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Call for papers: Claiming Rights and Resources in the African City

On Wednesday 11 October 2017 the African Studies Centre Leiden and the Van Vollenhoven Institute for Law, Governance and Society are organizing a workshop.

Africa’s rapidly growing population is increasingly living in urban areas. It is estimated that by 2050 Africa’s urban population will have tripled in comparison to 2010 and that more than 60% of the population will be living in cities (UN-Habitat 2015). Within these cities, different categories of people claim the rights and resources they feel entitled to, such as a plot of land – either rented or bought – to live on, access to water and other basic public services, they want their voices to be heard and their dignity respected. But who should you contact if you want to claim your rights? State authorities do not always have a strong presence in the densely populated peripheral neighbourhoods and traditional authority structures are not as dominant in urban areas as they are in rural areas.

Being able to claim rights and resources is a way of, in particular, newcomers – often socio-economic migrants, refugees, and internally displaced persons – to cities to claim their right to the city (Lefebvre 1968), of being seen as people who belong in the urban space. The act of buying urban property is regarded by many people as a sign of integration, of turning a newcomer into a resident, but it does not mean that such act is uncontested within the neighbourhood. As soon as resources are scarce, there will be competition about who is able to access what resource.

Urbanisation and associated opportunities not only attract poorer migrants, but also national and international actors (national elites, foreign companies, transnational migrants, development workers) intent on making money from the land market, real estate and infrastructure development, and (emergency) relief, thus adding to the complexity of claim-making over urban resources.

A number of questions related to rights and resources in the city can be raised, such as: Who does the city belong to and who feels a sense of belonging in the city? What does it tell us about citizenship and identity? How do people in urban areas stand up for their rights and claim access to resources and services? Which authorities do they turn to? What happens in places where authority structures are opaque? How are relations between newcomers and longer-term residents? How do (inter)national actors navigate law and authorities for getting access to rights and resources, and how do local stakeholders deal with the opportunities and risks related to the presence of these actors? What role do brokers play as gatekeepers to rights and resources? What are the implications for urban governance and city development policies?

We would like to discuss a number of these questions during a one-day workshop with researchers, policymakers, and practitioners. Contributions can be theoretical or empirical, or (preferably!) a mix of both. Participants are expected to either present a paper or to act as discussant.

Call for Papers: deadline 15 September 2017
If you are interested in participating, send a short motivation statement and an abstract (max. 350 words) to c.i.m.jacobs@law.leidenuniv.nl and m.m.a.kaag@asc.leidenuniv.nl by 15 September 2017.

Mayke Kaag (African Studies Centre Leiden) and Carolien Jacobs (Van Vollenhoven Institute for Law, Governance and Society)

Date workshop:
Wednesday 11 October 2017

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