Architecture and Development: Israeli Construction in Sub-Saharan Africa and Settler Colonial Imagination, 1958-1973.

AuthorNti, Kwaku

Levin, Ayala. c. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2022.

Ayala Levin projects the otherwise obscure role of Israeli technical aid amid the crucial African political elite efforts in preferring other countries as alternatives to erstwhile colonial powers in the development of the built environment across the continent. This kind of collaboration that amounted to a transgression of old colonial hierarchies thrived on official Israeli overtures preceding African independence much to the objection of Britain. Accordingly, Levin points out that Israeli officials offered the emerging African governments "the services of the Israeli construction company Solel Boneh, as well as those of other governmental companies... a cooperative organization established in 1920 that laid the foundation for the Israeli state's institutional infrastructure and political leadership in its first decade of statehood" (2). Levin consequently challenges prevailing understanding of development discourses as homogeneous with the technocrats thereof as incorporeal. Again, this book draws attention to oblivious issues in the broader development scholarship as the author introduces the trope of competition. She avers that "in the competition over development aid in Africa, incited by decolonization and the global Cold War, new centers of knowledge production emerged and, with them, the opportunity for African governments to negotiate with various aid donors and choose the forms of aid... the competition over aid allowed room for sophisticated maneuvering even between countries associated with the same bloc" (3).

These manipulations in this increasingly competitive development market saw old and new international actors joggling with each other, tearing down colonial monopolies as the latter acted as proxies for the new superpowers or assumed independent positions per Non-Aligned Movement interventions. In this context, then, Israel as a "developing country" becomes an unrelenting major actor on the African continent. This scenario introduces another category "between the global North and the global South that complicates existing narratives of development and directs attention to the diverse social and political stakes that undergirded north-south exchanges" (3). Architecture, therefore, in the estimation of Levin, becomes a discipline that offers an unassailable possibility for the exploration of this complicated historical phenomenon.

Israel, in these endeavors...

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