This dissertation examines the relationship between petro-capitalism and urban development in contemporary Luanda. Focusing on the last two decades of intense urban transformation, the dissertation advances the notion of “the crude urban revolution” as a placeholder for the decisive role that petroleum plays in shaping the city. Making sense of how this powerful configuring arrangement has been unfolding on different realms of officialdom, three interrelated stories are told.
The first is about the formation of an official market for land and real estate. Providing an analysis of the Luanda Sul Program, a public-private initiative aimed at stimulating formal land transactions, this story maps out the establishment of its main private partner – the Brazilian firm Odebrecht – in Angola. This provides a vantage point to see how oil enabled the real estate market to be introduced as a means for promoting urban development, and to make sense of what arguably became a crucial reference model for subsequent state sanctioned interventions in Luanda.
The second story focuses on the creation of the Luanda Institute of Planning and Urban Management. Delving into the vicissitudes of planning forms and institutions, the ensuing analysis offers a reflection on law, planning and the practices of the state. Luanda’s planning realm is considered here as a heterogeneous and highly contested arena where bureaucratic complication becomes a mode of rule and oil emerges as a key agent for dissolving the entrapments of official planning processes.
The third and final story of this dissertation is about the emergence of a new mode of city making. Examining the urban development apparatus that led to establishment of Luanda’s New Centralities, this story traces the intricate ensemble of oil deals, financial transitions, urban developmental ambitions and modes of planning expertise that connect the undersea of the Angolan coastline to the rise of new cities in the periphery of Luanda, via circuitry threads that extend to Beijing and Hong Kong.