CE27 - Culture, créations, patrimoine

Knowledges and attachments to urban plants in Sub-Saharan Africa (Benin, Cameroon, Nigeria, Senegal): identification and production of a heritage from below – INFRAPATRI

Submission summary

The interdisciplinary project INFRAPATRI aims to study the local knowledges and forms of attachment to urban plants in four sub-Saharan African cities : Yaounde in Cameroon, Ibadan in Nigeria, Porto-Novo in Benin and Dakar in Senegal. Our reflection is based on the notion of "heritage from below", allowing us to understand the relationship of city dwellers to plants in terms of memory and conceptions of the past, rarely recognized by institutional approaches to heritage conservation. Plants in the city, which cover multiple figures and spaces, are in fact used in a variety of ways based on practical or symbolic knowledge. Together, this knowledge and uses are produced by various urban collectives based on family, ethnic identity, religion, neighbourhood, profession or political representation. We formulate the hypothesis that they are preserved and transmitted through different channels at the basis of various forms of urban identifications. The aim of the project will be to identify these forms of heritage from below emanating from plural relationships to plants, and to analyse them in the light of past and present institutional attempts to patrimonialise urban plant entities and groupings.

This research project is based on a comparative. The four cities selected for the survey present contrasting but not dissimilar histories and ecosystems. All of them are also threatened today by urbanization policies determined by a certain conception of "modernity" promoting the use of concrete, the artificialization of soils and highly regulated greening methods, in addition to land and property speculation. Nevertheless, in each of these cities, urban plants have recently been brought up to date by new urban elites or public authorities, through the prism of the global model of the "sustainable city" promoted by international cooperation and major development agencies.

Within the framework of INFRAPATRI, interdisciplinary collaborations between human and social sciences and natural sciences will be set up in order to understand urban nature both as a historical, social and cultural construction and as a set of living elements with tangible physical, biological and ecological properties. The project also places great emphasis on collaboration between scientists and visual and audiovisual artists, not only in terms of disseminating the results to a variety of audiences (inhabitants, urban planning and sustainable development actors, academic and cultural actors) but also in terms of survey methodology. This interdisciplinary project thus brings together geographers, anthropologists, historian, botanists and artists from Benin, Cameroon, France, Nigeria and Senegal, all of whom are familiar with the cities selected for the survey and the project's issues.

To address INFRAPATRI's interdisciplinary issues, the research methodology will combine qualitative and quantitative survey techniques, using both secondary (archives, contemporary grey literature, cadasters, local press articles, online resources) and primary sources (via data collection work directly on species and natural spaces in cities and together with different types of urban dwellers and the authorities in charge of environmental management and urban planning). By combining archival work, botanical inventories, production of geolocalized data, cartographies, and interviews and long-term ethnographic observations, the project borrows from several disciplinary traditions. Finally, our approach is resolutely participatory, based on a "multi-species ethnography" approach that allows us to consider inhabitants and natural elements together in their daily interactions within the urban space.

Project coordination

Emilie Guitard (Pôle de recherche pour l'organisation et la diffusion de l'information géographique)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


PRODIG Pôle de recherche pour l'organisation et la diffusion de l'information géographique

Help of the ANR 299,086 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: - 48 Months

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