Tales of the Invisible City

Filip De Boeck and Marie Françoise Plissart

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Monograph - paperback

Reading African cities into contemporary theory—reprint of a richly illustrated reference work
In their internationally acclaimed publication Kinshasa: Tales of the Invisible City, anthropologist Filip De Boeck and photographer Marie-Françoise Plissart provide a history not only of the physical and visible urban reality that Kinshasa presents today, but also of a second, invisible city as it exists in the mind and imagination of its inhabitants. They bring to light a mirroring reality lurking underneath the surface of the visible world and explore the constant transactions that take place between these two levels in Kinshasa’s urban scape.
With the exhibition that accompanied the release of their Kinshasa book, the authors won a Golden Lion at the 11th International Architecture Bienniale in Venice, 2004.

This beautifully illustrated publication is now again made available. Based on longstanding field research, it provides insight into local social and cultural imaginaries, and thus in the imaginative ways in which local urban subjects continue to make sense of their worlds and invent cultural strategies to cope with the breakdown of urban infrastructure.
Reflecting on Reflection through Photography and Text

Tales of the Invisible City and the Second World. An Introduction

The 'Giant of Kinshasa', The Story of a Conversion

Memory, Time, Apocalypse and Death in Kinshasa

Omba Shako, The Story of a Street Kid

Children, the Street and the Occult in Kinshasa

Mado, The Story of a Female Diamond Smuggler


Index of names
Index of illustrations

Format: Monograph - paperback

Size: 240 × 170 × 20 mm

285 pages

ISBN: 9789058679673

Publication: March 24, 2014

Languages: English

Stock item number: 141404

Filip De Boeck is Professor of Anthropology at KU Leuven.

Marie-Françoise Plissart is a photographer.

Una obra que explora la capital congoleña, cavando más allá de lo evidente para hal

'Kinshasa: Tales of the Invisible City' is a fascinating and challenging effort to probe the social and cultural complexities of an African metropolis. [...] This book deserves a wide readership among scholars of contemporary African cities. It is beautifully written, and the photographs are stunning.
Jeremy M. Rich (Marywood University), H-Urban (August, 2015)


This is an important book, extraordinarily rich in ethnographic detail about Kinshasa. Scholars and graduate students will find this book very useful in understanding the urban realities of Kinshasa and more broadly the impact of globalization on African cities.
Fassil Demissie, DePaul University, Chicago, Urban Affairs Review, Volume 42 Number 6, July 2007


Kinshasa: a 'site of dreams' for contemporary visual artists
De Boeck and Plissart's book, Kinshasa: Tales of the Invisible City combines written and photographic narratives that offer some useful explanations as to why these two (and several other) important Kinois artists concentrate so heavily on the recurring theme of urban utopian futures.
Museum Geographies, September 2014


Les chapitres de ce beau livre, jalonné par les magnifiques photographies de Marie-Françoise Plissart, sont articulés entre eux par la métaphore du miroir qui sert de fil conducteur à l'ouvrage. Le propos de Filip de Boeck, anthropologue à l'Université Catholique de Leuven, se déploie en référence à la fois au roman Les Villes invisibles d'Italo Calvino et à l'essai de Didier Gondola : Villes-miroirs.
Maëline LE LAY, Études littéraires africaines, Numéro 37, 2014


A remarkable research over many years, and an analysis of the Democratic Republic of Congo capital city, into the nature of physical urban reality but also that invisible city of the mind and the imagination and how cultural strategies help overcome the breakdown in the city's infrastructures.
Ian Ritchie's Book List >>>


'Particularly formative work on African cities.' - Sarah Nuttall, Director of Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research


'Rich as the book is with passion, imagery, and well-researched stories, it is readably in conversation with, and challenging, western urban theory (whether Harvey, Foucault, Lefebvre, de Certeau, or others), but also with representations of Kinshasa and of the Congo.' - Garth Myers, author of African Cities: Alternative Visions of Urban Theory and Practice, Zed Books, 2011


'If we are to advance a more grounded and differentiated understanding of African urban settlements this kind of work is essential. - Edgar Pieterse, Director of the African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town


The reference work on living in the capital, however, is the powerful anthropological study of Filip De Boeck.
- David Van Reybrouck (Congo: Een geschiedenis, Bezige bij 2010) about Kinshasa, Tales of the Invisible City


Hét standaardwerk over het leven in de hoofdstad echter is de machtige antropologische studie van Filip De Boeck.
David Van Reybrouck, Congo: Een geschiedenis (Bezige bij 2010)