Synopses & Reviews
Dar es Salaam, the largest city in Tanzania and the largest populated city in eastern Africa, was a changing urban landscape in the 1970s and 1980s. Gripped by an unfolding economic crisis and the fracturing of urban infrastructures, the citizens of Dar increasingly made their lives in transit between the city and its periphery, in order to find food, housing, and transportation. In doing so, they were turning to the ground to make life possible when they were either short on cash or other urban shortages broadly persisted. They exploited the coastal region's natural resources to shape their lives, relying on the city's outskirts to plant small shambas or to seek out building materials for their houses, goods to sell at markets, or charcoal for cooking the evening meal. Gone to Ground explores the ways in which the residents of Dar worked around or made do with what they could find, acquire, and grow in order to survive.
Gone to Ground
is an investigation into the material and political forces that transformed the cityscape of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in the 1970s and early 1980s. It is both the story of a particular city and the history of a global moment of massive urban transformation from the perspective of those at the center of this shift. Built around an archive of newspapers, oral history interviews, planning documents, and a broad compendium of development reports, Emily Brownell writes about how urbanites navigated the state's anti-urban planning policies along with the city's fracturing infrastructures and profound shortages of staple goods to shape Dar's environment. They did so most frequently by "going to ground" in the urban periphery, orienting their lives to the city's outskirts where they could plant small farms, find building materials, produce charcoal, and escape the state's policing of urban space.
Taking seriously as historical subject the daily hurdles of families to find housing, food, transportation, and space in the city, these quotidian concerns are drawn into conversation with broader national and transnational anxieties about the oil crisis, resource shortages, infrastructure, and African socialism. In bringing these concerns together into the same frame, Gone to Ground considers how the material and political anxieties of the era were made manifest in debates about building materials, imported technologies, urban agriculture, energy use, and who defines living and laboring in the city.