Brown Bag Seminar Cape Town Mistra Urban Futures

Lagos: a Plotted City - Revisited

The ACC is pleased to welcome Lindsay Sawyer who has been hosted as a visiting scholar for the past year in order to write up her thesis on Lagos. Now completed, Lindsay will present her work in a 30min presentation that mimics her upcoming thesis defence at her university ETH Zurich. Edgar Pieterse and Sue Parnell will act as the jury.

This thesis attempts to contribute to an understanding of the urbanisation of Lagos and to arrive at a more satisfying representation of its complexities and specificities through the consideration of the prevalent residential areas of Lagos as a coherent spatial configuration, proposing Plotting as a heuristic theoretical category to account for them. Lagos still represents a significant challenge to current urban theory and methods. The gaps in knowledge about Lagos speak to the inadequate conceptual and methodological tools there have so far been to approach and analyse it as a ‘city of the global South’. This thesis forms part of the recent impetus in urban studies for new ways of producing knowledge about the urban with a revalorised focus on Southern urbanism and comparison. As such, this thesis works to formulate Plotting as a new conceptual tool to account for the production of the extensive residential areas where the majority of people in Lagos live, mostly in the ubiquitous form of rental housing called Face-Me-I-Face You by taking a grounded theory approach within a wider comparative framework. The prevalent spatial configuration of Lagos has not been adequately analysed and Plotting is an attempt to account for the piecemeal development and intensification of these areas through the contradictions, contestations and multiple systems of territorial authority of the dual land regime in Lagos. As such, Plotting is offered as a conceptual tool to account for aspects of Lagos that normative approaches have struggled to recognise and analyse such as the dual land regime, the role of customary authorities, moving beyond the formal-informal dichotomy, the growth of Lagos despite sustained political, economic and social instability, and the apparent lack of political organisation and demands from the people in the face of deep inequalities and an elitist and incapacitated state who does little to address their needs.
This research is part of the Planetary Urbanisation in Comparative Perspective project that undertook a theoretically and methodologically rigorous comparison of eight urban regions based the grounded empirical work of eight colleagues and myself. Plotting emerged as a new theoretical category through a comparison of Lagos, Istanbul, Kolkata and Shenzhen. This thesis adopts a grounded theory methodology, collecting and analysing qualitative data in order to build new theoretical categories through iterative rounds of data collection and analysis including comparative analysis. Data was primarily collected through intensive periods of fieldwork between 2012-2014. Desk-based methods were also used but there was an emphasis on fieldwork to address the lack of available data in certain areas and to allow concepts to emerge from the ground. The thesis undertakes a pattern and pathway analysis of Lagos, constructing a visual and spatial analysis of its current processes of urbanisation and a historical analysis of how these processes emerged. The thesis identifies the significant gaps in research on Lagos, linking to broader gaps in knowledge about informal rental housing and land delivery in unplanned areas of certain areas of urban Africa, showing there to be a blindspot in literature and policy towards prevalent but tolerated majority conditions. The main work of the thesis is conceptualising Plotting as a process of urbanisation through its regulatory, material and everyday dimensions with a particular focus on the dual land regime, contestations over land, and the emergence of the logic of ‘private/ network gain over public good’. Further, it is shown that through the conversation between this research and the comparison, Plotting is already proving applicable beyond the context of Lagos. Images and empirical accounts from the field and other sources are used throughout the thesis and form part of the analysis.


SPEAKER: Lindsay Sawyer
DATE: 3 November 2016
TIME: 13:00-14:00
VENUE: Library, EGS Building, Upper Campus, UCT