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Postcolonial Perspectives: CCA launches sub-Saharan Africa research project


August 10, 2018
by Canadian Architect

The Canadian Centre for Architecture is launching a collaborative and multidisciplinary research project on architecture’s complex developments in sub-Saharan African countries after independence. The architecture practice and discipline, along with academic institutions, archives, libraries, and museums, have been integral to what Valentin-Yves Mudimbe calls “the invention of Africa” by the West. This project therefore asks, first, how to understand architecture’s historical role in decolonization, neocolonialism, globalization, and their manifestations across the continent, at local and regional scales; and, second, how this understanding can challenge established methods and disciplinary conventions of architectural and urban studies. “Centring Africa: Postcolonial Perspectives on Architecture” seeks to contextualize such seemingly paradoxical relations as those among building and unbuilding, formal and informal, appropriated and expropriated, and modern and traditional. The project aims to question, and eventually shift, perspectives shaped by North/South knowledge divides.

Centring Africa: Postcolonial Perspectives on Architecture, CCA

Photograph of National Printing Press, Nouakchott, Mauritania, ca. 1971. Slide from Kiran Mukerji Collection, CCA. ARCH280728

This research initiative is catalyzed in part by the recent arrival at the CCA of three important archival collections related to architecture, urbanism, and territoriality in Africa: those of Dutch planner Coen Beeker, German architect Georg Lippsmeier, and Kiran Mukerji, an employee of Lippsmeier. Together, these archives form a unique research library of nearly three thousand titles, which will serve either as a main source or an investigative starting point for the studies developed, individually or collectively, in the framework of a new Mellon project as part of the CCA Multidisciplinary Research Program. Generally, the CCA considers archival research essential to building new forms of evidence, understanding the archive broadly, even as one which still needs to be constructed. Research may look beyond institutional archives to others constructed around single buildings, international organizations, urban spaces, new policies, statistics, laws, photography, financial programs, and philosophical, intellectual, or cultural propositions.

The CCA solicits proposals for research projects that will address crucial but unresolved historiographical questions of architecture in postcolonial Africa, arising from the transnational, multidirectional complexities of the new world order created around the idea of the Global South in the second half of the twentieth century. This order remains shaped, in large part, by the impact on the built environment of multilateral organizations such as the United Nations, UNESCO, and the International Monetary Fund, of international financial institutions such as the World Bank, the African Development Bank, and the European Development Bank, and of private philanthropic agencies such as the Ford Foundation and the Aga Kahn Foundation.


The collaborative and multidisciplinary research project is open to researchers, journalists, practitioners, and cultural producers from architecture history and other relevant disciplines. Those interested should submit a proposal through our online application portal by 31 October 2018.


The preceding is an excerpt from the CCA website, which features more information about the scope of research and the call for applicants for “Centring Africa: Postcolonial Perspectives on Architecture.” You can find the original post here.



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