Botswana: a laboratory

Botswana has been able to engage with modernity and modernization on its own terms: for the Motswana life exists in a staged relation to the city.

Gaborone, Three Dikgosi Monument in the Central Business District
Kojin Karatani once argued that the notion of contemporary Japan was incubated through the debates, the trials, the errors and the critical responses accompanying the emergence of modern Japanese literature.
For Karatani the availability of post-feudal Japan arose first in a potent laboratory of fiction alongside all of writing’s institutions and yet this was no objection to the concept of modern Japan’s ability to frame and show ways of being in another kind of modernity. Botswana, a microeconomy in the southern African region did not inaugurate its modernity through an adventure in literature but instead through an engagement with architectural and urban planning modernity which served as much as any film, novel or cultural movement as the laboratory and container in which to explore and realize a future condition.


Like Botswana, Japan has been able to engage with modernity and modernization on its own terms, to select from it what it needed and to avoid being overwhelmed by its unintended consequences. The art of achieving this relation to modernity is extremely rare: twentieth century Germany pursued modernity in German terms in a way that led to the dead-end of national socialism, American modernity came upon that country through nineteenth century mass migration and the sudden concentration of capital in a few influential hands, throughout the twentieth century the artistic and experiential meaning of American modernity struggled to catch up to where the economy and the society had already gone.

Gaborone, the capital city of Botswana, is a laboratory of conscientious design but like any other laboratory it may be locked and taken leave of voluntarily. Unique among contemporary urbanizations, Gaborone is not the primary home to the people who live, work and conduct business in it. Despite its successful concentration of the nation’s key institutions, markets and projects, it is a place where a certain relation to modernity, at the level of the State, the Market and the Nation, is meticulously and successfully enacted. But because the traditional culture and agricultural economy was never uprooted most citizens have their home outside the city in a well-provisioned network of advanced towns and villages. This circumstance has been carefully preserved and allows Botswana the privilege and opportunity, perhaps unique in the world, to advance uncompromisingly with one foot firmly in tradition and the other expertly within modernity. For this society the urban-rural, town-countryside dialectic does not exist.
© all rights reserved

Latest on News

Latest on Domus

Read more
China Germany India Mexico, Central America and Caribbean Sri Lanka Korea icon-camera close icon-comments icon-down-sm icon-download icon-facebook icon-heart icon-heart icon-next-sm icon-next icon-pinterest icon-play icon-plus icon-prev-sm icon-prev Search icon-twitter icon-views icon-instagram