Maintenance space: The political authority of garbage in Kampala, Uganda

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Abstract / Description of output

In the name of cleaning up Kampala’s political institutions and public space, a new municipal body, the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), was established in 2010, replacing an elected city council with a presidentially appointed executive director. To legitimize its highly contested and explicitly antipolitical authority, the KCCA made garbage collection and beautification its top priority, promising to deliver routine urban repair and mundane maintenance work in exchange for suspending the norms of electoral democracy in Uganda’s capital city. This article argues that the exceptional space of the repair site is paradigmatic of municipal power over the city as a whole. Based on an ethnography of municipal waste management infrastructure and an analysis of the KCCA’s visual account of itself, it elaborates the concept of maintenance space to theorize how the entanglement of sovereign and governmental power produces the city as a particular kind of territory. Because the work of maintenance and repair is continuous and ongoing, maintenance space endures. Far from a short-lived inconvenience, its exception becomes the foundational norm of technocratic authority. Not limited to Kampala, the enduring exception of maintenance space, I conclude, identifies a widespread mode of urban spatial production and depoliticization.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-46
Number of pages23
JournalCurrent Anthropology
Issue number1
Early online date4 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2019


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