This article examines the relationship between experiences and the physical and discursive constructions of space in colonial urban settings. African immigrants and the colonial regime imagined Douala's immigrant quarter, New Bell, as an African space but the actual meaning of this classification was highly fluid over time. Colonial ineffectiveness in approaching New Bell was evidenced by half-hearted and flawed surveillance efforts including the failed use of identity cards, informants and pass laws. Residents maintained a sense of autonomy within the space of New Bell, and remained largely ignorant or apathetic toward colonial law within the quarter, ultimately enabling the community to thrive.
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