Comparativ 30 (2020), 1/2

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Comparativ 30 (2020), 1/2
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Comparativ. Zeitschrift für Globalgeschichte und Vergleichende Gesellschaftsforschung
Comparativ Universität Leipzig Leipzig Research Centre Global Dynamics IPF 348001 Ritterstrasse 24 04109 Leipzig GERMANY e-mail:
Matthias Middell


Transforming Cities: Urbanization and International Development in Africa and Latin America since 1945

Matthias Middell / Katja Castryck-Naumann, pp. 8–9.


Marc Frey / Sönke Kunkel / Nancy Kwak: Introduction: Transforming Cities: Urbanization and International Development in Africa and Latin America since 1945, pp. 10–19.

This introduction makes a case for a more forceful dialogue between historians of development and global urban historians. Global processes of urbanization, it argues, have long been an important concern for development actors, but historians have only recently begun to explore the meaning and role of urban spaces within international development. The article suggests that a look at the history of urban development policies provides a better understanding of space as an object and context of development. It also claims that a new research focus fosters new insight into the transnational agency of architects and city planners. Last, it sheds new light on the ways in which development became big business in the post-1945 world.

Tobias Wolffhardt: Transforming African Cities: United Nations Technical Assistance, Urban Development, and Modernization in a Decade of Decolonization, c. 1955–1965, pp. 20–37.

United Nations experts played an important role in formulating policies of urban development in Sub-Saharan Africa during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Even though the process of rapid urbanization in the region had begun in the 1920s, colonial regimes had been slow to react to this challenge. Thus, governments of the newly independent countries were confronted with a number of structural problems, among them the lack of an efficient building materials industry and qualified personnel or the virtual non-existence of data and statistics. In this context, a discourse on strategies to cope with the challenge developed that went far beyond pragmatic approaches and involved more general questions about the interrelationship of urbanization, modernization and development in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Anne-Katrin Fenk / Rachel Lee / Monika Motylińska
Unlikely Collaborations? Planning Experts from both Sides of the Iron
Curtain and the Making of Abuja, pp. 38–59.

As a so-called “playground of the Cold War”, post-colonial sub-Saharan Africa was contested territory in the ideological power game that dominated the second half of the twentieth century. However, despite the tension between eastern and western blocs, the non-aligned nations of the “South” also provided opportunities for unlikely collaborations. In the realm of urban planning, this can be observed in the development of new capital cities. Abuja, the new capital of Nigeria, serves as a potent example. While including a variety of voices (notably from the USA and UK), in this article we focus on the involvement of the GDR and particularly on the contribution of Heinz Schwarzbach. By providing analyses at both macro and micro scales, we hope to complicate existing Cold War planning histories. And even though the GDR appears as a minimal player, the fact that figures from the GDR took part in the Abuja project at all fundamentally questions the general narrative of the Cold War in Africa.

Bernardo Pinto da Cruz: The Neighbourhood Unit in Late Colonial Angola: Concentration Repertoires and Urban Policies (1950–1974), pp. 60–86.

During Angola’s late colonial period, Portuguese elites tried to put forward and bring together two antagonist means of social control: repression and welfare. While villagization schemes were being deployed across the hinterland, a new form of urban management was taking place at the suburban areas of Luanda, the musseques. This article unearths the links between penal concentration, rural resettlement and slum management, by examining the colonial reception of and the political and professional struggles around the urban design notion of “neighbourhood unit” in Angola. The colonial revival of a concept that was falling into discredit in the “developed world” was critical to legitimize the urban appeal of a rural extractive institution – village concentration – and its deployment in the urban milieu. In Angola, state coercion became integral both to the development of permanent housing and the social knowledge the former entailed.

Amanda C. Waterhouse: Bogotá Utopic: Urban Planning and Public Order in the Building of Colombia, 1948–1853, pp. 87–110.

This article examines an urban planning project for Bogotá, Colombia, that foreign planners formulated after large-scale riots of April 1948. The Bogotazo propelled elite fears of popular revolt, aligning United States anticommunist interests with the public order concerns of the Colombian government. These state actors looked to urban planning as one way to foment order. The article explores plans for Bogotá developed by Le Corbusier, Josep Lluis Sert, and Paul Lester Wiener first by analyzing ideas related to their professional organization, the Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne (CIAM). It then turns to the planning process, which became increasingly complicated in the late 1940s and early 1950s, amidst ongoing violent conflict, repression, and urban migration. The plans ultimately foundered on practical issues and opposition by Colombian actors, including officials and business interests. The article considers utopianism in political context and posits the historical importance of plans that are never enacted.

Emilio de Antuñano: From the “Horseshoe of Slums” to Colonias Proletarias: The Transformation of Mexico City’s “Housing Problem”, 1930–1960, pp. 111–127.

This article charts how housing experts dealt with Mexico City’s “housing problem” between 1930 and 1960. In the 1930s, architects and planners understood Mexico City through such North-Atlantic categories as Ernest Burgess’ concentric zone model, an approach that led them to target central “slums” as the city’s most pressing “housing problem.” But these models distorted and rendered invisible one of the city’s most original transformations: the construction of “informal” neighbourhoods in its peripheries and the fact that these neighbourhoods were, against widespread expectations, improving over time. By following a network of architects, planners, and economists working in Mexico while engaging in a broader Panamerican dialogue, I describe how Mexico City’s housing policies and ideas shifted. In the course of two mere decades, the city’s peripheral neighbourhoods went from invisible spaces to problematic and provisional settlements to a viable solution to the housing problem.

Andra B. Chastain: Rethinking Basic Infrastructure: French Aid and Metro Development in Postwar Latin America, pp. 128–141.

Postwar Latin America witnessed a remarkable wave of metro construction as eight new urban rail transit systems opened in Mexico, Brazil, Chile, and Venezuela in a span of less than twenty years. What explains this dramatic transformation in the built environment of Latin American cities? This article argues that French metro boosters played a crucial role in the Latin American transit boom between the 1960s and the 1980s. While international development agencies favoured what they considered more basic infrastructure projects such as ports or dams, France constituted a key source of aid for modernizing urban planners in Latin America. Relationships between Latin American planners and French funders benefitted French manufacturing interests, in addition to Latin American metro proponents. This article draws on sources in Spanish, Portuguese, and French, including archival sources from the French Company for the Design and Construction of Urban Transport (Société française d’études et de realizations de transports urbains, SOFRETU), local news articles, and official reports by Latin American metro agencies. It highlights the role of bilateral aid between France and Latin America, thus complementing work on multilateral organizations and US influence in the region.

Sabrina Kirschner: Fighting against Urban Air Pollution: Mexico City and its Participation in the Pan American Air Pollution Sampling Network (1967–1980), pp. 142–159.

The article deals with the Mexican Capital, a city that has been struggling with massive urban air pollution since the 1930s. Within the framework of an environmental history, it considers air pollution from local and pan-American perspectives. The Pan American Air Pollution Sampling Network REDPANAIRE serves as a framework for the study. The REDPANAIRE was set up in the 1960s by the Pan American Health Organization as a development policy response to the challenges posed by urban air pollution. The article also examines local knowledge production and perspectives that played an important role in the emerging global governance discourse on urban air pollution that have been marginalized in previous research. The article argues that Mexico City’s participation in the REDPANAIRE was useful as it not only allowed local decision-makers to gain insight into urban air pollution issues, but also enabled valuable development cooperation that helped the city in its fight against air pollution.

Review Article

Geert Castryck: German-African Entangled Histories, pp. 160–170.


Vitus Huber: Beute und Conquista. Die politische Ökonomie der Eroberung Neuspaniens, Frankfurt am Main 2018
by Constanze Weiske, pp. 171–172.

Jeremy Black: Geographies of an Imperial Power. The British World,
1688–1815, Bloomington 2018
by Benedikt Stuchtey, pp. 173–145.

Joshua Meeks: France, Britain, and the Struggle for the Revolutionary Western Mediterranean (= War, Culture and Society, 1750–1850), Cham 2017
by Matthias Middell, pp. 176–177.

Josep M. Fradera: The Imperial Nation. Citizens and Subjects in the British, French, Spanish, and American Empires, Princeton 2018
by Megan Maruschke, pp. 178–180.

Ulrich Hofmeister: Die Bürde des Weißen Zaren. Russische Vorstellungen einer imperialen Zivilisierungsmission in Zentralasien (= Quellen und Studien zur Geschichte des östlichen Europa, Bd. 88), Stuttgart 2019
by Rudolf A. Mark, pp. 181–183.

Kristine Moruzi / Nell Musgrove / Carla Pascoe Leahy (eds.): Children’s Voices from the Past. New Historical and Interdisciplinary Perspectives, Cham 2019
by Martina Winkler, pp. 184–186.

Benjamin Lieberman / Elizabeth Gordon: Climate Change in Human History. Prehistory to the Present, London 2018
by Martin Bauch, pp. 187–189.

Matthias Middell (ed.): The Routledge Handbook of Transregional Studies, Abingdon 2018
by George Lawson, pp. 190–191.

Kris Bezdecny / Kevin Archer (eds.): Handbook of Emerging 21st-Century Cities, Cheltenham 2018
by Friedrich Lenger, pp. 192–193.

Eileen Boris / Dorothea Hoehtker / Susan Zimmermann (eds.): Women’s ILO. Transnational Networks, Global Labour Standards and Gender Equity, 1919 to Present, Leiden 2018
by Nicole Bourbonnais, pp. 194–195.

Cristina E. Parau: Transnational Networking and Elite Self-Empowerment. The Making of the Judiciary in Contemporary Europe and Beyond, Oxford 2018
by Helmut Goerlich, pp. 196–199.

Mirko Petersen: Geopolitische Imaginarien. Diskursive Konstruktionen der Sowjetunion im peronistischen Argentinien (1943–1955), Bielefeld 2018
by Michal Zourek, pp. 200–201.

Samir Amin: Modern Imperialism, Monopoly Finance Capital, and Marx’s Law of Value, New York 2018
by Hartmut Elsenhans, pp. 202–203.

Kiran Klaus Patel: Projekt Europa. Eine Kritische Geschichte, München 2018
by Carlo Hohnstedter, pp. 204–207.


Tamara Chaplin / Jadwiga E. Pieper Mooney (eds.): The Global 1960s.
Convention, Contest, and Counterculture, London / New York 2018
by Matthias Middell, pp. 208.

Ngonlardje Kabra Mbaidjol: African Countries and the Scramble for China. A Contribution to Africa’s Preparedness and Rehearsal, Leiden / Boston 2019
by Ulf Engel, pp. 209.

Robert A. Olwell / James M. Vaughn (eds.): Envisioning Empire: The New British World from 1763 to 1773, London 2019
by Megan Maruschke, pp. 211.

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