Urban Design, Chaos, and Colonial Power in Zanzibar

Urban Design, Chaos, and Colonial Power in Zanzibar

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Across Africa and elsewhere, colonialism promised to deliver progress and development. In urban spaces like Zanzibar, the British vowed to import scientific techniques and practices, ranging from sanitation to urban planning, to create a perfect city. Rather than remaking space, these designs often unraveled. Plans were formulated and then fell by the wayside, over and over again. By focusing on these flawed efforts to impose colonial order, William Cunningham Bissell offers a different view of colonialism and cities, revealing the contradictions, confusion, and even chaos that lay at the very core of British rule. At once an engaging portrait of a cosmopolitan African city and an exploration of colonial irrationality, Urban Design, Chaos, and Colonial Power in Zanzibar opens up new perspectives on the making of modernity and the metropolis.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 394 pages
  • 152.4 x 226.06 x 25.4mm | 544.31g
  • Bloomington, IN, United States
  • English
  • 27 b&w illus., 9 maps
  • 0253222559
  • 9780253222558
  • 1,538,482

Table of contents


Introduction: Landscapes of Power and Planning

1 Cosmopolitan Lives, Urbane Worlds: Space and Society in Zanzibar City
2 Uncertain States: Colonial Practices and the Ambiguities of Power
3 Colonial Cartographies: Struggling to Make Sense of Urban Space
4 Disease, Environment, and Social Engineering: Clearing Out and Cleaning Up the Colonial City
5 Development and the Dilemmas of Expertise
6 Failures of Implementation: Circularity and Secrecy in the Pursuit of Planning
7 Disorder by Design: Legal Confusion and Bureaucratic Chaos in Colonial Planning

Conclusion: Reflections on Planning, Colonial Power, and Continuities in the Present

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Review quote

[Achieves] a valuable contribution to the study of political discourse, violence, and the organization of space and social relationships in Zanzibar. More generally . . . provide[s] interesting discussions of colonialism, power, identity politics and the ideology of modernization.Nov 2012 * Africa * Bissell's book . . . contributes significantly to our understanding of colonial power and its relationship to the planned and built environment. * Intl Journal of Middle East Studies * Bissell has provided an interesting and informative book that links urban policy in Zanzibar to broader currents in urban planning. He provides a detailed analysis of colonial bureaucracy at work, highlighting the indeterminacy caused in part by the shuffling of personnel. * American Historical Review * Bissell . . . has pored over a multitude of archival sources to construct a very thorough, well evidenced central argurment. * Journal of Historical Geography * This is a welcome and well-written addition to the growing academic literature on the planning history of African cities. * Planning Perrspectives *
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About William Cunningham Bissell

William Cunningham Bissell is Associate Professor of Anthropology and Sociology at Lafayette College.
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