Producing an Imperial Bridgehead: The Making of Abidjan in Ivory Coast, 1908-1955

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Department 1

Africana Studies

Department 2



This article argues that the rise of Abidjan as main city in colonial Ivory Coast confirms the insight that urban configurations are the product and the reproduction of particular social relations at both the local and global levels. While the mediating forces that helped give birth to colonial urbanism in Ivory Coast were innumerable, none of them matched the power of imperial capitalism. In particular, the article suggests that the French doctrine of pacte colonial (mercantilist arrangement) that sustained colonial development (mise en valeur) played a decisive role in the production and/or restructuring of historical urban networks in this part of the French empire. Like the tales of so many other colonial cities, the political economy of the foundation and subsequent development of Abidjan is the story of the desperate search for the ideal tropical beach head that would link the Ivorian periphery to the larger capitalist world-system.

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Original version is available from the publisher at: http://worldhistoryconnected.press.illinois.edu/13.1/forum_bamba.html