Enclaving: Spatial detachment as an aesthetics of imagination in an urban sub-Saharan African context

Research paper by Morten Nielsen, Jason Sumich, Bjørn Bertelsen

Indexed on: 10 Jun '20Published on: 03 Jun '20Published in: Urban studies (Edinburgh, Scotland)


Urban Studies, Ahead of Print. While detachment and separation continue to be central to urban development across the globe, in several sub-Saharan African cities they have acquired a particular form of acute social and political efficacy. In many European and American cities, the making of fortified enclosures is considered to be an effect of an endemic fear of societal dissolution, and a growing number of sub-Saharan African cities are, seemingly, affected by a similar socio-political and economic dynamic. However, in sub-Saharan Africa the spatial lines of separation that isolate the affluent few from surrounding urban spaces follow both a much wider and less coordinated meshwork of social divisions and political fissures, and draw on a deeper socio-cultural, economic and historical repertoire. In this article, we trace the contours of enclaving as a critical urban driver, which is rapidly changing the social and physical fabric of cities across the sub-Saharan continent. Rather than considering enclaving simply as a physical manifestation of dominance and privilege, however, we consider it as an ‘aesthetics of imagination’ that migrates through the cities and thereby weaves together otherwise dissimilar and distinct social practices and spaces, political desires and economic aspirations.

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