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War and City-making in Somalia: Property, Power and Disposable Lives

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Jutta Bakonyi, Peter Chonka, Kirsti Stuvøy

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-91
Number of pages10
Early online date5 Jun 2019
Accepted/In press20 May 2019
E-pub ahead of print5 Jun 2019
PublishedAug 2019


King's Authors


Rapid urbanisation is in Somalia, as in many other war-torn countries, driven by in-migration of displaced people, many of whom are amassed in camps. Although such camps are spaces for disposing of ‘bare life’ and institutionalised sites of exclusion, they are also characterised by socially messy and continuously evolving relations of space and power, violence and displacement. Drawing on field work in 2017 and 2018 with displaced people in Somali cities, the article analyses claims to property and the (often violent) competition to uphold these claims as struggles to establish sovereignty. We compare dynamics in two Somali cities, Mogadishu and Bosaaso, and show how a broad range of international and local actors, including displaced people themselves, negotiate (urban) property and develop regimes to regulate and control it. Even without formal land-use policies or legislation, these actors establish relations of property that guide and foster claims of authority while rendering the lives and livelihoods of displaced people precarious and insecure. In conclusion, we underscore that sovereign power produces spaces of indistinction, but emphasise that property relations in urban camps demonstrate that such spaces are contested, subject to struggles for profit and power, and are embedded in the global as well as urban political economy both shaped by and simultaneously shaping the protracted Somali conflict.

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