- Street Archives and City Life: Popular Intellectuals in Postcolonial Tanzania by Emily Callaci
By examining "text-making as a mode of city-making" (12), Emily Callaci's Street Archives and City Life: Popular Intellectuals in Postcolonial Tanzania makes significant contributions to understanding the history of Dar es Salaam in the [End Page 208] years of failed Ujamaa socialist policy. Weaving together narratives of female Christian reformers, songs and social rituals in nightclubs, and "briefcase publishers," Callaci investigates the history of this migrant city. However, more profoundly, Callaci has produced an analysis that transcends a history of the city to make significant claims about how African migrants in the 1970s, creating viable selves and futures in cities across the continent, created "new modes of urbanism" (213).
The concepts of Ujamaa and bongo chronologically bookend this study. Callaci begins her text with a chapter on twentieth-century African nationalist thought with more specific accounts of how the city of Dar es Salaam came to occupy—racially and nationally—a specific symbolic place within the framework of President Nyerere's Ujamaa or African socialism. She uses the following three chapters to examine female Christian reformers, social scientists at the University of Dar es Salaam, the politics of nightlife, and the literary movement of pulp fiction novels to map different visions of Dar es Salaam as a space that was often in antagonism with the national project of the state. In the second chapter, Callaci uses the image of the "working girl" and examines advice literature, pamphlets, and surveys to analyze competing notions of how to organize urban space in the years immediately following independence. The third chapter centers on musicians, barmaids, bouncers, dancers, and taxi drivers to explore the subculture created in dancehalls and nightclubs of Dar es Salaam. These spaces often served as sites of struggle in defining national culture, as meanings of pan-African solidarity, gender, and generational roles were debated through clothing and economic consumption. Her fourth chapter presses this timeline forward by presenting a history of "briefcase publishers"—self-published, pulp fiction authors—in the late 1970s and early 1980s who not only described urban communities through their texts, but also created them through the process of self-publication.
Approaching the 1980s in the final chapter, the state begins the process of divesting from the city, leading to its inhabitants—many of whom at this point are migrants—giving it a new nickname: Bongoland. The nickname is twofold: it articulates the idea that one must have street smarts in order to survive in the city, but it also marks it as the brain of the nation. In doing so, popular urbanists reclaimed the city at a time when African socialism was rapidly losing its viability. This final chapter is where Callaci's intervention shines as she brings together the histories of female Christian writers, University of Dar es Salaam students and intellectuals, revelers at the dancehalls and nightclubs, and pulp fiction writers to highlight the ways in which not only these popular intellectuals gave shape to a "complex urban fabric" (183), but also produced infrastructure within the city. These cultural producers became brokers and interpreters of cultural form, deciphering the postcolonial condition from their perspective. This is most notable in the ways in which Tanzania's popular urban intellectuals did not necessarily reject socialism, but were rather recasting their livelihood from the perspective of a failed socialist project establishing "very different perspectives about how one should, and could, craft a meaningful life in the city" (187).
This text is ideally situated for students and scholars of Tanzania, East Africa, African postcolonial history, urban history, and for those who theorize [End Page 209] urban infrastructure. However, for readers outside of these fields the middle three chapters could be read as rather disjointed from one another, possibly struggling to follow the threads of connection until she puts them in conversation with each other in the final chapter. In conducting this work, Callaci engages with Tanzanian studies scholars like James Brennan, Kelly Askew, Alex Perullo, and Andrew...