African State Architecture
The African State Architecture project (ASA) brings together politics and architecture in Africa. It draws on fieldwork in countries across the continent to explore the shape of statehood, through a mapping of fascinating buildings.
Public buildings help define and articulate politics. They are commissioned by political elites to represent the state; but they are often viewed and used by the public in very different ways – sometimes as old and familiar family members, and sometimes as overbearing and oppressive objects of distrust and fear. A study of buildings can tell us a lot about how politics works and a lot about the nature of state-society relations.
The project asks: how does African architecture manifest statehood, and how is statehood understood in the ways citizens use, view and engage with the buildings of the state?
The project looks at state architecture across Côte d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa and Zimbabwe. It includes elite interviews, citizen focus group discussions, archival records and architectural mapping.
We published a book in 2022, Architecture and Politics in Africa: making, living and imagining identities through buildings edited by Joanne Tomkinson, Daniel Mulugeta and Julia Gallagher (Oxford: James Currey, 2022). It is available as a free download.
Our articles published so far:
- Batsani-Ncube, Innocent ‘Whose Building? Tracing the Politics of the Chinese Government-Funded Parliament Building in Lesotho’ Journal of Southern African Studies, 2022 - open access
Batsani-Ncube, Innocent ‘Purpose-Built Parliament Buildings and the Institutionalisation of Parliament in Lesotho and Malawi’, Parliamentary Affairs, 2022- open access
- Daniel Mulugeta ‘Pan-Africanism and the affective charges of the African Union Building in Addis Ababa’, Journal of African Cultural Studies 2021 – open access
- Gallagher, Julia ‘Making sense of the state: citizens and state buildings in South Africa’, Political Geography, 98, 2022 – open access
- Gallagher, Julia, Dennis Larbi Mpere and Yah Ariane N’djoré ‘State aesthetics and state meanings: political architecture in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire’, African Affairs 120 (480) 2021 – open access
- Gallagher, Julia, Daniel Mulugeta, Atnatewos Melakeselam & Joanne Tomkinson ‘The histories buildings tell: aesthetic and popular readings of state meaning in Ethiopia’, Journal of Eastern African Studies 2022 – open access
- Manful, Kuukuwa, Innocent Batsani-Ncube and Julia Gallagher 'Invented Modernisms: Getting to Grips with Modernity in Three African State Buildings' Curator: the Museum Journal, 2022 – open access
- Manful, Kuukuwa ‘Research with African adolescents: critical epistemologies and methodological considerations’ African Affairs 2022 – open access
Find out more about African State Architecture, including our publications, exhibitions and films
Image by Julia Gallagher