Street Archives and City Life: Popular Intellectuals in Postcolonial Tanzania

Street Archives and City Life: Popular Intellectuals in Postcolonial Tanzania

by Emily Callaci

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In Street Archives and City Life Emily Callaci maps a new terrain of political and cultural production in mid- to late twentieth-century Tanzanian urban landscapes. While the postcolonial Tanzanian ruling party (TANU) adopted a policy of rural socialism known as Ujamaa between 1967 and 1985, an influx of youth migrants to the city of Dar es Salaam generated innovative forms of urbanism through the production and circulation of what Callaci calls street archives. These urban intellectuals neither supported nor contested the ruling party's anti-city philosophy; rather, they navigated the complexities of inhabiting unplanned African cities during economic crisis and social transformation through various forms of popular texts that included women's Christian advice literature, newspaper columns, self-published pulp fiction novellas, and song lyrics. Through these textual networks, Callaci shows how youth migrants and urban intellectuals in Dar es Salaam fashioned a collective ethos of postcolonial African citizenship. This spirit ushered in a revolution rooted in the city and its networks—an urban revolution that arose in spite of the nation-state's pro-rural ideology.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780822372325
Publisher: Duke University Press
Publication date: 10/24/2017
Series: Radical Perspectives
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 296
File size: 10 MB

About the Author

Emily Callaci is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

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TANU, African Socialism, and the City Idea

In 1965, the story on the front page of the Tanzanian newspaper Ngurumo carried the headline, "Give Your Vote to Julius Nyerere." Below the headline were two contrasting images. The first was a house constructed of mud brick walls and a thatched roof. The caption read, "the shoddy homes of the ruled." The second photo was of a "modern" house, constructed of whitewashed cement walls with windows and a bati, a corrugated metal sheet roof. Underneath the second photo was the caption, "the new houses of the free." These two images were followed by an injunction to "remember to make your black mark [on the ballot] for Nyerere. He builds Tanzania." The message was clear: modern housing was a kind of political liberation.

To build the nation — kujenga nchi — would become one of the rallying calls of the Tanganyika African National Union, TANU, and its members. The phrase TANU yajenga nchi! [TANU builds the nation] was the official party anthem sung or chanted at government events and celebrations, and over the next decade, politicians would use the phrase build the nation over and over again as a generic phrase to label a wide range of patriotic acts. Yet in the early days following independence, in Dar es Salaam, TANU's promise "to build" meant something quite literal. Frequently, the front pages of the newspapers and TANU's news magazine featured photographs of Tanzania's new urban works of construction, including community centers, government buildings, roads, and especially nyumba za kisasa, or up-to-date houses, built under the directives of TANU. In these promotional campaigns, the physical improvement of the city was deemed synonymous with the progress of sovereign nations.

Within a few years after taking office, Nyerere sought to rein in this equation of liberation with urban modernization as Dar es Salaam swelled with migrants from the countryside and grew at a rate that far outpaced state capacity for urban planning, housing, and infrastructure. In the early and mid-1970s, in the context of economic crisis, unmanageable rates of urban migration, and a shift in policy to forcible rural villagization, many of the social benefits an earlier generation had associated with collective African uplift, such as houses roofed with bati, would be reframed by members of the ruling party as the signs of a "colonized mentality." According to politicians, the aspirations of Tanzanians for the trappings of urban modernity strained the capacities of a resource-poor state. In 1977, Nyerere wrote an essay reflecting on the first decade of African socialism and the realities of persistent poverty and inequality in his country, offering a reinterpretation of the role of urban development. After having run for office promising cement houses with metal roofs as a symbol of freedom and decolonization, he returned again with a new take on the matter of housing: "The present widespread addiction to cement and tin roofs is a kind of mental paralysis. A bati roof is nothing compared with one of clay tiles. But those afflicted with this mental attitude will not agree. Cement is basically 'earth' but it is 'European soil.' Therefore people refuse to build a house of burnt bricks and tiles; they insist on waiting for a tin roof and 'European soil.' If we want to progress more rapidly in the future we must overcome at least some of these mental blocks!"

Nyerere's two statements about houses, uttered twelve years apart, reflect a broad shift in TANU's relationship to the economic expectations of Dar es Salaam's urban residents over the course of the socialist era, from its inception in 1967 through its demise in 1985. The promise that liberation would mean the pursuit of a universal economic modernity was replaced with an ethos of cultural authenticity. For Tanzanians to desire the material trappings of urban modernity no longer signaled African economic self-sufficiency in the global economy, but rather the opposite: a cultural dependence on the West.

Between Tanzanian independence in 1961 and the mid-1970s, leaders within TANU transformed the organization from a political party that mobilized urban aspirations as synonymous with political liberation into a party that mobilized antiurban sentiment as a patriotic discourse. This chapter tracks the shifting relationship between TANU and Dar es Salaam, exploring how the metropolis went from being portrayed as the modernizing metaphor of the nation to being portrayed as its foil. It also raises the question: what are the consequences of defining civic virtue as rural at a time when African youth were increasingly leaving rural villages and seeking to make a life in the city? In other words, what political work did antiurban sentiment perform?

The history of print media and literacy in Dar es Salaam both illuminates TANU's antiurban transformation and served as a factor in shaping it. In the texts produced by TANU, representations of city and country legitimized new configurations of state power. Through a romanticization of rural village life and the vilification of cities, TANU attempted to prevent urban migration. By controlling mobility, the party aimed to control the aspirations and material demands of its citizens. To an extent, this shift is part of what Issa Shivji recognized as TANU remaking its politics as it transformed itself from an anti-colonial movement to the ruling party of a newly sovereign nation, responsible for building and directing the economy of a socialist society. Yet while it is no surprise that TANU's vision changed once it was in power, the embrace of virulent antiurban sentiment as part of TANU's ideology was a political choice rather than a foregone conclusion. As Raymond Williams argued in his classic The Country and the City, representations of rural and urban scenes create and reinforce a geographical constellation of city, country, and towns in relation to the power of nation-states and their economic elites, naturalizing certain economic modes as legitimate while coding others as deviant. Though his main emphasis was on the history of capitalism in Great Britain, scholars of postcolonial cities have opened up new lines of questioning by extending Williams's analysis to the decolonization of the global south. Writing about the political trajectories of cosmopolitan radical thinkers in twentieth-century Johannesburg — namely, Nelson Mandela and Mohandas Gandhi — Jonathan Hyslop attributes the transformation of urban nationalist freedom fighters into champions of rural romanticism to the attempt of politicians to neutralize the radicalism of urban politics once they themselves are in power. In Zambia, James Ferguson shows how 1970s images of the virtuous and nurturing African countryside, as compared with images of Copperbelt cities imbued with the historical evils of capitalism and colonialism, became a way of legitimizing policies such as low wages for urban workers and of providing an idealized example meant to inspire or discipline urban-dwellers. In India in the 1990s, Ananya Roy showed how the Communist Party of Calcutta contrasted positive images of the Bengali peasant with dystopian images of urban capitalism as a tactic of "setting boundaries and securing consent for its exclusions," especially their exclusion of the urban poor. The contrast between rural authenticity and urban foreignness in postcolonial contexts has often been grafted onto narratives of decolonization in which the city comes to represent the unjust world of the colonizers and the countryside signifies the world of the oppressed.

The first half of this chapter charts the history of TANU in relation to the history of Dar es Salaam. The party's membership drew from the different corners of the territory with both rural and urban components, yet by the 1970s, the voices that represented urban constituencies had largely faded from the mainstream party platform. The second part of the chapter focuses specifically on texts produced by TANU after coming to power as they consolidated their authority as the ruling party of a sovereign nation. Their changing representations of city and country reflect the negotiation of multiple tensions, including struggles over gender and generation and over the geopolitics of decolonization. In Tanzania, the literary network of newspapers, workers' cooperative magazines, and later, didactic texts produced by TANU for the nation's educational system show a change in the relationship between TANU and the city between the late 1960s and the late 1970s. The shift in TANUliterature took shape both in the content and in the literary form. In the content of TANUliterature, writers shifted from portraying the city as a site of uplift, modernity, and citizenship from the late 1950s to late 1960s to portraying the city as a site of outsiders and shirkers of national duties by the early 1970s onward. TANU ideologues simultaneously changed the authorial stance and intended effect on audience, from portraying the city from the perspective of the young migrant male insider to portraying it from the view of a militant national outsider. This transformation of TANU's relationship with Dar es Salaam and the recoding of the city as "foreign" would have both discursive and concrete consequences.

Cosmopolitan Dar es Salaam

As a city to think with, Dar es Salaam exemplifies the synergies and tensions between nativism and cosmopolitanism that are at the heart of nationalism. Dar es Salaam stretches west from a concave half-moon–shaped harbor on the Indian Ocean. Initially envisioned as a city in the 1860s by Sultan Majid of Zanzibar, over the twentieth century, Dar es Salaam became one of East Africa's largest cities and a center of culture, print media, government, and commerce. The earliest inhabitants of the coastal region of Dar es Salaam are the Zaramo and Shomvi, groups who were able to capitalize on their deep roots in the region to become among the most prominent landlords and neighborhood leaders in Dar es Salaam as the city grew in the eras of German and then British colonialism. Dar es Salaam grew from a tiny outpost of the Zanzibar sultanate to a colonial metropolis over the course of the early twentieth century. In his social survey of Dar es Salaam, based on research conducted in the mid-1950s, J. A. K. Leslie counted at least 100 ethnic identities present, hailing from locations in the present-day nations of Tanzania, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, and Zambia. Over the course of Dar es Salaam's history, as opportunities for work expanded in the growing colonial port economy, increasing numbers of people migrated from inland to settle — sometimes temporarily, and sometimes permanently — in Dar es Salaam.

Dar es Salaam's inhabitants trace their lineages from throughout central and southern Africa, as well as across the Indian Ocean from locations in present-day Yemen, Oman, and the Indian subcontinent. Throughout its history, Dar es Salaam has been home to substantial Arab and South Asian minorities. In the twentieth century, the Asian population of Dar es Salaam was made up largely of Muslims, but has also included Goan Catholics, Hindus, and Sikhs. The Muslim Indian population includes a minority of Sunnis, as well as three Shi'a communities: Ismaili Khojas, Ithansheri Khojas, and Bohoras. This cosmopolitanism is reflected aesthetically in the city's eclectic colonial and Indian Ocean architecture, Arabic- and Congolese-inflected music, and in the Swahili language: a Bantu language with borrowings from multiple languages including Arabic, Gujarati, and English. By the 1960s, Dar es Salaam would stage new layers of cosmopolitanism in the form of pan-African and socialist solidarities when the city became a pilgrimage site and home away from home for pan-Africanist and socialist intellectuals from around the world. Many black activists, including freedom fighters from Southern Africa and members of the American Black Panther Party, found safe haven and intellectual companionship in the cafes of Dar es Salaam, while the University of Dar es Salaam became home to an inspired community of expatriate anti-colonial and Marxist intellectuals.

It might seem paradoxical that while Dar es Salaam staged these multiple Indian Ocean and pan-Africanist global circuits, Tanzania's postcolonial political philosophy valorized and politicized indigeneity and nativism. Nyerere's articulation of Ujamaa philosophy placed precolonial tradition and conceptions of African authenticity at the center of a national vision, while public intellectuals labeled racial and cultural "others" as scapegoats for societal ills. The same milieu that fostered a distinctive and celebrated cosmopolitanism, ethnic fluidity, and an ability to incorporate different kinds of people into its diverse social fabric also fostered the opposite impulse: exclusionary nativist nationalism.

Swahili cities have historically been built on trade rather than military might and are deserving of their reputation for cultural sophistication, diversity, and worldliness. It would be misleading, however, to read the cultural openness and racial diversity of Dar es Salaam as evidence of a peaceful tolerance of diversity. A new arrival in Dar es Salaam in the 1950s would have encountered a city shaped by historic cosmopolitanism, but they also would have encountered deep tensions and inequalities, exacerbated by the effects of European colonial segregation schemes. When British colonizers reconfigured the German East African colony as the British Protectorate of Tanganyika following World War I, they further entrenched earlier German policies in Dar es Salaam through the creation of three economic zones, which resulted in the de facto racial segregation of the city. Zone One was predominantly populated by Europeans, Zone Two by Asians, and Zone Three by Africans. In Zone One up along the coast, European expatriates built large, breezy suburban homes interspersed with older fishing villages inhabited by local residents. Zone Two, which would become the de facto Asian residential and commercial district, consisted of numerous multistory stone tenement buildings. The densely populated Zone Two was the economic heart of the city. The African residential Zone Three, mostly located in the neighborhood of Kariakoo, was separated from Zones One and Two by a "neutral zone": a cordon sanitaire that would later become known as "Mnazi Moja Park," where crowds would gather for religious festivals, competitions between neighborhood dance groups, and TANU rallies. Zone Three housing in Kariakoo was largely restricted to mud and thatch houses inhabited by Africans and was home to many of the city's most important cultural institutions for black Tanzanians, including the headquarters for soccer teams, music clubs, dance associations, religious institutions, the Kariakoo market, the headquarters of the African Association, and, later, the offices and main headquarters of TANU.

James Brennan has shown how race-based policies governing access to property and credit entrenched racial divisions in Dar es Salaam. The result was that Asian residents could invest in real estate and owned multiple-story stone buildings, or ghorofa, while African residents held temporary year-to-year leases on single-story houses built from mud bricks and thatch: a distinction that adds significance to the later politicization of housing in Nyerere's speeches. At the same time, the immigration of Yemeni workers to Dar es Salaam in the 1950s led to the displacement of many Africans from housing, retail spaces, and commercial niches, exacerbating the sense that the city's inequalities could be understood in racial terms. Despite historic connections and centuries of intermarriage between people from Africa and the Arabian peninsula, Arab shopkeepers in Dar es Salaam were targets of racial violence several times throughout the 1950s. In later years, with the policy of housing nationalization in 1971, it was primarily Indian families who lost all of their property.

With both its colonial-era racial politics and its location as a node in global intellectual circuits, Dar es Salaam fostered multiple strands of nationalist thought, including some that would later shape the political platform of TANU. Dar es Salaam's coffee shops, bookstores, and printing presses brought together a wide range of political ideas and philosophies, including both regional political idioms and international intellectual currents ranging from Garveyism to Gandhiism. This intellectual ferment is evident in Dar es Salaam's rich colonial-era independent press. For example, in the 1930s and 1940s, Erica Fiah, a Ugandan-born journalist, established himself as an important Dar es Salaam public intellectual through the publication of his newspaper Kwetu — meaning, literally, "Our Home," or perhaps more accurately given the political context, "Our Homeland." Fiah was an avid reader of pan-Africanist literature, and through his newspaper he helped bring the ideas of pan-African intellectuals such as Marcus Garvey and Booker T. Washington into public political discourse and to apply those ideas as a lens for interpreting political matters in colonial Dar es Salaam. Additionally, several Indian-owned newspapers, especially the Tanganyika Herald and the Tanganyika Opinion, fostered connections with Hindu intellectuals on the Indian subcontinent. They publicized images of mass anti-colonial protest abroad and reframed local grievances in terms of anti-colonial resistance.


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments  vii
Introduction  1
1. TANU, African Socialism, and the City Idea  18
2. "All Alone in the Big City": Elite Women, "Working Girls," and Struggles over Domesticity, Reproduction, and Urban Space  59
3. Dar after Dark: Dance, Desire, and Conspicuous Consumption in Dar es Salaam's Nightlife  102
4, Lovers and Fighters: Pulp-Fiction Publishing and the Transformation of Urban Masculinity  141
5. From Socialist to Street-Smart: A Changing Urban Lexicon  180
Conclusion  207
Notes  215
Bibliography  253
Index  277

What People are Saying About This

Politics of the Womb: Women, Reproduction, and the State in Kenya - Lynn M. Thomas

Street Archives and City Life is an enormously eloquent contribution to scholarship on the postcolonial politics of gender and the formation of new writing and reading publics. By locating a plethora of Swahili-language sources—ranging from advice booklets and magazines to dance songs and pulp fiction—in the material infrastructures and moral imaginations from which they emerged, Emily Callaci produces a deeply humanizing account of creativity and precarity in 1970s Dar es Salaam.”

Oxford Street, Accra: City Life and the Itineraries of Transnationalism - Ato Quayson author of

"Under the revered Nyerere a peculiar dialectic was put in place: a strong villagization and thus anti-city rhetoric in the face of the persistent migration of rural dwellers into the city. This is the focal point of Emily Callaci's Street Archives and City Life, and by exploring this she gives us a distinctive account of the relation between African postcolonial socialist politics, the city of Dar, and the aspirations of the thousands of Tanzanians who flocked to the city. Callaci's book is without a doubt going to be a classic in studies of the African city."

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