The Rents of the Dead: Growth and Entropy in African Cities

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article considers recent literature on contemporary urbanization in Africa that is united in its ‘post-normative’ orientation toward its subject, firmly discarding the ‘expectations’ of modernization that so deeply shaped twentieth-century research on African cities. Best typified by the work of urban anthropologists such as Abdoumaliq Simone, this scholarship instead focuses on the ‘vernacularization’ of urban structures and strategies in Africa. While such work has developed a host of new insights into the idiosyncratic nature of African urbanization, it has largely eschewed any comparative analysis of enduring economic strategies that lie at the heart of the massive growth of African cities. By focusing on the longer-term historical role of such processes – namely urban rents and urban price regulations - this article suggests that a more comparative framework can be generated for the study of urban Africa that still accounts for and partially explains the otherwise seemingly hyper-local and idiosyncratic forms of urban livelihoods and strategies. It also briefly reflects on notable trends in the five years since its original publication in 2013.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-60
JournalAfrika Focus
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 28 2019


  • RENT


Dive into the research topics of 'The Rents of the Dead: Growth and Entropy in African Cities'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this