarship of spectacle might entail.

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