António TomásJul 19, 2023
In the Skin of the City
Spatial Transformation in Luanda
Duke University Press 2022
In his book, In the Skin of the City: Spatial Transformation in Luanda (Duke UP, 2022), António Tomás traces the history and transformation of Luanda, Angola, the nation’s capital as well as one of the oldest settlements founded by the European colonial powers in the Southern Hemisphere. Drawing on ethnographic and archival research alongside his own experiences growing up in Luanda, Tomás shows how the city’s physical and social boundaries—its skin—constitute porous and shifting interfaces between center and margins, settler and Native, enslaver and enslaved, formal and informal, and the powerful and the powerless. He focuses on Luanda’s “asphalt frontier”—the (colonial) line between the planned urban center and the ad hoc shantytowns that surround it—and the ways squatters are central to Luanda’s historical urban process. In their relationship with the state and their struggle to gain rights to the city, squatters embody the process of negotiating Luanda’s divisions and the sociopolitical forces that shape them. By illustrating how Luanda emerges out of the continual redefinition of its skin, Tomás offers new ways to understand the logic of urbanization in cities across the global South.
Comfort Azubuko-Udah is an Assistant Professor at University of Toronto, cross-appointed in the Department of English and the African Studies Centre. Her work engages narrativizations of African spaces and places with ecocritical and geocritical lenses.