The Urban Futures Centre, based at the Durban University of Technology, hosted the Southern African City Studies Conference from 17-19 March 2016. The conference identified a number of thematic challenges aimed at promoting scholar participation across a number of intersecting disciplines in Southern Africa: (1) alternate experiments and visions in urban planning and design; (2) through the lens of the everyday; (3) responses to urban insecurity; (4) the challenge of working across disciplines; and (5) the significance of infrastructure.
Margot Strauss, a doctoral candidate in the Socio-Economic Rights and Administrative Justice (SERAJ) Research Project, participated in a proposed, interdisciplinary panel on the ‘right to the city’ on Saturday, 19 March. This panel brought together South African scholars from law and urban disciplines exploring the right to the city in the South African context. The papers on the ‘right to the city’ panel addressed the potential of legal rights and litigation, as well as collective action and everyday practices of appropriation, in relation to capitalist and state processes that produce marginalisation, informality, cultural destruction and the privatisation of public space. The collection of papers combined theoretical and empirical enquiry with concepts related to Henri Lefebvre’s right to the city as its central focus.
Titles of the papers on the right to the city panel:
- Marius Pieterse (Law School, Wits University): Illegality, marginality and the right to the city: The potential and limits of legal rights;
- Margot Strauss (SERAJ, Stellenbosch University): The right to the city: Framework for reinterpreting housing rights in urban South Africa;
- Thomas Coggin (Law School, Wits University): The rights-based implications of the privatisation of public space in South African cities;
- Guy Trangoš (Researcher, Gauteng City-Region Observatory): Claiming Johannesburg: Urban heritage and acts of symbolic appropriation;
- Marie Huchzermeyer (Centre for Urbanism and Built Environment Studies at the School of Architecture and Planning, Wits University): Informal Settlements through the Dialectic Lens of Henri Lefebvre: From difference to the possibility of political opening;
- Andreas Scheba & Ivan Turok (Human Sciences Research Council): Can socio-economic rights approaches build inclusive cities? The case of housing in South Africa.
The conference is the only one of its kind in South Africa that is dedicated to cities in the region. It takes place every two years and is hosted by a different institution. The African Centre for Cities, based at the University of Cape Town, will host the 2018 conference.