Urban residents across Africa are neither simply the subjugated nor the purveyors of skilled survival. Rather they continuously navigate a world where no one set of assumptions or clearly delineated trajectory of efficacy and livelihood applies. In some Central African cities, such as Kinshasa, notions of economy concern practices of taking discrete people and things and interweaving them with others in relations that often have little familiarity, make little sense. Things that don’t readily belong are assembled into provisional bundles. In this essay on an important retail market, urban agriculture, and a superblock development in Kinshasa, economy is demonstrated to be a way of keeping the value of things open to new uses and sites. Thus, to grasp the fierce ambivalence of many clearly impoverished urban districts requires an appreciation of the oscillations of value.
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