A Capitalizing City: Dar Es Salaam and the Emergence of an African Entrepreneurial Elite (C. 1862-2015)
Chachage, Chambi Seithy
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AbstractA Capitalizing City charts the ways some people of African descent in Dar es Salaam, the commercial and industrial capital of Tanzania, have attempted, historically, to either integrate into the modern capitalist system or produce an alternative global economy through business, against the racial odds inherent in the world economic order. After the birth of global capitalism in the 16th century, the continent of Africa experienced the twin tragedies of slavery and colonialism, both of which limited the birth and growth of big black business worldwide. However, Africa’s entrepreneurial elite and their businesses managed to emerge during a highly exclusive first global economy of the long 19th century and some managed to endure the transition to – or even succeed in – a relatively inclusive second global economy of the long 20th century.
The conventional story is that Africans were spectators in, or victims of, the rise of capitalism and spread of capitalist ventures. While acknowledging the role of capital in devaluing African labor through primitive accumulation, this dissertation also argues that there is a section of Africans – the entrepreneurial elite – who capitalized on both the colonial and socialist moments to become relatively successful. By first looking at how merchant capital penetrated the East African coast, the dissertation unpacks how capitalist relations between traders, financiers, laborers and administrators led to the construction of Dar es Salaam as a commercial and industrial capital of Tanzania after overtaking Bagamoyo and Zanzibar.
As a capitalizing city, Dar es Salaam became the melting pot for the making of an African entrepreneurial elite who, in the process, also participated in its commercialization and industrialization. It is during this phase, the dissertation underscores, that they forged bourgeoisie sensibilities and embraced the culture of capitalism that seemed crucial for succeeding in big business. The dissertation also notes that the ascent of African intellectuals of capital, especially during the neoliberal transition from socialism to postsocialism, played a significant role in legitimizing capitalism in a country whose state had once eschewed privately-owned big business.
By refocusing on Africans who proactively participated in the birth and growth of capitalism through business on the continent, this dissertation highlights how the emphasis on social histories of the marginalization of the downtrodden can overlook the plights and agencies of those deemed privileged. The history of capital in Africa’s commercial and industrial capitals, such as Dar es Salaam City, is not only about the African laboring masses; it is also about aspiring African captains of industry and commerce who had to contend with the intersectionality of class, race and gender to find a seat at the table of global capital.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:39947205
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