Age of Concrete is a history of the making of houses and homes in the subúrbios of Maputo (Lourenço Marques), Mozambique, from the late 1940s to the present. Often dismissed as undifferentiated, ahistorical “slums,” these neighborhoods are in fact an open-air archive that reveals some of people’s highest aspirations. At first people built in reeds. Then they built in wood and zinc panels. And finally, even when it was illegal, they risked building in concrete block, making permanent homes in a place where their presence was often excruciatingly precarious.
Unlike many histories of the built environment in African cities, Age of Concrete focuses on ordinary homebuilders and dwellers. David Morton thus models a different way of thinking about urban politics during the era of decolonization, when one of the central dramas was the construction of the urban stage itself. It shaped how people related not only to each other but also to the colonial state and later to the independent state as it stumbled into being.
Original, deeply researched, and beautifully composed, this book speaks in innovative ways to scholarship on urban history, colonialism and decolonization, and the postcolonial state. Replete with rare photographs and other materials from private collections, Age of Concrete establishes Morton as one of a handful of scholars breaking new ground on how we understand Africa’s cities.