Claudia Gastrow

Lecturer, Department of Anthropology and Development StudiesUniversity of Johannesburg

Award Information

2011 IDRF Program

AnthropologyUniversity of Chicago

Grounding Citizenship: The Politics of Property in Post-Conflict Luanda, Angola

Since the end of the Angolan civil war (1975 - 2002) urban housing has become one of the country’s prime sites of political tension. Even as the state seeks to build a million new homes by 2012, it has engaged in the destruction of existing urban housing, causing public protests in centres across Angola. The meeting of two processes has enabled this coupling of construction and destruction: firstly, the government's national reconstruction program, secondly, the 2004 legalization of urban private property. The apparent violence of government actions is often taken by Angolans and external observers to be at odds with the stated goal, namely the creation of a politically inclusive post-conflict polity. Using this seeming contradiction as a starting point, this project, based on eighteen months of ethnographic and historical research in Angola's capital, Luanda, will study urban residents' experiences of reconstruction and the introduction of the new property regime. In tracking how residents are adapting to the two aforementioned developments in various manners, such as registering their properties for the first time, moving to new urban areas, and reconstructing their homes, this project seeks to study the relationship between property, citizenship, and the (re)formation of political communities. In so doing, it aims to study how state authority and citizenship are constituted and made meaningful even under conditions that appear at odds with liberal notions of politics.