Corridors as empty signifiers: the entanglement of Mozambique’s colonial past and present in its development corridors
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Planning Perspectives, DOI: 10.1080/02665433.2023.2173636
This article examines the infrastructural histories and legacies of three transnational corridors centred on the Mozambican cities of Maputo, Beira and Nacala. Underpinned by physical infrastructures, corridors were central to the extractive European colonial enterprise in Africa. Corridors facilitated the flows of resources, goods and knowledge between metropoles, African urban centres, and their hinterlands. Nowadays, corridors insert African cities and regions into global circuits of capital that perpetuate past extractive practices and policies. They are also powerful imaginary spaces for advancing political projects and developing specific configurations of government. Accordingly, the idea of a corridor may remain useful over time even as claims for their economic necessity ebb and flow. In this article, we examine the continuities between three contemporary Mozambican corridors and older colonial transitways that connected the three cities to British colonial interests in southern Africa. Then, drawing on Laclau and Mouffe’s discourse analysis, we suggest that corridors can serve as ‘empty signifiers,’ becoming linked to diverse understandings, standing for fluid yet enduring ambitions of connectivity, competitiveness, and regional integration. After scrutizing recent investments in the corridors, we reflect on their role in constructing a ‘new’ Mozambican economic order that is nevertheless deeply entangled in the country’s past.
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- Journal Article