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UCL Home  /  Geography  /  People  /  Academic Staff  /  Fabien Cante

Fabien Cante

Lecturer (Teaching) in Urban and Development Geography

Room G20
26 Bedford Way
London WC1H 0AP


Twitter: @FabienCante

Academic support and feedback hours*:

MONDAY and FRIDAY 1:00-2:00pm (face-to-face, though can be virtual upon request - book using this link)

TUESDAY 9:00-10:00am (virtual only - book using this link)

*I won't be holding ASF hours during Reading Week.

I am an urban geographer, though I came to geography via an interdisciplinary journey: initially trained in politics (Sciences Po Paris), I went on to study social and cultural history (EHESS) and urban studies (UCL), before completing a PhD in a Media & Communications department (LSE). As a result, I find it impossible to think the social, cultural and political dimensions of urbanisation in isolation. Or, put differently, I research urban cultures and media as sites of (geo)politics.

Cross-cutting my teaching and research is a focus on everyday agency in the face of deep power asymmetries and unevently distributed insecurities. I am especially interested in how different forms of racism produce urban marginality at local and global scales, as well as in how this marginalisation is contested. These are themes I've researched in a EuroAmerican context (US, France, UK), as well as through post/decolonial African studies.

In addition to academic research, I've worked with community planning groups (Just Space, Elephant & Walworth Neighbourhood Forum), migrants' rights advocates (Migrants' Rights Network), social services administration (DASES, Paris), and local radio stations in Abidjan, where my PhD was based. I held a postdoctoral positions at the University of Amsterdam (DATACTIVE project) and at the University of Birmingham (ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship).

I've been teaching as a lecturer in UCL Geography since October 2019, though I was a PGTA previously, with additional teaching experience at LSE (LSE100) and Birmingham (guest lectures in geography and anthropology).

I'm interested in the infrastructures, street-level practices and subaltern cultural worlds that make cities 'hold' despite the fracturing pressures of inequality and political violence. Since 2014, my research has been mainly grounded in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, from which I seek to inform contemporary theorisations of 'Southern' urbanisms. This involves three main strands of reading, writing and discussion:

  • Interrogating the politics of urban peace: in the aftermath of a decade of conflict in Côte d'Ivoire (1999-2011), I contrast everyday and institutional forms of peace-making, teasing out the tensions between them. I show that institutional, donor- and state-funded peace-building has been complicit in reproducing colonial forms of political domination, locally and globally. I argue that an alternative can be found in practices of everyday peace, for example in the way ordinary residents stage encounters with strangers, building multi-ethnic conviviality and recovering indeterminacy as a positive affect of urban life. A future project will look at state-provided student housing as a site where mutual aid and violence have historically been negotiated in Abidjan. Most broadly, my aim in this strand of work is to contest Western imaginaries of African cities as spaces of dysfunctional violence, and of African urban dwellers as needing to be taught how to live together.
  • Mediating urban togetherness: from an early desire to become a journalist, I've moved to researching media as urban infrastructures. 'Old' and 'new' media technologies influence how people know (or sense) what's going on, how they connect to each other, how they can imagine their lives otherwise and voice their aspirations. These become very complex and contested domains in cities like Abidjan, characterised by deep uncertainty, overlapping insecurities, and significant restrictions on public expression. My writing to date has looked closely at the mediations of voice, noise and silence as textures of Abidjan's 'post-conflict' atmosphere, with a focus on local radio, and I have argued (in both publications and stakeholder workshops) that more democratic media infrastructures are vital to a more lasting peace.
  • Connecting cities of the Black Atlantic: although I work ethnographically, building situated partnerships in Abidjan, a long-term aim is to think the Ivoirian metropolis in a shared frame with London, New York, Rio or Johannesburg. Inspired by Paul Gilroy's notion of the Black Atlantic, and by Jenny Robinson's invitation to global comparison, I want to trace Abidjan's connections within transnational networks of migration, popular culture and anticolonial thought.


Journal articles

2022. Attuning to opacity: Interpreting 'post-crisis' refusals on Abidjan's local airwaves. Anthropological Quarterly (accepted - in final edits)

2020. Mediating anti-political peace: Radio, place and power in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire. Political Geography 83, 1-14.

2018. From 'animation' to encounter: Community radio, sociability and urban life in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire. International Journal of Cultural Studies 21(1), 12-

2015. Cante, F. 2015. Place-making, media practices and orientations: Exploratory connections between communication geography and Sara Ahmed’s critical
phenomenology. Sociologica n°3 (Online)

Book chapters

2020. Post-conflict soundings: Noise and voice in Abidjan. In Sonic urbanism: The political voice. London & Athens: &beyond & Theatrum Mundi, 52-60. Audio version

2020. Local radio in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire: Ambiguities of ownership, power and polarisation. In W. Mano & L. El Mkaouar, eds. Media Ownership in Africa. London: Routledge, in press.

2020. Peace, citizens’ politics and local radio: Toward new synergies. In E. Ako et al., So that Tomorrow May Be Better: Voices for Peace. Abidjan: N’zarama Centre for Peacebuilding & Édilivres. [Translation]

My teaching spans undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in UCL Geography.

In the first term, I teach on Geography in the Field 1 (urban project in Elephant & Castle - GEOG0013), Development Geography (themes of urbanisation, migration and technology - GEOG0024), Geographies of Infrastructure (digitalising infrastructure - GEOG0065), and Urban Imaginations (Black counternarratives of urban modernity - GEOG0137).

In term 2, I teach on Space and Society (racialisation, marginalisation and resistance - GEOG0150), Postcolonial Geographies of African Development (session on media - GEOG0054) and Urban Practices (GEOG0140). I also convene the module Global Urbanism (GEOG0064), where I teach about smart cities, housing, migration and policing across 'Northern' and 'Southern' contexts.