Beneath the Cityʼs Grid: Vernacular and (Post)colonial Planning Interactions in Dakar, Senegal

  • Liora Bigon
  • Thomas Hart


This chapter traces the history of the indigenous grid-pattern settlement in Senegal and the Western Sudan, drawing significant contrasts with the uses of the grid plan as a tool of European colonial rule in Africa. The authors maintain that while the search for a unitary “origin” of the grid is historically refutable, questions about the grid’s origins are still sensitive in African Studies. By providing qualitative insights into the grid-pènç relations, particularly in Dakar from its colonial creation to the present time, this chapter demonstrates that indigenous and occidental planning cultures became intimately entangled. Moreover, indigenous spatial practices have still survived in the most Westernized parts of Dakar and the region. The authors’ focus on the Lebou enclaves beneath the grids of the oldest colonial quarters of Dakar also balances current research tendencies, which are preoccupied with Lebou Islamic practices in Dakar’s suburbs.


Senegal Dakar Lebou settlement-design Pènç Grid French colonial planning Touba Spatial production Bubonic plague 



We thank Abdou Khadre Gueye and the Lebou community of Dakar, who showed us the péncs, and the Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for financial support. We also thank the Journal of Historical Geography, where this chapter has been originally published, and its editor, Professor Miles Ogborn, for his careful reading and constructive remarks.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Liora Bigon
    • 1
  • Thomas Hart
    • 2
  1. 1.Holon Institute of TechnologyHolonIsrael
  2. 2.Independent ScholarParisFrance

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