[URBANTH-L]ANN: CA Essays on Cities, Violence, and West Africa

Angela Jancius jancius at ohio.edu
Wed Aug 8 15:08:40 EDT 2007

The below Cultural Anthropology urban anthropology resource guide was 
forwarded to Urbanth-L by a CA assitant editor. It's a synopsis of recent CA 
articles on urban anthropology themes.   - AJ

**** Please circulate further as appropriate. ****

CA Essay on Cities, the Organization of Violence, and West Africa

What opportunities are available to young men in West African urban 
warscapes, and how do the nomos of these postconflict spaces subvert the 
functioning norms of cities? In the August issue of Cultural Anthropology, 
Danny Hoffman, an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of 
Washington, draws on his fieldwork in Freetown, Sierra Leone and Monrovia, 
Liberia to explore new urban forms and capitalist production, disrupting 
images of postmodern African cities as negative space. Instead of focusing 
on what has been destroyed, "The City as Barracks: Freetown, Monrovia, and 
the Organization of Violence in Postcolonial African Cities" analyzes ad hoc 
modes of production in postconflict cities that aren't entirely 
postconflict. By detailing how labor is organized from remnants of violence, 
Hoffman shows how war and peace are not easily distinguishable, and how 
Freetown and Monrovia may not be much different from other postcolonial 

Examining the Brooksfield Hotel in Freetown and Duala neighborhood of 
Monrovia, Hoffman describes how human bodies are assembled, organized, and 
then redeployed for resource extraction, combat in neighboring regions, or 
humanitarian services. Far from negative, these cities are marked by an 
excessive production "that leaves no space or time for the modernist project 
of fixed city spaces, services, institutions, or relations. In its place is 
an infrastructure of people predicated on continuous strategic, and often 
violent, movement." It is the city's "capacity for violence" that provides 
its economic and governing structures; the barracks have become the nomos of 
West Africa's postmodernity. Survival depends on exchangeability, flexible 
bodies, and the speed of movement in this violent economy; the logic of the 
barracks, Hoffman argues, may be the one fixed character of this region.

Cultural Anthropology has published several essays on militarization, the 
military, and resistance. See, for example Linda Green's "Fear as a Way of 
Life" (1994); Lesley Gill's "Creating Citizens, Making Men: The Military and 
Masculinity in Bolivia" (1997); and Donald S. Moore's "Subaltern Struggles 
and the Politics of Place: Remapping Resistance in Zimbabwe's Eastern 
Highlands" (1998).

Cultural Anthropology has also published a range of essays cities and 
urbanity. See, for example, Michael Dear's "The Premature Demise of 
Postmodern Urbanism" (1994); Emanuela Guano "Spectacles of Modernity: 
Transnational Imagination and Local Hegemonies in Neoliberal Buenos Aires" 
(2002); Benjamin Chesluk's "Visible Signs of a City Out of Control: 
Community Policing in New York City" (2004); and William Cunningham 
Bissell's "Engaging Colonial Nostalgia" (2005).

Cultural Anthropology essays can be accessed electronically through 
AnthroSource, http://www.anthrosource.net/, which is available through most 
research libraries and to all members of the American Anthropological 
Association. Cultural Anthropology can also be accessed through a 
pay-per-view system. Journalists may request PDFs from Cultural 
Anthropology's editorial office: culanth at rpi.edu. 

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