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Centre of African Studies: Events


Built environment and sociality in new mining towns in Zambia

Built environment and sociality in new mining towns in Zambia
Speaker: Rita Kesselring # University of Basel; Introduced by: Wolfgang Zeller # University of Edinburgh
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Date and Time
7th Dec 2016 16:00 - 7th Dec 2016 17:30
Hugh Robson Building Lecture Theatre

Zambia’s economy is characterized by boom and bust in the mining industry. Since the 1970s, the country has first suffered from low global prices for copper, then from the imposed structural adjustment reforms. As part of the most recent boom in the last ten years, three large-scale copper mines started operations in the Northwestern Province. These massive changes in a previously rural region have attracted tens of thousands of migrants looking for opportunities. In these new urban settings, groups of actors compete for land, influence and visions of how the towns should develop.

In this paper, I look at a multiplicity of governance actors who have an influence on the built environment; how it is planned, built and used. The mine needs land and infrastructure, for which it negotiates with both the local and the central state. The municipal council tries to assert its authority vis-à-vis the mine in selected battles around land, rates and services, and generally attempts to get a grip on unplanned settlements and unruly residents. Residents seek to carve out a living in an environment with little formal employment and they build quicker than the council is planning. Finally, the traditional authorities sometimes collaborate with the mine and at other times with the state, seeing their basis of authority rapidly eroding, but the value of the communal peri-urban land rising.

In this “frontier” setting, I examine how the built environment and sociality relate, that is how infrastructure facilitates or constrains certain forms of sociality, and vice versa. I compare two urban situations, each adjacent to a mine: Solwezi, the provincial capital, and Kalumbila, a new “company town” further west where the local state is hardly visible.

Freshers 2013