Finally, after years of fascinating fieldwork, I defended my dissertation this past August. My thesis advisor and I were also finally able to land on a title that seemed apt: Thinking through Peripheries. Structural Spatial Inequality in Johannesburg.
Towards a cooperative urbanism. An interdisciplinary analysis of contested structural inequality in contemporary Johannesburg. The term cooperative urbanism was inspired from a 2009 paper by Kurt Iveson describing the need for a more sustainable, less competitive form of urbanism with a greater focus on meeting the needs of all urban citizens following the 2008 financial crisis. After coming across this article during the course of my master’s thesis research with Vanessa Joos from 2011-2012, I kept returning to the idea of how a so-called cooperative form of urbanism might begin to function at the interstice of top-down planning and the bottom-up, everyday production of city space by its underprivileged residents. How can we include these diverse voices of the city in (participatory) plans which address the needs of the overall population rather than focusing on growth? Can the representation of these voices promote democratic contestation? And finally, what can such an interstice of tactics and strategies contribute to building a more equitable urban environment? These questions were central to my doctoral research, and were the subject of the work’s final chapter. I hope to begin publishing the results of my research soon – the first article that begins a discussion of such topics, and is based on my fieldwork in Joe Slovo informal settlement in Johannesburg, is expected this Spring!
Also, visit our institute’s website at the ETH Zurich Department of Architecture if you’re interested in our projects on planetary urbanization, Henri Lefebvre, or our bi-annual Urban Research Symposium! Thanks again to my sponsors, the Swiss National Science Foundation and the Sawiris Foundation.