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Underground urbanism in Africa: splintered subterranean space in Lagos, Nigeria

Agwor, Abidemi, Melo Zurita, Maria de Lourdes and Munro, Paul G. (2023) Underground urbanism in Africa: splintered subterranean space in Lagos, Nigeria. Urban Studies. ISSN 0042-0980

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Identification Number: 10.1177/00420980231174996


Africa is rapidly urbanising and is likely to home to some of the most populous cities within the next decade. Such rapid growth has made the prevention of urban sprawl a Sisyphean Quest in many African cities, as rural fringes are rapidly being transformed into urbanised space. A strategy proposed around the world to address some of the urban challenges is the increasing adoption of a volumetric lens to planning the city. Specifically, to use the urban underground as a strategic site to place infrastructure and free-up superficial urban surface space, in turn potentially helping to create more sustainable, liveable, equitable and just urban environments. Yet, so far, little attention has been paid to the urban underground in Africa cities. In this paper, mobilising Lagos, Nigeria as a case study, we start addressing this lacuna. We provide a critical long-term analysis – spanning the colonial and since independence eras – of how the urban underground has been used in Lagos, focussing on utility (energy, telecommunications, water) and transport infrastructure. We follow this with an analysis of how political economies have shaped underground use and access, with a particular consideration on informal interactions, and how they shape underground use and access. We conclude by offering an assessment of the possibilities and challenges that the urban underground presents for the future of Lagos and other African cities, with a critical consideration of the dynamism of localised volumes and the practices around them.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2023 The Author(s)
Divisions: Sociology
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
H Social Sciences
Date Deposited: 08 Aug 2023 16:09
Last Modified: 07 Jul 2024 23:45

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