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‘Chief village in a nation of villages’: history, race and authority in Tanzania's Dodoma plan



This article explores how notions of African authenticity informed urban planning in post-colonial Africa. It examines an attempt by Tanzania's ruling party to build a new national capital in the sparsely populated region of Dodoma. Paradoxically, Dodoma's planners sought to build a modern African city based on the social principles of the traditional African village. This vision of African village authenticity legitimized Tanzania's ruling party by linking its authority to a purely African, rather than colonial, past. At the same time, it allowed politicians to criminalize urban poverty by attributing it to racial betrayal rather than broader structural failures.



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1 Myers, G. and Murray, M.J., ‘Introduction: situating contemporary cities in Africa’, in Myers, G. and Murray, M.J. (eds.), Cities in Contemporary Africa (New York, 2006), 13.

2 Robinson, J., Ordinary Cities: Between Modernity and Development (London and New York, 2006).

3 Fourchard, L., ‘Between world history and state formation: new perspectives on Africa's cities’, Journal of African History, 52 (2011), 226.

4 See, for example, Wright, G., ‘Tradition in the service of modernity: architecture and urbanism in French colonial policy’, in Cooper, F. and Stoler, A.L. (eds.), Tensions of Empire: Colonial Cultures in a Bourgeois World (Berkeley, 1997); Echenberg, M., Black Death, White Medicine: Bubonic Plague and the Politics of Public Health in Colonial Senegal, 1914–1945 (Portsmouth, NH, 2001); Brennan, J.R. and Burton, A., ‘The emerging metropolis: Dar es Salaam, c. 1862–2000’, in Brennan, J.R., Burton, A. and Lawi, Y.K. (eds.), Dar es Salaam: Histories from an Emerging African Metropolis (Dar es Salaam, 2007); Myers, G., Verandahs of Power: Colonialism and Space in Urban Africa (Syracuse, 2003).

5 Project Planning Associates Limited, National Capital Master Plan, Dodoma, Tanzania (The Associates, 1976).

6 Holston, J., The Modernist City: An Anthropological Critique of Brasilia (Chicago, 1989), 5.

7 Ibid., 5.

8 Prakash, V., Chandigargh's Le Corbusier: The Struggle for Modernity in Postcolonial India (Seattle, 2002); Vale, L., Architecture, Power and National Identity (New York, 2008); Immerwahr, D., ‘The politics of architecture and urbanism in post-colonial Lagos, 1960–1986’, Journal of African Cultural Studies, 19 (2007), 165–86. On the planned capital of Lilongwe, Malawi, see Myers, Verandahs of Power, 135–58.

9 Cooper, F., Africa since 1940: The Past of the Present (Cambridge, 2002), 176–80.

10 On the role of ‘tradition’ in Tanzania's national culture programme, see Askew, K., Performing the Nation: Swahili Music and Cultural Politics in Tanzania (Chicago, 2002), 157–95; and Ivaska, A., Cultured States: Youth, Gender and Modern Style in 1960s Dar Es Salaam (Durham, NC, 2011), 3759.

11 Zimmerman, A., Alabama in Africa: Booker T. Washington, the German Empire, and the Globalization of the New South (Princeton, 2010), especially 20–65.

12 King, K., Pan-Africanism and Education: A Study of Race Philanthropy and Education in the Southern States of America and East Africa (Oxford, 1971).

13 Several historians have noted the influence of Booker T. Washington and Tuskegeeism in East Africa: for example, Loimeier, R., Between Social Skills and Marketable Skills: The Politics of Islamic Education in Twentieth-Century Zanzibar (Brill, 2009), 247–54; Glassman, J., War of Words, War of Stones: Racial Thought and Violence in Colonial Zanzibar (Bloomington, 2011), 80–2; Brennan, J.R., Taifa: Africa, India and the Making of Nation and Race in Tanzania (Athens, OH, 2011), 122–6.

14 Prestholdt, J., Domesticating the World: African Consumerism and the Genealogies of Globalization (Berkeley, 2008).

15 K. Bromber examines how negotiations over modernity, and the attempts of the colonial state to articulate a non-Islamic modernity, played out in Swahili newspapers in the essay ‘Ustaarabu: a conceptual change in Tanganyikan newspaper discourse in the 1920s’, in Seesemann, R. and Loimeier, R. (eds.), The Global Worlds of the Swahili (Berlin, 2006), 6782.

16 See, for example, Cooper, F., On the African Waterfront: Urban Disorder and the Transformation of Work in Colonial Mombasa (New Haven, 1987); Parpart, J., ‘Wicked women and respectable ladies: reconfiguring gender on the Zambian copperbelt, 1936–64’, in Hodgson, D. and McCurdy, S. (eds.), ‘Wicked’ Women and the Reconfiguration of Gender in Africa (Portsmouth, NH, 2001), 274–92.

17 See Thomas Burgess, G. and Burton, A., ‘Introduction’, in Burton, A. and Charton-Bigot, H. (eds.), Generations Past: Youth in East African History (Athens, OH, 2010), 613; and Callaci, E., ‘Dancehall politics: mobility, sexuality, and spectacles of racial respectability in late colonial Tanganyika, 1930s–1961’, Journal of African History, 52 (2011), 371–2. For an analysis of struggles of elder men to maintain control over male youth, see Willis, J., Potent Brews: A Social History of Alcohol in East Africa (Oxford, 2002), 5060.

18 Burton, A., African Underclass: Urbanisation, Crime and Colonial Order in Dar es Salaam (Oxford, 2005), 73–6.

19 Geiger, S., TANU Women: Gender and Culture in the Making of Tanganyikan Nationalism, 1955–1965 (Portsmouth, NH, 1995); Brennan, J., ‘Youth, the TANU Youth League and managed vigilantism in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’, Africa, 76 (2006), 221–46. For an analysis of claims to urban real estate based on race, see J.R. Brennan, ‘Between segregation and gentrification: Africans, Indians and the struggle for housing in Dar Es Salaam, 1920–1950’, in Brennan, Burton and Lawi (eds.), Dar Es Salaam.

20 On the desire for cement houses, see J. Nyerere, ‘The Arusha declaration ten years after’ (Government Printer, 1977), 29–31. On TANU's changing relationship with labour unions, see Burton, A., ‘Raw youth, school-leavers and the emergence of structural unemployment in late-colonial urban Tanganyika’, Journal of African History, 47 (2006), 385.

21 Hyslop, J., ‘Gandhi, Mandela and the African modern’, in Mbembe, A. and Nuttall, S. (eds.), Johannesburg: The Elusive Metropolis (Durham, NC, 2008), 119–36.

22 Ahmed Sekou Touré, for example, wrote ‘The surroundings determine the individual: that is why the peasant in our villages has more authentically African characteristics than the lawyer or doctor in the big towns. In fact the former, who preserves more or less intact his personality and the nature of his culture, is more sensitive to the real needs of Africa.’ This passage appears in ‘The political leader considered as the representative of a culture’, paper presented at the Second Congress of Negro writers and Artists, Rome, 1959, in Langley, J.A. (ed.) Ideologies of Liberation in Black Africa, 1856–1970 (London, 1979).

23 Gary-Tounkara, D., ‘Quand les migrants demandent la route, Modibo Keita rétoque: “Retournez à La Terre!”: Les “Baragnini” et la désertion du “chantier national” (1958–1968)’, Mande Studies, 5 (2003), 4964.

24 Fanon, F., The Wretched of the Earth, trans. Farrington, Constance (New York, 1963), 185. In addition to being disseminated in English in East Africa, this text appeared in at least two Swahili translations: Franz (sic) Fanon, Viumbe Waliolaaniwa, trans. G. Ruhumbika and C. Maganga (Dar es Salaam, 1978), and Mafukara ya Ulimwengu, trans. A.Y. Abeid (1977).

25 For an analysis of Tanzania's Ujamaa programme in the broader context of the third world political imagination, see Prashad, V., The Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World (New York, 2008), 191203.

26 Brautigam, D., The Dragon's Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa (Oxford and New York, 2009).

27 Yu, G.T., Africa's China Policy: A Study of Tanzania (New York, 1975).

28 Burgess, G.T., ‘Mao in Zanzibar: nationalism, discipline and the (de)construction of Afro-Asian solidarities’, in Lee, C. (ed.), Making a World after Empire: The Bandung Moment and its Political Afterlives (Durham, NC, 2010), 196234.

29 Stren, R., Halfani, M. and Malombe, J., ‘Coping with urbanization and urban policy’, in Barkan, J. (ed.), Beyond Capitalism vs. Socialism in Kenya and Tanzania (Boulder, 1994).

30 Burton, A., ‘The haven of peace purged: tackling the undesirable and unproductive poor in Dar Es Salaam, c. 1950s–1980s’, International Journal of African Historical Studies, 40 (2007), 138.

31 Iliffe, J., A Modern History of Tanganyika (Cambridge, 1979), 412–13.

32 Thiele, G., ‘State intervention and commodity production in Ugogo: a historical perspective’, Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, 54 (1984), 92–3, and Schneider, L., ‘Freedom and unfreedom in rural development: Julius Nyerere, Ujamaa vijijini, and villagization’, Canadian Journal of African Studies/Revue Canadienne des Études Africaines, 38 (2004), 369–70.

33 Tanzania CDA, ‘Foundations for Dodoma, Capital Development Authority Report and Accounts, 1975–76’, 1975–76.

34 Project Planning Associates Limited, National Capital Master Plan, 15.

35 Ibid., and Tanzania CDA, ‘Capital Development Authority annual report and accounts, 1978–1981’, 1981.

36 ‘10 years of CDA’, 1983; P. Makomu, ‘Dodoma to get brick plant’, Daily News, 4 Feb. 1974.

37 Project Planning Associates Limited, National Capital Master Plan, 69.

38 Tanzania CDA, ‘Blueprint for Dodoma: Capital Development Authority report and accounts/2/1974–75’, 1974–75, 15.

39 Project Planning Associates Limited, National Capital Master Plan, 33.

40 Ibid., ch. 6.

41 N.O.E. Nkya, ‘Policy implementation process: a case-study of the implementation of Tanzania's policy to transfer its national capital from Dar es Salaam to Dodoma’, Institute of Social Studies, the Hague, MA thesis, 1981, 84–9.

42 Ibid.

43 Tanzania CDA, ‘Capital Development Authority annual report and accounts, 1978–1981’, 1981.

44 Cameron McNamara Pty Ltd, ‘Strategic plan for the development of the national capital Dodoma, Tanzania: a review of the national capital Master Plan’, 1988.

45 Tanzania CDA, Dodoma: Moving the Capital to the Heart of the Country (no date).

46 Nkya, ‘Policy implementation process’, 62–3.

47 Lugalla, J., Crisis, Urbanization, and Urban Poverty in Tanzania: A Study of Urban Poverty and Survival Politics (Lanham, 1995), 33–9.

48 Cameron McNamara Pty Ltd, ‘Strategic plan’; Myers, G., African Cities: Alternative Visions of Urban Theory and Practice (London, 2011), 65–9.

49 ‘The other side of Dar es Salaam’, Daily News, 25 Nov. 1973.

50 This question was debated in the press. For example, Theobald Mushi, in an essay ‘What are the people called Kupe?’, Daily News, 8 Feb. 1973, called for ‘intensive political education and moral persuasion’ of youth. Another editorial called for the creation of model villages outside of Dar to teach the urban unemployed to work, before sending them back to villages; see ‘Dar villages to teach loiterers how to work’, Daily News, 24 Jul. 1976.

51 F. Ngenyuko, ‘Let's move to Dodoma now’, Daily News, 14 Oct. 1972, 9.

52 Local TANU authorities began the arrest and repatriation of hawkers and squatters in the new Dodoma. R. Malya, ‘Curbing youth influx into town’, Daily News, 14 May 1975.

53 On the adult education revolution in Tanzania, see W. Bgoya, ‘Books and reading in Tanzania’, in Studies on Books and Reading (UNESCO, 1984).

54 For example, Baka, A., Salome (Dar es Salaam, 1972); Balisidya, N., Shida (Nairobi, 1975); Msuya, S.K., Mazungumzo Ya Usiku (Dar es Salaam, 1978).

55 Examples include Mvungi, M., Hana Hatia (Dar es Salaam, 1975); Ngahyoma, N., Huka (Dar es Salaam, 1973); Mnzava, K., Usiku Wa Mbalamwezi (Dar es Salaam, 1979); Mbogo, E., Giza Limeingia (Dar es Salaam, 1980); Nchimbi, B.R., Penzi La Dawa (Dar es Salaam, 1974).

56 Baka, A., Salome (Dar es Salaam, 1972).

57 A. Chiku, ‘Maisha Gani Haya Jijini Dar Es Salaam?’, Nchi Yetu, Apr. 1975.

58 ‘Kukimbia Deni la Pombe’, Ngurumo, 30 Sep. 1970.

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‘Chief village in a nation of villages’: history, race and authority in Tanzania's Dodoma plan



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