Panel 3 Chair, Anne-Isabelle Richard

Infrastructure between decolonization and dependency


Jessica Pearson
13 January 2021
15:15-15:30

“Eurafrica in the Sky? Air Afrique between Pan-African Solidarity and Franco-African Dependency”

Abstract ︎︎︎
In 1961, a few short months after most of France’s sub-Saharan African territories had gained their independence, eleven ex-colonies joined together to form one of Africa’s first multinational airlines: Air Afrique. An article published in a 1963 issue of Sénégal d’aujourd’hui (or, Senegal Today) stated that, “Thanks to Air Afrique, African Unity is in motion...Air Afrique can facilitate the interpenetration of peoples, foster greater understanding among them, in a word, [create] a real unity born of fraternization.”1 While many newly independent African states, the article continued, were focused on the development of roads—which had been denied to them by colonial governments—air travel was the real key to transnational unity. The airline did not only offer economic and career opportunities for Africans, but also the possibility for increased tourist traffic, and a chance to forge new international identities as independent nations. Yet, the airline’s ties to Europe, born of the colonial era, proved hard to shake. From its inception in the wake of independence, Air France and UTA (Union des transports aériens) held a significant stake in the company, a share that would grow when the airline faced mounting economic difficulties in the 1970s. Pilots and air crew continued to be trained in France for much of the 1960s and 70s, and the airline’s fleet was comprised, in part, by French aircraft. Drawing on a wide range of archival material, this paper will explore the dual dynamic of decolonization/dependency with regard to postcolonial air travel infrastructure, using Air Afrique as its primary example.

Bios ︎︎︎
Jessica Lynne Pearson is a historian of empire, internationalism, and decolonization. She is the author of The Colonial Politics of Global Health: France and the United Nations in Postwar Africa (Harvard University Press, 2018). Her current projects include a book manuscript entitled “Traveling to the End of Empire: Leisure Tourism in the Era of Decolonization” and a co-edited volume entitled “Decolonization and the United Nations.” She is assistant professor of history at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Petros Phokaides
13 January 2021
15:30-15:45
“Afroecumenopolis”


Abstract ︎︎︎
The paper offers a comparative analysis of two large-scale spatial visions by Doxiadis Associates, namely, the 1963 ‘Transport Plan for Africa’, and ‘Ecumenopolis’. The former was a study for a continental scale transportation network, and the latter, a research project published in 1974, exploring over a decade, future development patterns on a planetary scale. By performing a closer examination of accompanying discourses, visual representations and respective sociopolitical and epistemological contexts, the paper highlights the nuances between these two supra-national spatial visions in terms of the way they (de)emphasized infrastructural transformations in Africa and beyond. Initially, both visions were premised on the idea of large-scale transport infrastructures as the epitomes of an ‘urbanized’, decolonized and interconnected world, and as key for shaping balanced relations between urban and rural contexts on global and local levels. As exemplified in the Transport Plan for Africa, ‘hard’ infrastructures appeared as the quintessential tool to promote territorial cohesion and socio-economic development on a continental scale and to foster African citizenship on a culture of mobility (Cupers and Meier, 2020). Projecting the territorial model of Europe onto Africa, this project echoed Eurafrican legacies as expressed in the agendas of various international agencies, as well as, Pan-African rhetoric and decolonization aspirations of African societies. Ecumenopolis, published a decade later, was rather informed by the collapse of Pan-African visions, the challenges of decolonization and the dynamics of urbanization that gave rise to new mobilities, sociospatial effects and agencies beyond the experts’ control. Drawing also on Doxiadis Associates’ experience from the ground, Ecumenopolis de-emphasized infrastructural transformations anticipating more ‘flexible’ forms of planning, neoliberal developmentalism and their focus on the management of migration dynamics, ‘informality’, and socioenvironmental crises. This vision, the paper aspires to further show, projected Africa’s condition onto the globe, eventually, articulating our ‘geopolitical and interconnected urban present’, or else, the emergence of Afroecumenopolis.

Bios ︎︎︎
Petros Phokaides is an architect and researcher at the National Technical University of Athens and the Mesarch Lab, University of Cyprus. His research focuses on transnational architecture and planning practices of the 1960s and 1970s with an emphasis on infrastructures and rural landscapes in (post)colonial Africa. He has performed extensive archival research in Cyprus, Greece and the United Kingdom and his historical and theoretical investigations have been presented in international conferences and workshops (CCA/Mellon “Centring Africa,” 2019; “Systems and the South,” 2018; “Delos Networks,” 2018) and published in the Journal of Architecture (2018) and Docomomo Journal (2013), among others. Among his recent works is the chapter: “‘Ruralizing’ Zambia: Doxiadis Associates’ Systems-Based Planning and Developmentalism in the Non-Industrialized South” (Systems and the South: Architecture in Development Aggregate 2020), and the paper (co-authored with Panayiota Pyla) “Dark and Dirty” Histories of Leisure and Architecture: Varosha’s Past and Future” (Architectural Theory Review, 2019).

Giulia Scotto
13 January 2021
15:45-16:00
“Postcolonial Logistics: ENI’s Disegno Africano”


Abstract ︎︎︎
In the early postcolonial era, the Italian national hydrocarbon agency Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi (ENI) entered the oil market of 25 newly-founded African states. Despite Italy’s colonial past, the company managed to gain a new image of neutrality and to compete internationally with big oil multinationals. Through diplomacy, advertising, and the construction of material artifacts, ENI developed an incremental network of lines and nodes through which oil was transported, refined and commercialized. This set of strategic operations was defined by Giuseppe Accorinti, the coordinator of ENI’s activities in North and West Africa from 1962 to 1968, as the disegno Africano or African scheme, plan or project. The paper investigates ENI and its commercial branch Agenzia Italian Petroli (AGIP) as agents in the production of space across geographies with a specific focus on sub-Saharan Africa where, by the end of the 1960s, AGIP built and operated more than 1’000 gas stations as well as motels, and restaurants. The critical analysis of the performances and aesthetic of ENI’s supply chain architectures allows for a broader understanding of the territorial and social vision that the Italian company projected on the African continent and offers an alternative to the official developmental and paternalistic narrative proposed by ENI in Italy and abroad. Through the study of archival sources, oral histories, and a close reading of material artifacts, the paper inquires the role that ENI’s supply chain architecture played in the shaping of new geographies of de- and neo-colonization and investigates the ways in which they redefined postcolonial social relations. Furthermore, decentering ENI’s historical perspective, it reveals the fundamental role of Africa in the definition of Italian post-war modernity and material wealth.

Bios ︎︎︎
Giulia Scotto is a Ph.D candidate and research assistant at the Urban Studies department at the University of Basel. Giulia holds a master’s degree in architectural design from the IUAV University of Venice and from the ETSAB of Barcelona. Prior to joining the University of Basel, Giulia worked as an architect and urban planner for ‘OMA Office for Metropolitan Architecture’ and for ‘KCAParchitects&planners’. She has also worked as research assistant at the ‘UTT Chair of architecture and Urban design’ at the ETH Zurich.
International Conference 12-15 Jan 2021, Time zone WAT/CET