Between Annexation and Appropriation or the Production of the Colonial Space
Ute Hasenöhrl, Institut für Geschichtswissenschaften und Europäische Ethnologie; Universität Innsbruck
Nicole Wiederroth, Historisches Institut, Universität Duisburg-Essen
Drawing on historical examples from diverse African regions, the panel discusses the (trans)formation and appropriation of “colonial spaces” with a special focus on formerly neglected space and transient encounters.
Over the last decades, there has been growing academic interest in the question of “space” in general and “colonial space” in particular. Challenging traditional views on the dualistic nature of colonial space and society, recent research in African history has explored the manifold – and sometimes contradictory – dynamics that shaped the development, perception, and utilization of various kinds of spaces “on the ground”, highlighting complex processes of appropriation and negotiation within the continuous transformation of overlapping, intermingling, altering, and hybrid zones of contact.
Drawing on empirical examples from several African regions, the panel will discuss ideas of “colonial space” as well as concrete processes of transformation from a social, cultural, and environmental history perspective. Accordingly, the panel investigates both urban and rural contexts, e.g. the contentious shaping and appropriation of nocturnal spaces and (lighting) infrastructures in colonial Accra (Ghana) during the 1920s to 1940s or the environmental transformation of allegedly unhealthy areas in western Tanganyika (Tanzania). We are looking for papers that complement our session. This could be through a different geographical focus or by emphasising other spatial determinants (e.g. infrastructure, architecture, planning, communication, or correspondences). We also invite contributions discussing different concepts of space as well as other methodological approaches bridging various strands of research from history and geography to the social sciences.
Discussing various forms of spatial encounter and transformation, the panel aims to unpack how colonial spaces were constructed and altered, both physically and symbolically, focussing explicitly on practices of negotiation and on the “agency of materiality”. In doing so, the panel will contribute to a more differentiated understanding of how colonial societies worked within specific parameters of time, place, and environment, and of the power dynamics that – sometimes literally – shaped their course.