The third Southern African City Studies Conference, hosted at the DUT Urban Futures Centre, recently took place at the DUT Steve Biko Campus.
The conference brought together scholars who exposed their work to positive critical discussion. The 2016 call had many presentations that directly focused on themes around urban planning and design, urban security and other issues shaped by the urban landscape.
One of the international speakers, Clive Barnett from the University of Exeter, UK, presented his paper which focused on redefining the city and city studies. His topic: Why Cities? tackled the proliferation of urban concern and the multiple roles ascribed to urban processes in addressing problems which required shifting attention away from debates about what the city is to what cities are assumed to be. “Cities have become central to a range of policy fields, activist imaginations and advocacy campaigns. My paper seeks to develop an analytical framework for understanding why cities matter?” he said.
Adding to the topic, Prof Alan Mabin from the University of Pretoria, reflected on his experience of contributing and collaborating with a wide range of colleagues in South Africa and several other countries with the motivation of broadening and deepening city studies in South Africa regarding the challenges of building city studies in South Africa. “The sources for this intervention are largely from personal experience, observation, my own archive and participation and methods of analysis, to some continued until today,” he said. He gave the audience more insight into the 1970s period, the historical research challenges, relationships to politics, activism and struggles for transformation in University settings which brought about further discussions around the future of city studies in South Africa.
Another interesting session entailed a presentation by Prof Monique Marks from the DUT UFC and Simon Howell from UCT, whose paper: Through the Lens of the Everyday: Auto-construction in informal settlements, gave insight about acknowledging the strong culture of informal place-making which may help close the gap over time with regard to the extreme shortage of housing delivery within the urban context. “Embracing this everyday practice, and building from it, may spur on our cities to becoming a fully inclusive space for urban innovation,” she said.
All-in-all, many presentations addressed a wide scope of issues pertaining to alternate visions in urban planning and design.
– Waheeda Peters
Pictured: Professor Alan Mabin speaking on the challenges of building city studies in South Africa.