Wonderful reads 2020: Amoako and Frimpong Boamah on becoming vulnerable to flooding in PT&P

Ok, I know diddly squat about Ghana other than I enjoyed my visit, and I also know diddly squat about flooding, but I LOVE how these authors use assemblage as both a theoretical approach and *almost* a method in constructing the comparative case studies of Agbogbloshie and Old Fadama, two informal settlements.

Assemblage theory is an ontological approach developed by Giles Deleuze Félix Guattari in their book A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. I do not feel qualified to really present the approach, but it seems to me that Amoaka and Frimpong Boamah do a great job of taking it down from the clouds, as it were, and really unlocking the potential of the approach to help us understand how and why vulnerability to flooding happens. It releases the research from the demands of a paradigm: you don’t have to have supply or demand variables. You just examine the variables, knowing they are mutually constituted and influencing, and explore how they are assembling in the context.

My PhD students read the paper with me. There are a couple places in the cases where I think the narrative gets a muddled, but that happens to all of us and it doesn’t negate the fact that this is a very nice exemplar of really using theory to deepen empirical work.

Here is the citation and the link. It’s behind a paywall, but , I suspect we can find you a copy of it if you request it:

Clifford Amoako & Emmanuel Frimpong Boamah (2020) Becoming Vulnerable to Flooding: An Urban Assemblage View of Flooding in an African City, Planning Theory & Practice, 21:3, 371-391, DOI: 10.1080/14649357.2020.1776377

Assemblage thinking has emerged over the last two decades as an important theoretical framework to interrogate emerging complex socio-material phenomenon in cities. This paper deploys the assemblage lens to unpack the vulnerability of informal communities to flood hazards in an African city. Focusing on Agbogbloshie and Old Fadama, the largest informal settlements in Accra, Ghana, this paper employs multiple methods including archival analysis, institutional surveys, focus group discussions, and mini-workshops to study the processes of exposure and vulnerability to flood hazards in these two communities. We find that being vulnerable to flood hazards in these informal settlements emerges from historically contingent, co-constitutive processes and actants: the city officials’ modernist imaginaries and socio-cultural identities of residents in informal settlements; the social material conditions experienced by residents in these settlements; and the translocal learning networks of government and non-government actors that simultaneously (re)produce oppressive urban planning policies and grassroots resistance to these policies. The paper concludes with a call to urban planners and allied built environment practitioners to understand flood vulnerability as both a process and product of these complex interactions.