A broom to the head: ‘Cleaning Day’ and the aesthetics of emergence in Dakar.
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Urban Studies. February 2021. doi:10.1177/0042098021993357
Senegal has a long tradition of the collective management of public space via community cleaning. Since the explosion of the popular ecology movement Set Setal (meaning clean and be clean in Wolof) in the early 1990s, ‘set’ or hygienic aesthetics have been central to the construction and control of urban space and deployed to include and enfold but also expel citizens. In January 2020 the Senegalese President Macky Sall called on the population to join him in ‘Cleaning Days’, bypassing ‘set’ practices. Cleaning Day was met with a response ranging from indifference to anger and open conflict. In this article I use Cleaning Day as a lens to analyse the production and reception of set aesthetics in a time of ‘emergence’. Focusing on the power of subaltern practice to resist the encroachment of a state in search of meaningful symbols, I challenge the idea that contemporary urban aesthetics is geared towards the creation of a perceived continuity of interests organised around an aspiration to a global urban standard.
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