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The Salon

High Wire Acts: Knowledge Imperatives of Southern Urbanisms

Edgar Pieterse

(University of Cape Town)


[1] This paper was first read at: Emergent cities: Conflicting claims and the politics of informality, Symposium: 9-10 March 2012, University of Uppsala, Sweden. I am grateful for the comments from interlocutors there and input from many colleagues at ACC as well as Kim Gurney who provided expert editorial support.

[2] Gregory Bateson, quoted in Mostafavi, M. (2011) "Why Ecological Urbanism? Why Now?" in M. Mostafavi and G. Doherty (eds) Ecological Urbanism. Boston: Harvard University Graduate School of Design & Lars Muller Publishers, p. 44.

[3] Parnell, S., E. Pieterse and V. Watson (2009) "Planning for Cities in the Global South: A Research Agenda for Sustainable Human Settlements", Progress in Planning, 72(2): 233-241.

[4] Watson, V. (2009) "Seeing from the South: Refocusing Urban Planning on the Globe's Central Urban Issues", Urban Studies, Volume 46(11): 2259-2275.

[5] This aspect is elaborated in: Parnell, S. and E. Pieterse (2010) "Realising the 'right to the city': institutional imperatives for tackling urban poverty", International Journal for Urban and Regional Research, 34(1): 146-162.

[6] Anderson, P., M. Brown-Luthango, A. Cartwright, I. Farouk, W. Smit (2012) "Brokering communities of knowledge and practice: reflections on the African Centre for Cities' CityLab Programme." Unpublished paper. Cape Town: African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town.

[7] Davis, M. (2010) "Who will build the ark?" New Left Review, 61 (Jan-Feb): 29-46; Harvey, D. (2008) "The Right to the City", New Left Review, (September-October): 23-40.

[8] Kamal-Chaoui, L. and Robert A. (eds.) 2009. Competitive Cities and Climate Change. Paris: OECD publishing; Satterthwaite, D. (2011) "Surviving in an Urban Age", in Burdett, R. and Sudij, D. (eds) Living in the Endless City. London & New York: Phaidon Press.

[9] McMichael, P. (2009) "Contemporary contradictions of the global development project: geopolitics, global ecology and the 'development climate' ", Third World Quarterly, 30 (1): 247-262.

[10] Davis, op cit., p. 38.

[11] The work of the International Panel on Climate Change is clear that if the world is to avoid a 2 degrees rise in temperature, carbon emissions will have to be cut by half of current levels by 2050, which further implies an 80% cut by developed nations. This means that a low-carbon future is simply a non-negotiable even though how we will achieve these reductions remain a mystery given the current patterns of real politik. For an insightful overview on the imperatives of a low-carbon future, see: Flavin, C. (2008) "Building a low-carbon economy", in L. Starke (ed) State of the World 2008: Innovations for a sustainable economy. London: Earthscan.

[12] Africa is the only world region that will continue to have a robust population growth momentum by mid century. In particular, East and West Africa will more than double its populations from 250 million to almost 700 million respectively. Over that period of time, Africa's share of the global population would have grown from 15 percent in 2010 to 23 percent in 2052. However, despite this dramatic increase in its share of the global population of 9 billion, it will remain largely peripheral in economic terms. In 2010, Africa accounted for 3.5% of global exports and slightly less of FDI. This merely grows to 5.8% of exports and 5.3% of FDI by 2050. See: Cilliers, J., Hughes, B. and Moyers, J. (2011) African Futures 2050: The next forty years. ISS Monograph 175, Pretoria: Institute for Security Studies.

[13] See Chapters 2 and 3 in: Swilling, M. and Annecke, E. (2012) Just Transitions: Explorations of sustainability in an unfair world. Cape Town & Tokyo: UCT Press and United Nations University Press.

[14] Amin, A. (2011) "Urban planning in an uncertain world", in G. Bridge and S. Watson (eds) The New Blackwell Companion to the City. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, pp. 637-8.

[15] Edensor, T. and Jayne, M. (2011) "Introduction: Urban theory beyond the West", in T. Edensor and M. Jayne (eds) Urban Theory beyond the West: A world of cities. London & New York: Routledge; Robinson, J. (2006) Ordinary Cities: Between Modernity and Development. London: Routledge; Roy, A. (2008) "The 21st-Century Metropolis: New Geographies of Theory", Regional Studies, 43(6): 819-830; Roy, A. (2011) "Slumdog Cities: Rethinking Subaltern Urbanism", International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 35(2): 223-238; Watson, V. (2003) "Conflicting rationalities: implications for planning theory and ethics", Planning Theory & Practice, 4(4): 395-407. Watson, V. (2009), op cit.

[16] Jin, D. (2010) Winning in Emerging Market Cities. A Guide to the World's Largest Growth Opportunity. Boston: Boston Consulting Group.

[17] Roy, A. (2009) op cit, p. 820. This injunction may be true, but the stubborn patterns of the political economy of knowledge production will mean that in practical terms more than 90% of "recognized" scholarship associated with leading journals and publishing houses will undoubtedly emanate from Northern universities. However this is a dilemma for consideration on another occasion.

[18] For example: Edensor and Jayne (2011), op cit.; Enwezor, O. et al., (eds.) (2004) Under Siege: Four African Cities. Freetown, Johannesburg, Kinshasa, Lagos. Ostfildern-Ruit: Dokumenta 11_Platform4, Hatje Cantz; Huyssen, A. (ed) (2010) Other Cities, Other Worlds: Urban Imaginaries in a Globalizing Age. Durham: Duke University Press; Meyers, G. (2011) African Cities: Alternative Visions of Urban Theory and Practice. London: Zed Books; Robinson, (2006), op cit.; Simone, A. (2004) For the city yet to come: Changing African life in four cities. Durham and London: Duke University Press; Simone, A.M. (2010) City Life from Jakarta to Dakar: Movements at the Crossroads. London and New York: Routledge; Swilling and Annecke, op cit.

[19] Simone, A. (2010) op cit., pp. 38-39.

[20] Bayat, A. (2000) "From Dangerous Classes to Quiet Rebels. Politics of Urban Subaltern in the Global South", International Sociology, 15(3): 533-557.

[21] Roy, A. (2005) "Urban informality: towards an epistemology of planning", Journal of the American Planning Association, 71(2): 147-158.

[22] Benjamin, S. (2008) "Occupancy urbanism: radicalizing politics and economy beyond policy and programs", International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 32(3): 719-729.

[23] Holston, J. (2008) Insurgent citizenship - disjunctions of democracy and modernity in Brazil. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

[24] Lorimer, J. (2009) "Posthumanism/Posthumanistic Geographies", in R. Kitchen and N. Thrift (eds) International Encyclopedia of Human Geography. Volume Eight. Amsterdam and Oxford: Elsevier, p. 344.

[25] Amin, op cit, p. 634.

[26] Pieterse, E. (2011) "Grasping the unknowable: coming to grips with African urbanisms", Social Dynamics, 38(1): 5-23.

[27] Graham, S. (2010) "When infrastructures fail", in Graham, S. (ed) Disrupted cities: When Infrastructure Fails. New York and London: Routledge, p. 11.

[27] Bennett, J. (2010) Vibrant Matter. A Political Ecology of Things. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

[28] Bennett, J. (2010) Vibrant Matter. A Political Ecology of Things. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

[29] NSFWUS [National Science Foundation Workshop on Urban Sustainability], (2000) "Towards a Comprehensive Geographical Perspective on Urban Sustainability." Final Report of the 1998: National Science Foundation Workshop on Urban Sustainability.' Rutgers University. Swilling and Annecke, op cit.

[30] Graham, op cit, p. 1.

[31] Mostafavi, M. (2011) "Why ecological urbanism? Why Now?", in M. Mostafavi and G. Doherty (eds) Ecological Urbanism: Boston: Harvard Graduate School of Design & Lars Müller.

[32] According to Wikipedia, Masdar "...will rely entirely on solar energy and other renewable energy sources, with a sustainable, zero-carbon, zero-waste ecology. The city is being constructed 17 kilometres east-south-east of the city of Abu Dhabi, beside Abu Dhabi International Airport." (accessed on 12 August 2012) Masdar is designed by Norman Foster and partners, and is one of a handful of large-scale eco-cities that are being built to demonstrate that eco-design principles can determine the functioning of entire cities.

[33] The fuller argument on this relational model of urban politics is set out in Chapter 4 of: Piterse, E. (2008) City Futures: Confronting the Crises of Urban Development. London: Zed.

[34] Amin, op cit., p. 638.

[35] Theodore, N., J.Peck and N. Brenner (2011) "Neoliberal Urbanism: Cities and the Rule of Markets", in G. Bridge and S. Watson (eds) The New Blackwell Companion to the City. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

[36] Robinson, J. and S. Parnell (2011) "Travelling Theory: Embracing Post-Neoliberalism through Southern Cities", in G. Bridge and S. Watson (eds) The New Blackwell Companion to the City. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

[37] Pieterse, E. (2012) "World Cup Promise & Cold Comforts for South African Cities", in Asmal, Z. (ed) Designing South African Since 2010. Johannesburg: DesignZA.

[38] Jenks, M. and Jones, C. (2010) "Issues and Concepts", in M. Jenks and C. Jones (eds) Dimensions of the Sustainable City. Dordrecht: Springer.

[39] This section is a summary and adaptation of: Pieterse, E. (2011) "Recasting urban sustainability in the South", Development, 54(3): 309-316; and Pieterse, E (2011) "Building Brave New Worlds: Design and the Second Urban Transition", in Cynthia Smith (ed) Design for the other 90%: Cities. New York: Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

[40] Moss, T. (2001) "Flow Management in Urban Regions: Introducing a Concept", in S. Guy, S. Marvin, and T. Moss, (eds) Urban Infrastructure in Transition: Networks, Buildings, Plans. London: Earthscan, p. 10.

[41] For innovative examples of this in Latin America, see: Rojas, E. (ed) (2010) Building cities: neighbourhood upgrading and urban quality of life. Washington DC: Inter-American Development Bank.

[42] Johnson, H. and Wilson, G. (2009) Learning from development. London: Zed Books; Narayan, D. and Kapoor, S. (2008) "Beyond sectoral traps: Creating wealth for the poor", in C. Moser and A.A. Dani (eds) Assets, Livelihoods, and Social Policy. Washington DC: The World Bank.

[43] Echeverri, A. (2010) Urbanismo Social en Medellin 2004-2008. Talk at 361 degrees Design and Informal Cities Conference, 22-23 October, Mumbai, India. Also see: Kimmelman, M. (2012) A City Rises, Along With Its Hopes. New York Times, 18 May. Online version. [Accessed on 25 May 2012]

[44] Graham, S. and S. Marvin, (2001) Splintering Urbanism. Networked infrastructures, technological mobilities and the urban condition. London and New York: Routledge.

[45] McFarlane, C. (2010) "Infrastructure, Interruption, and Inequality: Urban Life in the Global South", in Disrupted cities: When Infrastructure Fails, edited by S. Graham. New York and London: Routledge.

[46] UN-Habitat (2010) State of the World's Cities Report 2010/11: Bridging the Urban Divide. London: Earthscan.

[47] Chen, M. (2008) 'Addressing poverty, reducing inequality', Poverty in Focus, 16: 6-7. Brasilia: UNDP International Poverty Centre.

[48] UNRISD [United Nations Research Institute for Social Development] (2010) Combating Poverty And Inequality. Structural Change, Social Policy And Politics. Geneva: UNRISD.

[49] A variety of examples from across the global south are presented in: Smith, C. (ed) (2011) Design for the other 90%: Cities. New York: Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

[50] Swilling and Annecke, op cit.; Suzuki, H., Dastur, A., Moffatt, S. and Yabuki, N. (2010) Eco2 Cities: Ecological Cities as Economic Cities. Washington DC: World Bank; UNEP [United National Environment Programme] (2011) Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication. Paris: UNEP.