Africa: Journal of the International African Institute vol:79 issue:3 pages:347-368
This article deals with issues of territoriality, public space, the microphysics of power and street gang life in the current urban context of Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. In this city, a growing amount of street children invades the public places. They team up in gangs and scour the streets in search for a location to settle (for a while). Along with their appropriation of public space, these gangs encounter several actors such as the city authorities, shop owners, tenants or rival street gangs. Before any settlement, deals have to be closed since every inch of the city is negotiable. All participants mix in these negotiations, for no one is considered marginal, certainly not the street youth who are inextricably bound up with Congolese society. This contribution considers this dynamic field of negotiations through a focus on space and analyzes it from a Foucauldian angle. It explores how gang members develop particular ways to control their territories and exercise power in them. Additionally, it examines how street youths manage to construct a home in the streets and make sense of their urban environment in the process.