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Urban Studies Research
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 589758, 12 pages
Research Article

A History of Urban Planning and Infectious Diseases: Colonial Senegal in the Early Twentieth Century

Department of History and Theory, Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem 91240, Israel

Received 28 June 2011; Revised 13 December 2011; Accepted 31 December 2011

Academic Editor: Faranak Miraftab

Copyright © 2012 Liora Bigon. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


This paper deals with the spatial implications of the French sanitary policies in early colonial urban Senegal. It focuses on the French politics of residential segregation following the outbreak of the bubonic plague in Dakar in 1914, and their precedents in Saint Louis. These policies can be conceived as most dramatic, resulting in a displacement of a considerable portion of the indigenous population, who did not want or could not afford to build à l’européen, to the margins of the colonial city. Aspects of residential segregation are analysed here through the perspective of cultural history and history of colonial planning and architecture, in contrast to the existing literature on this topic. The latter dilates on the statutory policies of the colonial authorities facing the 1914 plague in Dakar, the plague's sociopolitical implications, and the colonial politics of public health there. In the light of relevant historiography, and a variety of secondary and primary sources, this paper exposes the contradictions that were inherent in the French colonial regime in West Africa. These contradictions were wisely used by the African agency, so that such a seemingly urgent segregationist project was actually never accomplished.