Lecture 2: Segregation, Visibility, and Control in Kinshasa, Congo

In one century, Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, developed from a small trading outpost to a metropolis of millions of people. Throughout the course of Kinshasa’s development, parameters of visibility and invisibility have been paramount in shaping urban life for the residents of Kinshasa. In the colonial era, the Belgian authorities used the visibility of the colonized as a tool of social control, and visibility of the colonizers as an expression of dominance and power. In the postcolonial era, the Congolese state has employed the rhetoric of visibility (of construction projects) as development propaganda, while rendering Kinshasa’s informal settlement dwellers largely invisible. At the same time, these slum dwellers have used their very invisibility as a survival mechanism, and countered with their own practices of visibility as expressions of individual identity. This lecture traces the ways in which both visibility and invisibility have been employed – by both those who have power, and those who do not – in the trajectory of Kinshasa’s development. List of sites and objects presented: 1. La ville européene versus la cité indigène 2. The cordon sanitaire 3. King Leopold II statue, 1928 4. Grand Marché of Kinshasa, 1971 5. Political slogan/agenda “La Visibilité des 5 Chantiers” (“The Visibility of the Five Construction Sites”), 2007 6. Unmapped urban settlements 7. Re-ruralization of the city (urban agriculture) 8. Sapeur culture and the body as theater

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