Reading African Cities:

Methods and Theories for Reading and Understanding African Cities

Track Leaders: Anteneh Tesfaye Tola (, Nelson Mota (

Track organizers: Serah Calitz and Concha Aranda Iglesias

Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia, photo by Anteneh Tesfaye Tola. 

The track – Methods and theories for reading and understanding African cities at the African Perspectives +12 conference will be an ensemble of paper sessions, a round table, a panel and a book presentation. Through a collection of tested methodologies and experiences in reading overlooked urbanities, it explores the gaps in urban theory vis á vis African cities. 

In the search for viable architectural and urban solutions for the rapidly urbanizing African cities, one of the persistent questions raised is; how do we read, interpret and understand existing forms of inhabitation. This question leads to both methodological and epistemological lines of enquiry. In a context where politics is omnipresent, mapping is seen with a grain of stigma, counting and being counted are cultural aliens, Euro-American readings have formed poor profiles and narratives, participation is misused to dodge responsibility; calls are propagating, not only for a de-colonized notion of the African city in particular but also a re-centred position of urban theory in general. 

Furthermore, as a reflection of the lack of proper reading and understanding of African cities, it is trendy for policy makers and local actors to opt for development and redevelopment programs that endanger existing livelihoods and socio-economic structures. Within the frames of this track, we will challenge the theoretic and methodological foundations of such trends and explore alternatives that offer a space for understanding what AbdouMalik Simone refers to as, “simultaneity of the incongruities”, characteristic to African cities.