Dr. Marco Di Nunzio is an Assistant Professor in Urban Anthropology at Department of African Studies and Anthropology. For the next academic year, Dr. Di Nunzio will be on a Leverhulme Research Fellowship to complete a book, provisionally entitled Conspiracies to Build.
The project draws on ten years of ethnographic research in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), during which Dr. Di Nunzio studied the city’s construction boom “up” and “down”.
His research has documented the lives of inner-city dwellers and construction workers, as well as the practices and discourses of government and corporate city builders, in particular urban planners, architects, real estate developers, contractors, and international 'experts'.
The ultimate objective of this project is to recognise inequalities as products of human agency as well as examine why and how increasing corporate and government investments in the built environment of African cities continue to fail the urban poor."Dr. Marco Di Nunzio - Assistant Professor in Urban Anthropology, University of Birmingham
Building on Dr. Di Nunzio’s research, this new programme will explore why urban development correlates with deepening inequalities and who is responsible for those inequalities. Dr. Di Nunzio said: “The ultimate objective of this project is to recognise inequalities as products of human agency as well as examine why and how increasing corporate and government investments in the built environment of African cities continue to fail the urban poor."
African cities, and Addis Ababa in particular, have boomed over the last two decades. Large-scale infrastructural development, high rises and real estate ventures have reshaped urban landscapes. However, the distribution of the benefits of urban development has been unequal. While urban poverty levels have declined across the continent, rising living and housing costs, low wages, evictions, and deepening experiences of economic uncertainty following the COVID-19 pandemic and in the face of the accelerating climate crisis have revealed how processes of urban renewal across the continent have failed to make cities more sustainable or just.
Conspiracies to Build will document why and how government and corporate concerns with growth, urban productivity and infrastructural development in African cities have deepened, not challenged, experiences of injustice. It will show how responsibility for deepening inequalities lies in the way government and corporate city builders justify their investments in the built environment with narratives on the morally just, the economically necessary and the politically urgent.
Commitments to infrastructural development have gained city builders moral and political leverage, empowering them to make their definition of development dominant and, ultimately, silence demands for higher wages and cheap housing as politically irrelevant, impossible to achieve, and not in line with economic demands and necessities.