Theses Doctoral

Refracted Governmentality: Space, Politics and Social Structure in Contemporary Luanda

Tomas, Antonio Andrade

My thesis argues that political authority produces very particular regimes of informality. The description of the city of Luanda that I undertake is concerned with explaining the process of political transformation. The city of Luanda was mostly built during colonialism to spatially accommodate extant race and class divisions. The million or more Angolans who occupied those differentiated spaces in the aftermath of independence challenged the colonial distribution of space. I explain the recent transformation that the city has undergone by focusing less on the theory and practice of urban planning, and more on the inscription and influence of political patronage onto space.

Political power, then, has been a force in the spatial transformation of Luanda. These developments have taken place against backdrop of a very particular politico-economic structure, which has two consequences that I explore in the remainder of the dissertation. The first one concerns the disjuncture in formal terms of the relationship between the state and society. As one of the second largest oil producing countries in Sub-Saharan Africa after Nigeria, the Angolan government is not dependent on the population for the extraction of tax resources. Consequently, the government is not only unaccountable to the population and civil society, but by being out of joints with large swaths of the population forces most Angolans to reproduce themselves beyond any formal intervention of the state.

The second consequence can be seen in the informal links between rulers and the ruled which are sustained by other institutions of intermediation, such as the ruling party, but even more importantly the family. In post-socialist and neo-liberal Angola, family is no longer the domain of private relationships. Family has come to signify the intermediation between the state and society. For affluent Angolans, family ties to the political elite allow them to share the distribution of national resources. For poor Angolans, family is the unit of production by means of which ends can be met.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Morris, Rosalind C.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 14, 2012