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Event Series: Afrikakolloquium

A Global History of a Liminal Town: Kigoma-Ujiji as Portal of Globalization

A global history of a liminal town: Kigoma-Ujiji as portal of globalization


Wed., Jan. 8, 2020
4:15pm - 5:45pm


Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften

Lying on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, marking the borders with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, and further to the South Zambia, the West Tanzanian town of Kigoma-Ujiji is both a town at the margins and a regional hub. This presentation provides an interpretation of this town’s marginal as well as central history using the analytical category ‘portal of globalization’. With ups and downs, Kigoma-Ujiji has been an in-between town since the mid-nineteenth century, the time when an East Central African urbanization process gradually turned a regional market place into an urban centre, culturally connected across East and Central Africa to the Indian Ocean coast. The location where Burton and Speke disagreed on the Source of the Nile during an expedition of the Royal Geographical Society in the 1850s, where Stanley found Livingstone on behalf of the New York Herald in the 1870s, which African-Arab caravan traders used as a stepping stone for their commercial and increasingly political endeavours in East Central Africa throughout the second half of the nineteenth century, which German colonizers chose as the terminus of the Central Railroad and as the home port for the largest freshwater ship in Africa before the First World War, and over which Belgian and British officials quarrelled during the 1919 Paris peace conference, has been at the heart of East Central African history for about three quarters of a century. For the following three quarters of a century, the town seems to have been lost in oblivion, as complaints in colonial reports, Tanzanian parliamentary interventions, oral testimony, and almost non-existent literature about the town’s history after the 1920s seem to confirm. I argue that the coming and going of attention for Kigoma-Ujiji reflect conjunctures of global transformations and a local faculty to channel these transformations. The analytical category ‘portal of globalization’ draws our attention to sites characterized by a high concentration of original responses to global transformations. Whether dealing with the disruptions of caravan trade and colonization, or organizing long-distance trade in an extra-territorial inland Indian Ocean port, or transcending different spatial orders, or translocally coping with regional refugee crises, or dealing with local, national and world heritage, Kigoma-Ujiji reproduces itself over and over again as a site where transformations solidify: a liminal place and portal of globalization combined.

Further information

Organizer: Seminar für Afrikawissenschaften
Speakers: Dr. Geert Castryck (Universität Leipzig)
Moderation: Prof. Dr. Baz Lecocq


Prof. Dr. Tom Güldemann
Phone: 030 2093 66072


Invalidenstraße 118.Institutsgebäude
Room: 410