Cape Town platform participated in Southern Africa City Studies Conference
Every two years, the African Centre for Cities (ACC) at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and the Centre for Urbanism and the Built Environment Studies (CUBES) at the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) co-host the Southern Africa City Studies conference. The conference provides a forum for academic exchange and allows for transdisciplinary engagement and debate – as an urban-focussed conference, participants included academics, practitioners and students across disciplines, all committed to improving the qualities of peoples’ lives and the functioning of the state. This year, members of the Cape Town Platform attended and hosted a panel discussion on Co-producing knowledge for tricky transitions: Urban experimentation and innovation in Cape Town.
The conference was launched with a panel discussion, chaired by Edgar Pieterse, Director ACC. Following this was a celebration of books recently published by the two institutions, including Africa’s Urban Revolution written by Edgar Pieterse and Susan Parnell, Zed Books and UCT Press.
The following two days were packed with parallel sessions of presentations and panel discussions. The ACC, one of Mistra Urban Futures partners in Cape Town, was represented in various fields of work, including Henrik Ernstson’s research on urban political ecologies; the Mistra Urban Futures’ discussion on knowledge co-production for tricky transitions; Jenny Mbaye, Rike Sitas and Kim Gurney’s panel discussion on African urban public cultures; António Tomás’ PhD research on the spatial transformation, informality and dialectics of cityness in Luanda; and Gareth Haysom’s presentation exploring food system governance in urban contexts. These conference sessions yielded rich discussions and engagement on issues affecting urban spaces in Southern Africa.
As an ACC representative, Zarina Patel spoke in the closing plenary session. She noted that much of the research she heard was brave and open to provocation and challenge. She suggested that scholars are not striving to be right or to close topics to further examination; rather, scholars are opening up their research for further questions and engagement, something that speaks to the call for increased reflexivity in our work, and questioning our own assumptions. The collaborative nature of the research presented, and a shifting position of the academic in the generation of knowledge was also noted as a significant shift in Southern African urban studies. Zarina highlighted that the panels reflected a common grappling with ideas, and allowed for a mapping of the big concepts and trends in research.