The informal city: Candonga, governmentality and corruption in post-conflict Luanda

by Pétur Skúlason Waldorff

Institution: McGill University
Department: Department of Anthropology
Degree: PhD
Year: 2015
Keywords: Anthropology - Cultural
Record ID: 2060340
Full text PDF: http://digitool.library.mcgill.ca/thesisfile130301.pdf


This work is an ethnography of post-conflict Luanda. It focuses on the informal aspects of the city, more specifically life in the peri-urban neighbourhoods, or what in Angola is referred to as the musseques, the informal neighbourhoods where the majority of the city's residents reside. After decades of armed conflict in the country, the capital city Luanda with its original infrastructure for less than 500 000 people built by the former colonial power, Portugal, inhabits 1/3 of the country's population, over six million people. This massive urbanization has led the majority of the urbanites to lead informal lives on the periphery of the city.This thesis describes a city where dealing with obstacles in residents' daily lives through informal means has become the norm rather than the exception. It describes a culture of urban informality, or what has been defined in this work as the candonga culture. This culture of informality and the city's informal economy are instrumental when it comes to securing vital household services, such as electricity and water, when dealing with civil servants and the official bureaucracy, and when securing land rights and land tenure in the city.The thesis is a window into times when the city was going through rapid social and topographical changes due to post-conflict reconstruction, development, and urban renewal plans. Like the title suggests, it describes informality, governmentality and corruption in times of exponential economic growth when the gap between the rich and poor is rapidly increasing. It describes daily life on the periphery in a country that has been termed "the most centralist state in Africa" (Soares de Oliveira 2013:66), where, since colonialism and socialism, power is still controlled and exercised from the center and dispersed outward into the peripheries.Thus, the thesis is fundamentally about the resiliency of a population, and civil society organizations, in the face of hegemonic state governmentality, in an atmosphere where the parameters between what is considered formal and informal, official and unofficial or, legal and illegal, are blurred, and where, as is described herein, the state is simultaneously elusive, yet seemingly ever-present. While it is an ethnography of post-conflict Luanda, the dissertation's theoretical framework has a certain generality to it as it describes dimensions of informality that are found all over urban Africa (and rural), and aspects of social life that can be found, to certain extents, all over the world. Ce travail est une ethnographie de Luanda après la guerre civile. Il se concentre sur les aspects informels de la ville, plus spécifiquement sur la vie en périphérie de la ville, ou sur ce qu'en Angola on appelle les musseques, ces banlieues informelles où la majorité des habitants de la ville résident. Après des décennies de conflit armé dans le pays, la capitale Luanda, avec ses infrastructures d'origine construites pour moins de 500 000 habitants par l'ex-pouvoir colonial, le Portugal, abrite un tiers de la population…