Monrovia Modern: Urban Form and Political Imagination in Liberia

Duke University Press
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In Monrovia Modern Danny Hoffman uses the ruins of four iconic modernist buildings in Monrovia, Liberia, as a way to explore the relationship between the built environment and political imagination. Hoffman shows how the E. J. Roye tower and the Hotel Africa luxury resort, as well as the unfinished Ministry of Defense and Liberia Broadcasting System buildings, transformed during the urban warfare of the 1990s from symbols of the modernist project of nation-building to reminders of the challenges Monrovia's residents face. The transient lives of these buildings' inhabitants, many of whom are ex-combatants, prevent them from making place-based claims to a right to the city and hinder their ability to think of ways to rebuild and repurpose their built environment. Featuring nearly 100 of Hoffman's color photographs, Monrovia Modern is situated at the intersection of photography, architecture, and anthropology, mapping out the possibilities and limits for imagining an urban future in Monrovia and beyond.
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About the author

Danny Hoffman is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Washington and the author of The War Machines: Young Men and Violence in Sierra Leone and Liberia, also published by Duke University Press. As a photojournalist, he documented conflicts in southern Africa and the Balkans from 1994 to 1998.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Duke University Press
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Published on
Aug 17, 2017
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Pages
240
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ISBN
9780822373087
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Language
English
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Genres
Architecture / Urban & Land Use Planning
History / Africa / West
Social Science / Anthropology / Cultural & Social
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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In this study Alan Waterhouse draws on anthropological, social and cultural history, literature, and philosophy to reach an understanding of the roots of Western architecture and city building. He explores the illusion that cities are constructed to impose rational order, an order articulated through urban boundaries. These boundaries, he finds, are shaped around our instinctive fears and insecurities about crime, insurrection, and the violent disruption of everyday life. At the same time, contrary instincts aspire to create a unified domain, to proclaim the interdependence of things through constructed work. Cities are shaped less by rational design than by a recurring dialectic of boundary formation.

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Electronic Format Disclaimer: Image 6.5 removed at the request of the rights holder.

Journalist Helene Cooper examines the violent past of her home country Liberia and the effects of its 1980 military coup in this deeply personal memoir and finalist for the 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award.

Helene Cooper is “Congo,” a descendant of two Liberian dynasties—traced back to the first ship of freemen that set sail from New York in 1820 to found Monrovia. Helene grew up at Sugar Beach, a twenty-two-room mansion by the sea. Her childhood was filled with servants, flashy cars, a villa in Spain, and a farmhouse up-country. It was also an African childhood, filled with knock foot games and hot pepper soup, heartmen and neegee. When Helene was eight, the Coopers took in a foster child—a common custom among the Liberian elite. Eunice, a Bassa girl, suddenly became known as “Mrs. Cooper’s daughter.”

For years the Cooper daughters—Helene, her sister Marlene, and Eunice—blissfully enjoyed the trappings of wealth and advantage. But Liberia was like an unwatched pot of water left boiling on the stove. And on April 12, 1980, a group of soldiers staged a coup d'état, assassinating President William Tolbert and executing his cabinet. The Coopers and the entire Congo class were now the hunted, being imprisoned, shot, tortured, and raped. After a brutal daylight attack by a ragtag crew of soldiers, Helene, Marlene, and their mother fled Sugar Beach, and then Liberia, for America. They left Eunice behind.

A world away, Helene tried to assimilate as an American teenager. At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill she found her passion in journalism, eventually becoming a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. She reported from every part of the globe—except Africa—as Liberia descended into war-torn, third-world hell.

In 2003, a near-death experience in Iraq convinced Helene that Liberia—and Eunice—could wait no longer. At once a deeply personal memoir and an examination of a violent and stratified country, The House at Sugar Beach tells of tragedy, forgiveness, and transcendence with unflinching honesty and a survivor's gentle humor. And at its heart, it is a story of Helene Cooper’s long voyage home.
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