• Colouring the City: Environment and urban form in Touba and Khartoum

    Samuel Grinsell (see profile)
    Urban Studies
    Africa, History, Imperialism
    Item Type:
    Conference paper
    Conf. Title:
    New Researchers in Modern Urban History
    Conf. Org.:
    Centre for Metropolitan History
    Conf. Loc.:
    Institute of Historical Research, London
    Conf. Date:
    4 July 2016
    british empire, conference papers, khartoum, theory, touba, African history, Colonialism, Cultural imperialism, Urban history, Urban studies
    Permanent URL:
    The use of colour as a spatial metaphor is a familiar part of the language of urbanism: green, grey, brown and blue spaces abound in the literature, from Jane Jacobs’ attacks on the over-planning of American cities to Peter Borsay’s recent exploration of the place of nature in the history of English towns. This latter responds to a wider turn towards environmental urban history, highlighted by Frioux’s paper on the ‘green crossroads’ in 2012. These colour metaphors, however, come laden with distinctly European and Western images of the city: one might think of the blue space of Venice or the green space of Central Park. By contrast, the ruling colour metaphor of the colonial city – Black Town vs. White Town – has been much eroded by recent scholarship (Beverley, 2011). The climatic assumptions embedded in the term ‘green’ as a signifier of nature have very different implications in tropical or desert climates, suggesting that the coloured language of urbanism needs serious consideration before application to cities beyond the West. This paper will explore the relationship of two African cities to concepts of nature: Touba in Senegal and Khartoum in Sudan. These contrasting sites will be used to open up a debate about the language of urban history. By interrogating the terminology of the study of Western cities, it is hoped to open a space where urbanism can be analysed in more global, open terms.
    Last Updated:
    7 years ago


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