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'You Can Have It For God': Mosque Building and the Production of Informal Citizenship And Property in Urban Africa

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Old Fadama in Accra, Ghana is home to some 80,000 people and the country's largest informal settlement. All buildings and settlements in the densely populated site are also illegal following an eviction order against residents in 2002. Thus, not only are all without formal rights to the land, but the thousands of different dwellings, buildings, shops and small businesses that make up the site openly defy the judicial decision as well as the will of city authorities and successive national governments. This article explores the residents' mobilization to free up space for the construction of mosques inside the settlement. In the absence of any overarching regulatory bodies, accessing and control of land proceed through a diverse range of ad hoc exchanges. Residents give up land they tenuously hold individually, contribute with different resources, and voluntarily resettle in other areas of the settlement, where they gain and enjoy the recognition of a broader community. Theoretically, the article contributes to new areas of urban research by showing how informal citizenship and property rights are made contemporaneously at the grassroots level through micro-level exchanges and processes of social recognition, and which take place entirely outside the reach of regulatory authorities and politico-legal institutions. In support, it exemplifies that urban land-based developments are not only driven by urban policy agendas and formal state laws, but by their everyday, practical absence. This allows for 'alternative' temporal and spatial understandings of land and belonging to develop, which off set the precariousness of living in the informal and illegal settlement.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2019

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  • Built Environment is published quarterly in March, June, September and December. With an emphasis on crossing disciplinary boundaries and providing global perspective, each issue focuses on a single subject of contemporary interest to practitioners, academics and students working in a wide range of disciplines. Issues are guest-edited by established international experts who not only commission contributions, but also oversee the peer-reviewing process in collaboration with the Editors.

    Subject areas include: architecture; conservation; economic development; environmental planning; health; housing; regeneration; social issues; spatial planning; sustainability; urban design; and transport. All issues include reviews of recent publications.

    The journal is abstracted in Geo Abstracts, Sage Urban Studies Abstracts, and Journal of Planning Literature, and is indexed in the Avery Index to Architectural Publications.

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