In this presentation, Anthropologist António Tomás (ACC’s the 2014 Ray Pahl Fellow) will undertake to provide a layered description of the city of Luanda by engaging with a number of ethnographic vignettes based on his wanderings through the city. “Such a methodology has two sources” says Tomás. “First, I draw on the modernist figure of the flâneur as it was proposed by Charles Baudelaire and theorized by Walter Benjamin. Second, I also draw on the methods for wandering in the city (later on theorized by de Certeau) that was called psycho-geography by the situationists. I use this methodology in reference to the situationists who developed it as a way to ‘deconstruct’ Le Corbusian’s modernist ambitions in transforming Paris.”
This exercise allows Tomás to provide a description not only of the surface of the city (or the city from the surface), but to also find a vantage point to “deconstruct” Luanda’s colonial and postcolonial imaginaries. By annalyzing the prevailing practices of anonymous Luandans who give names to streets that disavowal their official designations, he gains a further understanding of the surface of the city that goes beyond its own (modernist) visibility.
About the author
António Tomás received his doctoral degree in Anthropology from Columbia University, New York. He is the author of a study on the African nationalist Amílcar Cabral titled O Fazedor de Utopias: Uma Biografia de Amílcar (The Maker of Utopias: A Biography of Amilcar Cabral (Lisbon [Portugal]; Praia [Cape Verde], Tinta da China; Spleen, 2007; 2008). Tomás is the 2014 Ray Pahl Fellow at the African Centre for Cities, working on a book called In the skin of the city: Luanda, or the dialectics of spatial transformation.