Black Markets: Transatlantic Architectures of Care

As part of the Lunchtime Seminar Series, the African Centre for Migration & Society invites you to a seminar titled Black markets: Transatlantic architectures of care by Huda Tayob (History & Theory Programme Convener, Graduate School of Architecture, University of Johannesburg).

South Africa has hosted a large number of refugees and asylum seekers since the end of apartheid in the early 1990s. In Cape Town, this led to a burgeoning of pan-African mixed-use markets, known as “Somali malls.” These arcades have been constituted of multiple small shops, along with educational, religious, and social spaces, which primarily cater to Somalis and other East Africans. The majority of the stores within these markets have been owned and run by women. This ethnographic research and study of oral histories has shown that these seemingly local establishments have been elements in a wider global network of markets. These buildings have occupied urban margins, but performed the circulation of transnational spatial stories, spatial practices, people, and goods. This seminar traces the emergence and relationship between such markets in Cape Town, Minneapolis, and Nairobi, from the 1980s to the present. Huda Tayob argue that these markets produce spatial intimacy within contested realms, as well as networks of support and possibility within displacement contexts. They are entangled at multiple scales, at the level of individual stores and that of the market complex. Understanding Somali malls as transcontinental “black markets,” with reference to AbdouMaliq Simone’s “black urbanisms,” draws out the local specificities of racialized urbanisms and locates these spaces within a broader landscape of forced migration, informal global trade and transnational networks of care established and maintained by female labour, thinking of “care” critically, with Miriam Ticktin. This talk is based on ethnographic research and oral histories around the establishment of these markets undertaken between 2014 – 2017 in Cape Town, 2018 in Nairobi, and 2015 and 2018 in Minneapolis—in the latter, supplementing research with a study of oral histories held in the Immigration History Research Centre Archives (University of Minnesota). It further traces the history of these ordinary and uncelebrated sites in local newspaper archives, noting responses to their emergence by publics and city governments, and draws on municipal records and planning documents where available to examine the processes of socioeconomic formalization, which have rendered these markets “informal” and therefore precarious, racialized spaces.


Huda Tayob is History & Theory Programme Convener at the Graduate School of Architecture, University of Johannesburg. She received a Master’s degree in Architecture from the University of Cape Town and subsequently worked in architectural practice prior to completing a PhD at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL in 2018. Her doctoral research looked at the spatial practices of African migrants, immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers in Cape Town, with a particular focus on mixed-use markets established and run by these populations. She received a Commendation from the RIBA President’s Medal Research Award committee for her PhD. Her wider academic interests include a focus on minor and subaltern architectures, the politics of invisibility in space, and the potential of literature to respond to archival silences in architectural research. Her recent publications include “Subaltern Architectures: Can Drawing ‘tell’ a Different Story” (Architecture and Culture, 2018) and “Architecture-by-migrants: The Porous Infrastructures of Bellville” (Anthropology Southern Africa, 2019).

Date: Tuesday 8 October 2019

Time: 12.45 -13.45

Venue: ACMS Seminar Room 2163, South East Wing, Second Floor, Solomon Mahlangu House, University of the Witwatersrand East Campus