620.5 Contesting local governance in a poor peri-urban community : A case study in Senegal

Saturday, August 4, 2012: 10:20 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Distributed Paper
Denise PICHÉ , Architecture, Université Laval, Québec, QC, Canada
The informality of African cities is currently the object of many academic debates, the population’s capacity for self-organization being praised while at the same time spatial inequalities and social injustice are decried. Based on the study of a neighbourhood development at the periphery of Dakar, the presentation shows how there is very little public space left to contesting socio-spatial inequalities in poor communities that are caught in between the reformist “technical” approach to participation put forward by international aid discourse and projects, the traditional local power structure and the “modern state” form of governance. Contrary to the widely accepted meaning of informality, peri-urban neighbourhoods are confronted with a structured form of multi-scale and multi-agent governance operating via a formal, albeit implicit, order. In Senegal, social movements and youth’s spontaneous organisations are contesting the national state, but political action at the local scale, as in the «set setal» movement (collective campaigns to clean the environment), seems choreographed. I will put forward the hypothesis that this is not for a lack of institutionalization and decentralization, but for an absence of public discourse on and popular representations of the nature of collective urban space and its transformation processes. A reflection on urban space as a common good is impeded by the political order in place, an order that was characterized by Chabal and Daloz (1999) as the instrumentalization of disorder. The presentation will conclude on the possible sites for citizen organisations emergence and power sharing at the local level and the need of a political approach to urban planning rather than the accommodating form effectively practiced or the concepts and ideals conveyed in international policies and reports.