Starting from the South: alternative visions of comparative urbanism

Professor Garth Myers

Funding period: 1 July 2014 – 31 March 2015
Type of funding: Seminar Series

The ‘Starting from the South: Alternative Visions of comparative Urbanism’ workshop, led by Professor Garth Myers, explored the emerging research frontier of South-South comparative urban studies. The specific South-South comparison was used to explore alternative analytical frameworks because of the growing significance of trade, investments and socio-cultural interactions between Chinese and South African cities and because of the vast, relatively untapped potential for scholarly learning across and between these two urban regions.

Participants in the workshop debated efforts to re-locate the center of urban theory-making southward in the globe, developing alternative theorizing requiring well-conceived comparative empirical research that offered timely insights. To establish the grounds for future research, the workshop drew participants together to focus on three specific empirical themes which featured strongly in research in both contexts and which bore comparative examination:

1) The role of the state in orchestrating development, and civil society responses to this. Contrasts were drawn between adaptive and nuanced state interventions, with wider support and consent (evident in both contexts), and forms of conflict and contestation (most directly evident in the proliferation of service delivery protests in South Africa).

2) Comparative examination of the impacts on contemporary urban development of migration to cities under the hukou system in Chinese cities and the legacy of influx controls during the apartheid regime in South Africa.

3) Comparative examination of the growth of peri-urban settlements (e.g. informal and satellite cities).

Overall, the workshop aimed to foster cross-cultural global South comparative urban studies in order to develop in-depth, nuanced accounts of contemporary urbanization. It emphasized support for global South advanced dissertation students and early career faculty from the two countries, while promoting dialogue between established senior and junior scholars to foster further collaboration.

Final Report for USF