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Southern African City Studies Conference 2016

The fourth Southern African City Studies Conference was held in Durban in March 2016.

The 2016 Southern African City Studies Conference (SACSC) was hosted by the Urban Futures Centre at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) from 17 to 19 March 2016. Visit the conference website and read the call for contributions here.

PSUG panel discussion at the 2016 Southern African City Studies ConferenceThe conference brought together scholars who wished to expose their work to positive critical discussion and engage with ideas of those working in disciplines other than their own. CUBES staff and students presented papers in a number of panels, including two convened by CUBES on the "Right To The City" (coordinated by Marie Huchzermeyer) and "Practices of the State in Urban Governance" (coordinated by Claire Benit-Gbaffou). Download the 2016 SACSC Programme for more information on the panels.

A number of recently published books were also presented at the conference, including an edited volume by Claire Benit-Gbaffou entitled Popular Politics in South African Cities: Unpacking Community Participation, published by HSRC Press in 2015. Read more on the book here.

   PSUG panel members after the discussion 

PSUG discussion participants after their panel (March 2016)

Bénit-Gbaffou C (ed) (2015) Popular Politics in South African Cities: Unpacking Community Participation. Pretoria: HSRC Press. - See more at:

Southern African City Studies Conference 2014

From 27 to 29 March 2014 CUBES hosted the third Southern Africa City Studies Conference.



The three-day conference included over 30 panels and lectures by scholars at CUBES, the African Centre for Cities (ACC) at the University of Cape Town, and presenters from beyond the Southern African academic community, including the United Kingdom, Germany, Egypt and the United States. Download the Southern Africa City Studies Conference 2014 programme.

As a partnership between CUBES and the ACC, the conference offered a platform for Southern African scholarship on cities and a forum for interdisciplinary discussion across scales, fields, and practices. The major themes of the conference were Urban Encounters; Interventions; Experiences; Evolutions; Depictions and Analyses. 170 people attended the conference, including almost 80 students.

The opening panel discussion chaired by Prof Edgar Pieterse (ACC) included stimulating reflections from Prof Noor Nieftagodien (NRF Chair in Local Histories, Present Realities and Head of History Workshop, Wits), Dr Mpho Matsipa (School of Architecture and Planning, Wits) and Prof Sophie Oldfield (Department of Environmental and Geographical Science, UCT). Speakers drew on their disciplinary orientations to reflect on their work, the approach they take to urban studies, and some of the key concerns they see confronting city studies in Southern Africa.

The conference included a CUBES panel discussion on practices of the state in the governance of Southern African cities (see PSUG panel SACSC 2014), which considered a number of issues, including the state as simultaneously benevolent and violent, state power as both fragmented and consistent, and the false dichotomy between working within or outside of the state and implications for academics and practitioners. The panel included Noor Nieftagodien from the South African Research Chair in Local Histories and Present Realities and Ivor Chipkin of the Public Affairs Research Institute (PARI) as discussants. 

The presentations and panel discussions that followed over the course of the next two days were both exhilirating and exciting, leading to much heated discussion and debate. The conference came to a close with closing statements from CUBES director Dr Sarah Charlton and Dr Zarina Patel from the ACC, where the best student presentations were also awarded. Three books were officially launched at the conference:

Funding and Support

The 2014 conference was financially supported by the School of Architecture and Planning Research Committee, SARChI Spatial Analysis and City Planning, the Wits City Institute, the African Centre for Cities, Wits University Press and Juta. The conference was organised and executed by the following people:

  • The conference organising team: Marie Huchzermeyer, Alan Mabin, Chloé Buire, Ngaka Mosiane, Gordon Pirie, and Dylan Weakley;
  • Sarah Charlton (Director of CUBES);                                
  • Paul Jenkins (Head of School of Architecture and Planning);                              
  • Anisa Desai (SARChI, CUBES);                                                    
  • Gordon Pirie, Sophie Oldfield and Edgar Pieterse (ACC);              
  • Miriam Maina and Dylan Weakley (SARChI) for technical support;         
  • Quarisha Moosa, Siphokazi Makhaye, Vasentha Naidu, Valerie Kilian (School of Architecture and Planning) for admin support;
  • Student volunteers from the School of Architecture and Plannin: Nyiko Baloyi, Innocent Motaung, Tjaka Segooa, Siphelele, Thabi Mndawe, Michael Flanagan, Angela Vougiouklis, Lesego Lestsile, Dineo Lekgothoane, Mikhaela Sack, Adrie Fourie, Valentine Khasenye and Merry Luzolo.     

Download the Southern Africa City Studies Conference 2014 programme.

SACSC foyer

Southern African City Studies Conference 2011

From 7 to 9 September 2011 the second conference on city studies in Southern Africa was held in Cape Town.

The Southern African City Studies Conference was again convened as a joint initiative between CUBES and the African Centre for Cities (ACC). The 2011 conference was held at the University of Cape Town and was a very successful event, with 70 papers presented by academics and urban practitioners and around 130 participants attending. The two plenary sessions focused on 'City Studies in the World and South Africa' and 'Continuities and Ruptures in Urban Studies'. A roundtable discussion revolved around 'City Studies Beyond the University'.

Wits PhD candidate Obvious Katsaura received the first Urban Forum journal prize for best postgraduate student paper presented, which examined community governance and spaces for political contestations and coalitions in urban South Africa.

Southern African City Studies Conference 2009

From 24 to 25 June 2009 the inaugural Southern African City Studies Conference took place at the University of the Witwatersrand.

The Southern African City Studies Conference represents a partnership between CUBES and the African Centre for Cities (ACC) at the University of Cape Town (UCT). This joint initiative is based on the common understanding that a regular forum for academic exchange between South(ern) African scholars of cities is long overdue. Furthermore, a cross-disciplinary plattform is highly needed where research can be presented and discussed across traditional disciplinary boundaries and also be opened to urban practitioners. The idea is that such a forum will not only enrich current work but also generate new and better research agendas that will allow us to get an enhanced purchase on the contemporary urban condition. This initiative is intended to develop also as a platform for younger scholars to come to the fore and contribute to the wide field of city studies.

The inaugural 2009 conference was opened with a plenary discussion on “The Present and Future of South African City Studies“ and was closed with a plenary session onPromising New Directions in Cities Research“. In total 46 papers were presented in a number of thematic sessions focusing on the following issues:

  • Rights, Exclusion, and Struggle 
  • Difference, Planning and Knowledge Production
  • Bodies in Space: Desire, Discipline and Personhood
  • Moving beyond participation?
  • Reading the Dark Sides: Alternatives, Identities, and City Space
  • The Production of Urban Space: Difference and the Politics of Innovation
  • Informality, ‘Peripheries’ and City Space
  • Conflicting Rationalities in Planning in Post-Apartheid Cities
  • Contested Public Spaces: Finding Agency, Building Place
  • History and Memory in the Contemporary City
  • Regional urban futures? Cities, City-regions and Regional Perspectives
  • Negotiating the City: Power and Politics

Read more on the 2009 conference.