Liberias’ open-door; enframing the geographical imaginaries of extraction

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

Abstract

In 1955 a Scottish geologist called Sandy Clarke travelled to northern Liberia on behalf of the Liberian-American-Swedish Mining Company (LAMCO). On Christmas Eve Clarke unearthed the largest body of ore he had ever seen.

From this communication LAMCO’s new town of Yekepa, derived in name only from the Mano residents of ‘Yeke’pa’ emerged. 270km of railway connected Yekepa to the North Atlantic Ocean, allowing Liberias ore to leave and enter European and American markets. LAMCO’s high-modernist reinvention garnered the title ‘New York of Liberia’, drawing Liberian and Swedish families to live there.

Yekepa emerged through President Tubman’s Open-Door Policy, that invited foreign access to Liberia’s natural resources in exchange for ‘development’. A policy that also frustrated the 1959 West African Union between Guinea and Ghana, that Tubman perceived as a politically and economically undermining.

By 1989 ore would run out with LAMCO ceasing operations, with their mine and infrastructure subsumed into the first civil war. LAMCO’s abandoned infrastructure was inherited by a succession of mining companies, turning over to Arcelor Mittal in 2010 to servicing renewed Chinese interests for cheaper, high-grade ore.

This paper charts the colonial continuities across LAMCO’s and Arcelor Mittal’s town of Yekepa Deceptive geographical imaginaries of corporate social responsibility and sustainability are explored outwards from Yekepa through the planetary urbanisation of today. LAMCO’s architecture, town, railway is explored here as a scenography or imaginary of ‘development’ through which African geographies are assimilated into a global capitalist system.

Following the abandonment of Yekepa virtual spaces online emerged, re-connecting former LAMCO Swedish ex-pats back to Liberia. Through this infrastructure memories mingle and coalesce to reconstruct the utopian imaginary of Yekepa embodying naivety and purpose for those that once lived there. This paper asks whether these virtually accessible spaces might become an infrastructure of responsibility to repair the voids within the after lives of mining communities in Liberia, past and present.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 12 Jan 2021
EventThe Coloniality of Infrastructure Eurafrican Legacies - Online
Duration: 12 Jan 202115 Jan 2021
https://colonialityofinfrastructure.com/

Conference

ConferenceThe Coloniality of Infrastructure Eurafrican Legacies
Period12/01/2115/01/21
Internet address

Keywords

  • colonialism
  • extraction
  • Liberia
  • architecture
  • New Town

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  • Uppland

    Doherty, K. & Lawrenson, E., 31 Mar 2018

    Research output: Non-textual formDigital or Visual Products

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