Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2011
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Urban Planning, University of California / Berkeley
The Crude Urban Revolution: Finance, Planning and Petro-Capitalism in Luanda, Angola

Luanda, the capital of Angola, is going through processes of intense urban transformation largely backed by oil revenues. Engaging in an in-depth analysis of this case, my project investigates the production of space in contemporary African cities, while scrutinizing the urban dimensions of Angolan petro-capitalism. The central argument is that processes of urban restructuring in Luanda mark the distinctive character of Angolan petro-capitalism, while defining the particular logic through which relations between economy, state and society are increasingly articulated in the production of urban space. Luanda's current processes of restructuring comprise what I call Angola’s crude urban revolution. Signifying the multiple ways in which Luanda is perceived, conceived and lived as a city shaped and transformed by crude oil, this notion evokes the proliferation of oil-backed investments throughout the city while considering the escalating unevenness of its bourgeoning urban society. In this project, I argue that finance and planning have emerged as two crucial dimensions of such paradoxical processes of urban restructuring. Moreover, I contend that these emergent urban dynamics reshape formations of inequality in contemporary Luanda. I pose three driving hypotheses. First, I hypothesize that reconstruction and urban development in contemporary Luanda have been made possible by a reinvigorated financing apparatus fundamentally backed by rising levels of oil extraction. Secondly and connectedly, I suggest that intense urbanization has been allowed and promoted by state reform, regulatory normalization and the internationalization of practices within an increasingly sophisticated urban planning apparatus. Finally, I argue that transformations in the apparatuses of finance and planning generate new forms of exclusion and segregation. In Luanda, inequality shapes and is shaped by new forms of producing urban space.