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Past Events

Over the past years CUBES has been involved in a number of academic public events. These include book and publication launches, meetings, seminars, workshops and conferences.


Insurgent Regeneration Seminar

(22 March 2016)

On 22 March CUBES hosted a seminar entitled “Insurgent regeneration? Exploring the self-organised transformation of inner-city areas in São Paulo and Johannesburg” in partnership with the Sheffield Institute for International Development (SIID) at the University of Sheffield, The Bartlett Development Planning Unit (DPU) of University College London and the Universidade Federal do ABC (UFABC) in Brazil. The latter insitutions are involved in an ongoing action-research programme called Insurgent Regeneration, together with the União dos Movimentos de Moradia (UMM) in São Paulo.

Partipants at the Insurgent Regeneration seminarThe seminar in Johannesburg was attended by a number of interested academics, NGOs and urban practitioners and took the form of a dialogue around key topics of conversation. It explored the possibility to draw useful comparisons between on-going inner city dynamics in São Paulo and Johannesburg, focusing on the self-organised practices of occupation and rehabilitation of vacant buildings in inner city areas experiencing pressures for urban regeneration. While there are fundamental differences between the conditions and practices that can be observed in São Paulo and in Johannesburg, the hypothesis is that these differences might potentially allow for in depth reflection on each city, and mutual learning.


Global Platform for the Right to the City Africa Regional Meeting

(28 November 2015)

On 28 November CUBES hosted the Africa Regional Meeting of the Global Platform for the Right to the City (GPR2C) at the Dorothy Suskind Auditorium, John Moffat Building.

The regional meeting was convened to host a debate and discussion about the implementation of the Right to the City from a regional perspective. Participants from a different fields – social movements representatives, academics, human rights defenders, public authorities etc - and representing a number of African countries attended the event. Download the programme to read more about the event. View photos from the workshop here.

Africa Regional Meeting of GPR2C

Panel Discussion on Urban Research in South Africa

(18 August 2015)

On 18 August 2015 CUBES, in partnership between the SARChI in Spatial Analysis and City Planning, the Gauteng City Region Observatory (GCRO) and the Wits City Institute hosted a panel discussion on "South Africa’s urban agenda and its relationship to urban research" as part of the weekly Faces of the City seminar series.

The panel discussion included inputs from a number of academics and researchers from urban centres across South Africa, including Prof Marie Huchzermeyer (CUBES), Prof Edgar Pieterse (African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town), Prof Philip Harrison (SARChI, Wits), Prof Alan Mabin (Centre for the Advancement of Research, University of Pretoria), Prof Noëleen Murray (Wits City Institute), Prof Sophie Oldfield (Department of Environmental and Geographic Science, University of Cape Town), Prof Monique Marks and Dr Kira Erwin (Urban Futures Centre, Durban University of Technology). The discussion was wrapped up by Dr Modjadji Malahlela, who heads the Chief Directorate: Urban Development at the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA).

Read more about the event and listen to podcasts of the speakers and the Q&A sessions here.

Panel Discussion at WISER Conference 

(5 May 2015)

WiSER conference poster 2015On 5 May 2015 CUBES and the NRF Chair in Spatial Analysis & City Planning co-hosted a panel discussion entitled "The Johannesburg Conundrum: Key dimensions of the materialities of delivering infrastructure" as part of the WISER-University of Michigan conference Public Space, Infrastructure and Informality in the Splintering City, which was held in Johannesburg between 4 and 10 May. As part of the same conference CUBES prepared and led the session on 9 May entitled "Rights to Infrastructure".

Javier Auyero Public Lectures

(11-14 August 2015)

Between 11 and 14 August 2015 CUBES, together with the Society, Work and Development Institute (SWOP) at Wits, co-hosted a Public Lecture Series on Urban Marginality by leading Argentinian urban sociologist Prof Javier Auyero (based at the University of Texas, Austin). During the months prior to these lectures a number of students and staff members engaged in a reading group on Auyero’s work and implications for the South African context.

Launch of CUBES Report on Models of Street Trading Management

(15 April 2015)

On 15 April 2015 CUBES launched its research report entitled In Quest for Sustainable Models of Street Trading Management, which provides lessons for Johannesburg after Operation Clean Sweep. As part of its commitment to support Johannesburg street trader organisations through research, and in the context of an engagement with the City of Johannesburg on the issue of street trading governance, in the aftermath of Operation Clean Sweep, CUBES has explored what research teaches us about sustainable and progressive street trading management. The report, straddling scholarly analyses and policy recommendations, aims at opening spaces of engagement between academic research and urban practitioners, activists and officials.

The launch was chaired by Prof Paul Jenkins, Head of the School of Architecture and Planning, and Prof Claire Benit-Gbaffou, the author of the report, spoke at the launch. A roundtable of other speakers included the following: Edmund Elias (SANTRA), Graeme Gotz (GCRO), Prof Philip Harrison (SARChi Spatial Analysis and City Planning), Ryan Matthews (UGM), Phumulani Ndlovu (SAITF), and Lauren Royston (SERI).

Launch of Changing Space, Changing City and Urban Governance in Post-Apartheid Cities

(4 March 2015)

On 4 March CUBES co-hosted the launch of two edited volumes, together with the South African Research Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning, UKZN Press and Wits University Press. The first book, Changing Space, Changing City: Johannesburg After Apartheid is edited by Philip Harrison, Graeme Gotz, Alison Todes and Chris Wray. The second book, Urban Governance in Post-Apartheid Cities: Modes of Engagement in South Africa’s Metropoles is edited by Christoph Haferburg and Marie Huchzermeyer.

The attendees were welcomed by the Vice-Chancellor of Wits University Prof Adam Habib, and guest speakers at the event were Prof Sue Parnell, Director of the African Centre for Cities at UCT, and Trevor Fowler, City Manager for City of Johannesburg. CUBES members were involved in both books, including the editing of Urban Governance in Post-apartheid Cities. View the book launch flyer.


Launch of Report on Street Trading Organisations in Inner City Johannesburg

(19 November 2014)

Students selling publicationsOn 19 November CUBES and the School of Architecture and Planning launched a research report on street trading organisations in Johannesburg, as part of their focus on street trading politics and governance this year. The report, entitled A Political Landscape of Street Trading Organisations in Inner City Johannesburg is based on work by third year Planning and Politics students. Students involved in the report were: Abraham Ajibade, Patience Bosaka, Nomathemba Dladla, Kyla Elsey, Sphamandla Hlela, Ashlyn Jackson, Nokwanda (Nokxie) Kgomo, Mmbulaheni Khwashaba, Ntombikayise Khambule, Dineo Lekgothoane, Siyabonga Manzini, Zintathu (Zee) Mazamane, Samukelisiwe Makwakwa, Wetu Memela, Musawenkosi Mhlongo, Mpho Mohloboli, Uzuzakhe (Uzi) Ngantweni, Bianca van Niekerk, Alexandra (Alex) Willis.

The report was edited by Prof Claire Bénit-Gbaffou, in dialogue with street trader organisations’ leadership. The report presents the visions, strategies, challenges and successes of seven street trader organisations, shaping Johannesburg inner city: ACHIB, ATO, GIDA, NUT, One Voice, SAITF, SANTRA. It reflects on the struggles of the informal sector as a whole in a continuously restrictive municipal terrain. It unpacks organisations’ difficult choices in terms of mobilisation, positioning, focus: often having to choose between defending individual traders against abuses on the ground, and influencing policies and practices in the longer term. The report also analyses how Operation Clean Sweep has partly reshaped this political landscape.

With special thanks to the launch support team: Noma Dladla, Nokwanda Kgomo, Zinthathu Mazamane, Mbula Mhkwashaba, Malambule Nkosi.

Students presenting at the launch.

Third year students presenting inputs at the launch of the report.

CUBES Session at WISER Workshop on Global South Theory

(9 May 2014)

In May 2014 the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WiSER) workshop on The Global South as an Idea and a Source of Theory included a session on "Theorising State Practices in Urban Governance in/from Cities of the South", facilitated by Claire Bénit-Gbaffou and Sarah Charlton (both of CUBES) and Anne Pitcher of the University of Michigan. See CUBES session WiSER conference 2014. The session recognised emerging theories on the de-centered and de-territorialized postcolonial state in the contemporary context of urbanisation, transnational networks of power, and the growth of international non-governmental organisations and financial institutions. The facilitators considered how the agents, functions, and organisation of "the state" vary across space, how states across and within these spaces are conceptualised and differentiated, and how states’ variegated encounters with activists are understood.

CUBES Colloquium on ‘Exploring Practices of the State in the Governance of Southern African Cities’

(27 January 2014)

In January 2014 CUBES hosted a colloquium entitled "Exploring Practices of the State in the Governance of Southern African Cities", inviting researchers outside of CUBES to present papers that addressed issues such as state-making at the intersection of mobile populations and local governments, constructing the post-apartheid city, social movements, and electoral politics. See CUBES colloquium Exploring Practices of the State ABSTRACTS

Speeches from the street trading report launch (24 June 2014)


Launch of 'Community Activists Tell Their Stories'

(24 June 2013)

Community Activists Tell Their Stories

In June 2013 the Masters in Urban Studies (MUS) students in the Wits School of Architecture and Planning, CUBES and the NRF Chair in Development Planning and Modelling launched the research report Community Activists Tell Their Stories: Driving Change in Joburg & Ekurhuleni at the John Moffat building. Based on Masters student research, the report compiles 13 portraits of community activists in Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni, and reflects on the difference that community leaders make in the city, on the excitements and challenges of community leadership, and on the nature of urban change.

If you would like to purchase a hard copy of the report, contact Thammy Jezile:

Reading Group on Ananya Roy's Work

(May 2013)

In 2013 a reading group on informality and practices of city making was structured around the writings of Prof Ananya Roy, professor of Urban Planning and Social Welfare (and now Director of the Institute on Inequality and Democracy) at UCLA. Prof Roy visited the School in May 2013 to deliver the Rusty Bernstein Memorial Lecture, and joined CUBES for a workshop with postgraduate students and staff members. This discussion centred on how theories and research on informality in cities of the South speak to each other, and how a better understanding of the governance of informal practices and politics can inform alternative visions for cities and planners. As of 2015 the reading group members are working on a special issue of the Journal of Development Studies entitled “Exploring Informal Practices of the State in Urban Governance: Crossing Indian and Southern African Perspectives”.

Ananya Roy at the Rusty Bernstein Lecture


South African City Studies Workshop on Empirical Studies, Theory and Criticism

(19-20 November 2012)

South African City Studies Workshop on Empirical Studies, Theory and Criticism

Fom 19-20 November 2012 the South African City Studies Workshop on Empirical Studies, Theory and Criticism seminar was held at Wits, organised by the African Centre for Cities (ACC) and CUBES, with the support of the Wits City Institute Project. The seminar was focused on encouraging emerging researchers to present their research in a conducive and constructively critical environment, mixing theoretical reflections on the city with empirical research.

After an introduction by Acting Director of CUBES, Claire Benit-Gbaffou (see Introduction Notes CBG) and Edgar Pieterse (Director, ACC), about 25 postgraduate researchers (from Honours to Post-Doctoral level) presented their papers and were debated by discussants, in a number of different SA City Studies Workshop Sessions. The workshop was a great success, inspiring and consolidating trust and networks, not only between junior and senior researchers, but also between junior researchers themselves.

Sport and the City Conference

(26-27 March 2012)

On 26-27 March 2012 the School of Architecture and Planning and CUBES, together with the Gauteng City Region Observatory, the Johannesburg Development Agency and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation held the Sport and the City conference at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Sport and the City Conference

The conference focused on cities post the event and engaged with the full range of impacts that mega sporting-events have on cities: from the physical re-structuring, budgetary implications to the changes that they may make to the daily lives of residents. Furthermore the conference looked at the lessons (good and bad) that have been learnt from cities and municipalities undertaking these events. Dr Danny Jordaan - SAFA Vice-President and former 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee/Special Advisor to 2014 Organising Committee in Brazil - opened the conference. Over the two days there were 16 speakers from five countries presenting on a range of themes which included:

  • Mega-events: livelihoods, income and informality;
  • Voices in urban governance and participation;
  • Benefits(?) to local communities;
  • Making mega-events happen: policy and finance; and
  • Unintended/intended consequences: property markets and trans-regional migration.

Find the abstracts, presentations and details on the conference blog.


Memory and City Conference

(13-16 September 2011)

From 13 to 16 September 2011 the international conference ‘Memory and City’ took place at Wits and the Soweto Campus of the University of Johannesburg. The conference was jointly organized by the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS) and Wits (CUBES).

The conference highlighted that African cities are important spaces for the construction of memory and heritage. The topic of urban memory and its meaning in the making of neighbourhood identities and development strategies produced by local governments and international donors, has only recently come under investigation by researchers in Africa. The conference touched upon questions such as:

  • What image of these neighbourhoods is promoted and for what purpose?
  • What selections and processes operate, as far as representations of these neighbourhoods are concerned, so that they acquire, in the long run, distinctive traits and stereotypes?
  • In cities experiencing rapid transformation, often connected to new patterns of migration and mobility, what is the role of memory and nostalgia in the making of local identities?

In South Africa, memorial efforts since the democratic transition have mainly focused on the evocation of the battlegrounds of the struggle: emblematic areas and neighbourhoods wiped out during the forced removals and resettlement policies led by the apartheid regime (such as Red Location, Sophiatown and District 6). The question of the link between these memorialised neighbourhoods and the population currently living in them has, however, not yet been explored in depth. Moreover, the question arises what space do ordinary, everyday or unspectacular memories have in the making of territorial identities? How do they articulate with grand memorial narratives promoted for the sake of national identity?

Download the Memory and City programme.


Visit of Prof Julie-Anne Boudreau to CUBES

From 2 to 6 March 2010 CUBES hosted Prof Julie-Anne Boudreau, an associate professor at the Institute National de la Recherche Scientifique (INRS), Centre Urbanisation Culture Société in Montreal, Canada. Prof Boudreau has a PhD in Urban Planning from the School of Public Policy and Social Research, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and holds the Canada Research Chair on Urbanity, Insecurity, and Political Action. Her work focuses on the relationship between political mobilisation, (sub)urbanisation and state restructuring processes.

During her visit to CUBES Prof Boudreau participated in the Faces of the City seminar series, presenting a paper titled "Taking the bus daily and demonstrating on Sunday: Reflections on the formation of political subjectivity in an urban world", with Nancy Ries (a visiting researcher hosted by the School of Architecture and Planning) as discussant. She also participated in a "Think Metropole" workshop on 4 March 2010, which included presentations on city regions and metropolitan practices by Prof Alan Mabin, Graeme Gotz and David Everatt of the Gauteng City Region Observatory (GCRO). She also spoke at the launch of Security and the City, edited by Claire Benit-Gbaffou, Seyi Fabiyi and Elisabeth Pyeroux in collaboration with Karthala Eds and the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS). On her final day she spent the morning in an informal seminar with a group of postgraduate students, discussing urban epistemology and its relation to various research projects presented by participants.

Prof Julie Anne Boudreau


2010 and the Life of the City Symposium

(6-8 September 2006)

From 6-8 September 2006 the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WiSER), the Centre for Urban and Built Environment Studies (CUBES) and the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) held a two day symposium as part of an on-going dialogue on the meaning of hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The focus of the symposium was on the impact and influence global sporting events have on the cities in which they take place, as well as the daily life of the citizens and residents of the cities in which these events are held. A special focus at the 2006 symposium was learning from Germany’s FIFA World Cup experiences of 2006, with the participation of colleagues from that country.