Urban landscapes of colonial/postcolonial health care. Towards a spatial mapping of the performance of hospital infrastructure in Kinshasa, Mbandaka and Kisangani (DR Congo) from past to present (1920-2014)

01 January 2015 → 31 December 2020
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • Architectural design
    • Architecture
    • Art studies and sciences
    • Interior architecture
  • Engineering and technology
    • Architectural engineering
    • Architecture
    • Interior architecture
hospital infrastructure Kinshasa, Mbandaka and Kisangani colonial/postcolonial health care
Project description

A substantial literature already exists on the intricate relationship between medical science and colonialism: scholars have looked at the historical development of medical science as well as the way in which medicine was entangled in colonial policies. Yet little attention has been given so far to the physical infrastructure of health care, even though during colonial times impressive hospital complexes have been built that, notwithstanding their often dilapidated state, still constitute a crucial part of the present day health care infrastructure for a large part of the Congolese population. This research proposes to investigate a select number of such hospital sites in three particular cities in the DRCongo: Kinshasa, Mbandaka and Kisangani. First, it will trace the origin of their typology, linking them to a “shared culture” among European colonial powers in the field of building design, urban planning and medical science. Secondly, it will investigate the “spatial governmentalities” active on these sites, scrutinizing how over time African socio-cultural practices of dealing with sickness and death conflicted with an infrastructural accommodation based on a typology imported from the mother country. To understand this tension, we argue that these hospital sites should not be understood as isolated enclaves, but rather as complex heterotopic infrastructures that, from their very inception, interacted in profound ways with their surrounding urban environment.