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Keywords:

  • Central Africa;
  • Kinshasa;
  • urban anthropology;
  • spectrality;
  • heterotopia

ABSTRACT

This article addresses the tensions that exist between the lives of city dwellers in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and those official attempts currently being launched by the Congolese government to create a new, albeit exclusionist, urban environment. During the campaign leading up to the 2006 presidential elections, President Kabila launched his “Cinq Chantiers” program, arguably the most ambitious project since the end of colonization in 1960 to overhaul the country and respond to its most pressing and urgent needs—or at least that of its elites—with regard to its urbanization. The article first situates the main phases of Kinshasa's expansion from the colonial era to the present day. It then turns to an analysis of the impact of the “Cinq Chantiers” program by examining two concrete cases: the expansion of fields in the Malebo Pool (looking at current modes of “informal” expansion of the urban space) and the development of a new urban project, the Cité du Fleuve (whose progressive uplift leaves out a large swath of the population). Are these examples of an African futurity, and for whom do they envision a new kind of urban life?