Panel 1 Chair, Peo Hansen

Eurafrica as infrastructural project


Megan Brown
12 January 2021
15:15-15:30
“Tourism and the Infrastructure of Empire: 1959, 1969”



Abstract ︎︎︎
This paper argues that Africa’s tourism industry is rooted in Eurafrican schemes for imperial infrastructural development and the pursuit of pan-European economic gain. It takes as its starting point two years – 1959 and 1969 – and analyzes different yet interconnected claims about tourism’s potential to play any number of important roles. These roles included integrator of Europe, incubator of vast infrastructural improvement, and catalyst for African unity. In 1959, the fourth and penultimate Rallye Méditerranée-le-Capsped from Algiers to Cape Town. Staged by the Friends of the Sahara and Eurafrica, this automotive race for wealthy European car enthusiasts was a means of encouraging infrastructural improvement and fostering a feeling of shared European pride and responsibility in Africa. The rally relied on the collaborative efforts of French ex-military officials and colonial authorities from France, Belgium, the United Kingdom, and South Africa. But, their jubilance in 1959 soon subsided as African states incrementally gained independence from 1960 onward. Simultaneously, their push for bettering roads in the Sahara and elsewhere appeared increasingly outmoded in the face of new aviation and communication technologies. The promise of Eurafrican greatness through automotive infrastructure seemed to be a thing of the past. Yet, faith in tourism lived on. The African Tourism Commission resolved to name 1969 “the International Year of African Tourism,” proclaiming that African states had “always” shown a “spirit of solidarity” through cooperation in the tourism enterprise. Now was the time to draw international attention to its potential through initiatives such as having African Heads of State mention tourism in their New Year’s addresses and launching goodwill missions to European and American cities. Through collaborative efforts, the Commission argued, African economies would continue to grow through an emergent tourism business. Read together, the events of 1959 and 1969 reveal the Eurafrican legacy of infrastructure and the political and economic significance of tourism in the histories of empire and decolonization.


Bio ︎︎︎
Megan Brown is Assistant Professor of History at Swarthmore College (Swarthmore, Pennsylvania). A historian of Modern Europe with a focus on 20th-century France, European integration, and empire, she is currently completing her book manuscript, The Seventh Member State: France, Algeria, and the European Project, which interrogates the role of empire in the formation of postwar European institutions. Professor Brown received her PhD in History from the Graduate Center, CUNY. She is a former Fulbright Scholar to France and residential fellow at the Camargo Foundation. Her writing has been published in Modern & Contemporary France and Perspectives on Europe and will soon appear in an issue of French Politics, Culture & Society and the forthcoming Routledge Handbook of French History.



Giovanni Costenaro
12 January 2021
15:30-15:45
“The Geo-strategy of Eurafrica. France, the ECSC and
the ‘mise en valeur’ of French African iron ores: extractive infrastructures
in Gabon and their legacies”



Abstract ︎︎︎
Literature on Eurafrica has often stressed its cultural dimension, with emphasis on the transformation of this idea from the interwar to the post World War II periods and its use by politicians, diplomats and intellectuals. Some scholars have stressed the multidimensional aspect of this transformation, as well as the different meanings and significance this idea assumed according to the different actors which deployed it. On the other hand, researchers focusing on the realization of Eurafrica have often focused on its links with the association policies of the European Economic Community (EEC) and their transformation and evolution during the cold war. This paper argues, that even on the realm of realization the Eurafrican project was multidimensional, being entangled and connected, but not completely overlapped, to the negotiations that led to the Treaty of Rome and the setting up of the first European Development Fund. Building on this claim, I will investigate the French 5 years plan (1957-1962) for the ‘mise en valeur’ of the manganese and iron ores in French West and Equatorial Africa, in which the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was involved – and with it the steel industries of the Six, through their participation in the exploration and then exploitation of mineral resources).  In particular, I will take into account the projects for the extraction and evacuation of Gabon rich iron ores, a case which is particularly interesting for its legacies.
On the one hand, European business suspended their works in 1968. On the other hand, China – through its import-export bank, at the beginning of the XXIth century – became interested in a similar project, showing the continuity of these extractive logics and the entanglements between two different spatial-temporal phenomena related to the building of global extraction economies. Moreover, the case taken into account is particularly relevant also for three other reasons: first, it draws a picture of the ‘tropical African core’ of the French Eurafrican projects, and therefore its links with the projects of development of the Sahara desert and the OCRS (Organisation Commune des Régions Sahariennes), showing the interconnectedness of these spatial configurations. Secondly, by criss-crossing sources and taking into account the French attempt to establish a NATO African committee (between 1958 and 1960), it shows the geostrategic and geo-economic goals of these projects and their relations with cold-war dynamics. Thirdly, it shows the attempts to involve the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the EDF in these efforts, showing how these institutions could be considered as functional instruments to realize extractive infrastructures in a still colonial environment. This historical case can finally show that, if an Eurafrican present is still possible, it needs a change of paradigms, conceiving infrastructures not as extractive tools, but as interactive spaces interconnecting peoples and ideas.

Bio ︎︎︎
Giovanni Costenaro is a PhD candidate at the Department of History and Civilization at the European University Institute in Florence, where he is working on post-colonial Italy and Germany (provisional title of the thesis: ‘Eurafrica and the quest for natural resources: the transformation of empires in Italy and Germany from the ECSC to Yaoundé I, 1950-1963’). He is mainly interested in the History of European Integration, comparative European history, colonial, post-colonial and imperial history, with a particular focus on the post-Second World War period.


Killian Doherty
12 January 2021
15:45-16:00
“Liberias’ open-door; enframing the geographical imaginaries of extraction”



Abstract ︎︎︎
In 1955 a Scottish geologist called Sandy Clarke travelled to northern Liberia on behalf of the Liberian-American-Swedish Mining Company (LAMCO). On Christmas Eve Clarke unearthed the largest body of ore he had ever seen. From this communication LAMCO’s new town of Yekepa, derived in name only from the Mano residents of ‘Yeke’pa’ emerged. 270km of railway connected Yekepa to the North Atlantic Ocean, allowing Liberias ore to leave and enter European and American markets. LAMCO’s high-modernist reinvention garnered the title ‘New York of Liberia’, drawing Liberian and Swedish families to live there. Yekepa emerged through President Tubman’s Open-Door Policy, that invited foreign access to Liberia’s natural resources in exchange for ‘development’. A policy that also frustrated the 1959 West African Union between Guinea and Ghana, that Tubman perceived as a politically and economically undermining. By 1989 ore would run out with LAMCO ceasing operations, with their mine and infrastructure subsumed into the first civil war. LAMCO’s abandoned infrastructure was inherited by a succession of mining companies, turning over to Arcelor Mittal in 2010 to servicing renewed Chinese interests for cheaper, high-grade ore. This paper charts the colonial continuities across LAMCO’s and Arcelor Mittal’s town of Yekepa Deceptive geographical imaginaries of corporate social responsibility and sustainability are explored outwards from Yekepa through the planetary urbanisation of today. LAMCO’s architecture, town, railway is explored here as a scenography or imaginary of ‘development’ through which African geographies are assimilated into a global capitalist system.
Following the abandonment of Yekepa virtual spaces online emerged, re-connecting former LAMCO Swedish ex-pats back to Liberia. Through this infrastructure memories mingle and coalesce to reconstruct the utopian imaginary of Yekepa embodying naivety and purpose for those that once lived there. This paper asks whether these virtually accessible spaces might become an infrastructure of responsibility to repair the voids within the after lives of mining communities in Liberia, past and present.


Bio ︎︎︎
Killian Doherty is a qualified architect working across Sierra Leone, Liberia & Rwanda. Through  'Architectural Field Office' he researches how ‘development’ policies standardize every-day urbanism, settlement and land-use practices to reproduce class/ethnic conflict.  His architectural work, teachings and research have been exhibited at the ICA, Venice Biennale and appear in several publications including Japan Architecture + Urbanism (JA+U), Architectural Review, MAS Context, Footprint: Delft Architecture Theory Journal, Volume and ‘Afritecture: Building Social Change. Killian is completing his PhD by Design at the Bartlett School of Architecture (UCL) and is currently lecturer of Architecture and Urbanism at Edinburgh University.

International Conference 12-15 Jan 2021, Time zone WAT/CET