Drawing a Livelihoodscape from the Slum : Towards a spatial understanding of gendered livelihoods in Zambia

Abstract: The overarching aim of the thesis was to draw a livelihoodscape from the slum. The questions guiding this endeavour were: Where do slum dwellers carry out their livelihood activities and how can these spatial livelihood patterns be understood? This involved outlining how livelihoods emerged from and interacted with the slum; following how they detached themselves and unfolded further in urban space; and finally, how they transcended the urban territory and migrated onwards to translocal destinations. Material was collected through surveys, semi-structured interviews and observations in three slum settlements in Lusaka, encompassing 459 research participants.Mapping slum dwellers’ livelihood spatialities generated insights with implications for livelihood theory, but also for Southern/subaltern urban theory and in particular the workings of African cities. First, it revealed that the residential settlement played a critical role in the execution of people’s livelihoods. Mobility constraints attributed to affordability and time poverty contributed to this outcome, but equally important were localised processes of information sharing, matching and learning. At the same time, livelihood activities connected the residential settlement to other key locations in the city, creating a complex system of flows and interactions. The importance of particular sites in the city for slum dwellers’ economic activities could be connected to colonial and post-colonial planning regimes, intermingling with global economic shifts and development policies. But to a limited degree, slum dwellers also carried out livelihood activities beyond the urban scope; such as engaging in agriculture on rural farmland and conducting interurban and cross-border trade. These translocal livelihoods were to a significant extent enabled by social capital. Gender constituted an evident axis of differentiation, with women’s economic activities being more spatially constrained than men’s. This was associated with patriarchal control, disproportional involvement in reproductive chores, limited access to assets, but also a colonial history of spatial marginalisation.By drawing on diverse sets of scholarship, this thesis was able to problematise notions of the African city as a site of contingency and crisis, and demonstrate how it can be characterised by flux as well as permanence; marginalisation as well as integration; alienation and fellowship, all at the same time.

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