Academic journal article African Studies Review

Disposable Cities: Garbage, Governance and Sustainable Development in Urban Africa

Academic journal article African Studies Review

Disposable Cities: Garbage, Governance and Sustainable Development in Urban Africa

Article excerpt

Garth Andrew Myers. Disposable Cities: Garbage, Governance and Sustainable Development in Urban Africa. Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate Publishing, 2005. xv + 187 pp. Maps. Photographs. Cartoons. Tables. Glossary. Bibliography. Index. $89.95. Cloth.

This book is about neither garbage nor urban Africa; it is about the experience of three African cities-Dar Es Salaam and Zanzibar in Tanzania and Lusaka, Zambia-with the U.N. Sustainable Cities program during the 1990s and early 200Os, analyzed from the perspective of four themes identified as having defined African development during that time: neoliberalism, sustainable development, good governance, and the politics of cultural difference. Since solid waste was identified as a significant problem in all three cities and each program had waste disposal components, the experience of solid waste management was an obvious perspective from which to "explore what it [was] like to manage, to cope, and to live" (3) in these cities at that time. As a cultural geographer, Myers was interested in the intersections among several topics: transitions from forms of state socialism to capitalism; confrontations between social democratic donor agencies with traditions of popular participation and international neoliberal agendas; and the demands of urban residents seeking greater inclusion in governing processes and institutions. This complex subject matter was to be set in the larger debate among cultural geographers about the need to move from current styles of theory and discourse-driven work to work that has a more "material" base and thus is more meaningful in Africa and relevant to an activist agenda. Finally, the author wanted to bring both African scholars and the African continent into urban studies and urban planning literature and discussion.

The author's very good intentions have been largely unmet. It is perhaps useful to note that fieldwork was carried out at one location in late 2003 and writing continued into 2005, when the book was published. This left little time for data analysis and synthesis, and almost none for editing. …

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