This session explores the potential of celebration and performance to catalyse public discussion and action around urban taboos in African cities.
Calls to decolonize public debates in urban Africa have made the case for re-centering discussions on matters essential to the women, men, girls and boys, who make and inhabit urban spaces. Numerous participatory approaches and bottom-up processes have been set up to voice endogenous concerns and re-ground interventions amidst tremendous power asymmetries, and exogenous constraints.
But what about urban taboos, understood both as subjects which are difficult to debate publicly and as social norms which govern acceptable behaviours? By nature, taboos are often unspoken. They might serve purposes of protection and cleanness or restrict some practices and relations. They might silence the existence and experience of residents and institutions to the profit of some and the detriment of others. In most cases they do not make it to political agendas, and are thus reproduced, carried over generations, without public and collective reappraisal.
In this session we propose to explore celebration and performance as means to decolonize discussions and tackle taboos across African cities. The session will draw on insights from the OVERDUE project, which interrogates sanitation taboos in urban Africa, and has to this end organized sanitation festivals in the cities of Beira, Mwanza and Freetown. The session will further engage in a dialogue with other experiences of celebration and performance which have catalysed public discussions on taboos surrounding disability, sexual violence, racism, homosexuality, menstrual pain, death, and infertility.
Hosted by: OVERDUE “Tackling the sanitation taboo across urban Africa”, Mozambique, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, United Kingdom"