In his paper ‘African city walls: a neglected resource?’ Graham Connah argued some two decades ago that fortifications and city walls constituted a great but heavily under-researched phenomenon. In the 20 years since Connah’s call to action, multiple and diverse projects across Africa have demonstrated the extent to which these structures can illuminate a wide variety of issues, from military and sociopolitical matters to sacred, ideological, and environmental questions. African fortifications are as fascinating as they are diverse, ranging broadly in terms of materials, shape, structure, context, and function. As a resilience strategy, they can be means of protection from environmental (floods, animals) and/or human-made dangers (wars, raids, violence); as well as symbols of power and ostentation, and key tools in the articulation of political landscapes. In this session we want to reflect on this diversity, exploring the nature and roles of African fortifications across time and space, from their earliest manifestations to the present, across the continent, and from a range of perspectives and disciplines.
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