“Morton’s argument, delivered with passion and power, gives life to a nuanced, deeply personal understanding of how ordinary residents of disadvantaged urban communities not only make their neighborhoods—they reframe the everyday political order. The stories he tells resonate across the continent.”
Garth Myers, author of African Cities: Alternative Visions of Urban Theory and Practice
Age of Concrete is a history of the making of houses and homes in the subúrbios of Maputo (Lourenço Marques), Mozambique, from the late 1940s to the present. Often dismissed as undifferentiated, ahistorical “slums,” these neighborhoods are in fact an open-air archive that reveals some of people’s highest aspirations. At first people built in reeds. Then they built in wood and zinc panels. And finally, even when it was illegal, they risked building in concrete block, making permanent homes in a place where their presence was often excruciatingly precarious.
Unlike many histories of the built environment in African cities, Age of Concrete focuses on ordinary homebuilders and dwellers. David Morton thus models a different way of thinking about urban politics during the era of decolonization, when one of the central dramas was the construction of the urban stage itself. It shaped how people related not only to each other but also to the colonial state and later to the independent state as it stumbled into being.
Original, deeply researched, and beautifully composed, this book speaks in innovative ways to scholarship on urban history, colonialism and decolonization, and the postcolonial state. Replete with rare photographs and other materials from private collections, Age of Concrete establishes Morton as one of a handful of scholars breaking new ground on how we understand Africa’s cities.
David Morton is assistant professor of African history at the University of British Columbia. As a journalist prior to his academic career, he wrote for publications such as Architectural Record, the New Republic, and Foreign Policy, and in Mozambique contributed to IRIN, the humanitarian news service. More info →
“In 2010, about two dozen architecture students at Maputo’s main university were sent into the subúrbios in search of the last of the city’s reed houses. there are many ways to describe the low-lying neighborhoods where most residents of Mozambique’s capital city live, but any frank depiction must underline the fact that, historically, life in the subúrbios has been conditioned by a lack of basic urban infrastructure. For most of the twentieth century, flooding was frequent, and the absence of sewage and drainage lines left neighborhoods vulnerable to cholera outbreaks. to dispose of trash, people had to bury it in their yards or burn it. Very few residents had ready access to running water or electricity. By the second decade of the twenty-first century, however, Mozambique’s nearly double-digit economic growth was changing the picture.…”
— Introduction and Table of Contents
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Dams, Displacement, and the Delusion of Development
Cahora Bassa and Its Legacies in Mozambique, 1965–2007
By Allen F. Isaacman and Barbara S. Isaacman
This in-depth study of the Zambezi River Valley examines the dominant developmentalist narrative that has surrounded the Cahora Bassa Dam, chronicles the continual violence that has accompanied its existence, and gives voice to previously unheard narratives of forced labor, displacement, and historical and contemporary life in the dam’s shadow.
In articles for the newspaper O Brado Africano in the mid-1950s, poet and journalist José Craveirinha described the ways in which the Mozambican football players in the suburbs of Lourenço Marques (now Maputo) adapted the European sport to their own expressive ends. Through gesture, footwork, and patois, they used what Craveirinha termed “malice”—or cunning—to negotiate their places in the colonial state.
Encompassing history, geography, and political science, MacArthur’s study evaluates the role of geographic imagination and the impact of cartography not only as means of expressing imperial power and constraining colonized populations, but as tools for the articulation of new political communities and resistance.
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