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Keywords:

  • governance;
  • urban planning;
  • relational ontology;
  • failed state;
  • Mozambique

This article explores forms of social relatedness among peri-urban residents in Maputo, Mozambique, which have as their premise that social interaction occurs in a world that is both unknown and potentially dangerous. As I show, reciprocal encounters are therefore based on creating distance rather than approximation. Although people acknowledge the crucial importance of social others, it is important to maintain appropriate distances in order to avoid awakening unwanted desires. I consequently introduce the notion of contrapuntal cosmopolitanism to designate the production of viable (reciprocal) distances in unfamiliar milieux peopled by important but also capricious others.