Urban Forum

, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 267–293

History, Modernity, and the Making of an African Spatiality: Addis Ababa in Perspective


DOI: 10.1007/s12132-013-9209-x

Cite this article as:
Ejigu, A.G. Urban Forum (2014) 25: 267. doi:10.1007/s12132-013-9209-x


A body of scholarship in urban theory of global South over the last two decades has begun to present counterhegemonic notions of modernity and urbanism thereby charting new ways to conceptualize and study African cities. While the need for fuller, richer, and more textured accounts of ordinariness of African cities is often emphasized, the usefulness of differentiated accounts of cities to understanding their spatiality is also highlighted. This article attempts to supplement the ongoing discussion by exploring Addis Ababa as an African city with particular cultural and political historical contexts that gave it distinct experiences of modernity. Data is primarily drawn from historical study of modernizations of the city, supplemented with an ethnographic study that documents contemporary changes and lived experiences in the city and its emerging modern residential places. The study shows that the local experience of modernity is primarily situated in the isolated and noncolonial history of the nation, which on the one hand helps preserve indigenous qualities and on the other becomes a source of envy contributing to the consciousness of belatedness compared to other colonized and Western countries. This consciousness coordinates political intentions with people’s everyday practices in the co-making of a new, modern Addis Ababa and the reassertion of its unofficial identity as “the Diplomatic Capital of Africa.” Potentials and challenges of place-based conceptions of urbanism are implicated.


Modernity Identity Place History Urbanism Addis Ababa 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.KTH/Royal Institute of Technology Division of Urban and Regional StudiesSchool of Architecture and Built EnvironmentStockholmSweden

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