UTA-Do African Cities Workshop Series

Dr Liza Cirolia, Dr Miriam Maina, and MK Mbugua

Funding period: 1 April 2023 – 31 May 2024
Type of funding: Seminar Series

Host institutions: African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town (South Africa), British Institute in Eastern Africa (Kenya), The GoDown Arts Centre (Kenya), Ardhi University Institute of Human Settlements Studies (Tanzania), and Just City Platform (Tanzania).
Lead organisers: Dr Liza Cirolia (African Centre for Cities), Dr Miriam Maina (University of Manchester), and MK Mbugua (The GoDown Arts Centre)
Team members: Dr Andrea Pollio (ACC/DIST, Polytechnic of Turin), Albert Nyiti (Ardhi University, University of the Fraser Valley, Just City Platform), Medhanit Tadesse Ayele (British Institute in East Africa), and Mariam Genes (Institute of Human Settlements Studies, Ardhi University).
Additional funders and supporting organizations: African Centre for Cities (University of Cape Town), Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (Tanzania Office), Global Urban History Project.
Contact: Dr Liza Cirolia

2023 Programme:
April 17–April 21, 2023 – UTA-Do 2023 African Cities Workshop (Nairobi, in person only)
April 21, 2023, 2023 – UTA-Do Public Plus ‘The GoDown Arts Centre URBAN Dialogue Series: The Body in Space – Choreographic Explorations & Reflections’ (Nairobi/Zoom)
August 30 – UTA-Do Plus ‘UTA-Do Conversations: Climate Emergencies in Africa and the Crisis of Imagination(s)’ (Nairobi/Zoom)

2024 Programme:
Jan 29 – Feb 2, 2024: UTA-Do 2024 African Cities Workshop (Dar es Salaam, in person only)


Urban studies critiques have prompted important theoretical considerations about the structural and relational dilemmas that shape who gets to speak, about what, and in what language. Despite this, African scholars and issues often remain niche – token contributions to the real and resourced debates happening in the global north.

Along these lines, there remains a clear need to develop an interdisciplinary and multi-register dialogue among African and Africa-based urbanists that can challenge existing knowledge and funding asymmetries, strengthen perspectives and voices from the continent, and contribute to these debates. Of course, this is not a call for contorting African voices to fit with the parameters of global debates or simply producing more empirical details on African cities. It is about challenging the very basis through which knowledge on the urban is substantiated. It requires an intersectional and queer approach that acknowledges how personal and professional domains are interlinked and also political; that how we know the city is fundamentally shaped by sensory, affective, and liminal experiences; and that consensus is unlikely in the context of conflicted rationalities and relational power assemblages.

UTA-Do is a yearly critical urban studies ‘summer school’ that aims to contribute to making African urban scholarship and imagination more inclusive, and primarily through working to democratise access to the resources required to shape and produce information about African cities. UTA-Do brings together emerging scholars, artists, and activists around the shared project of thinking and doing the urban. The core of the program is a one week annual workshop with between 30 and 40 participants. The workshop program includes deep theoretical debates, writing exercises, career mentorship, field trips, and corporeal arts immersions – underpinned by a recognition of the multifaceted nature of the urban theory making project. These closed spaces are supplemented with public events which home in on more specific themes related to contemporary African urban issues. The events reinforce each other, creating a rich ecosystem of debate, care, and visibility.

The events for UTA-Do 2023 will take place in Nairobi, co-hosted with the British Institute in Eastern Africa and The GoDown Arts Centre. The UTA-Do Workshop will be attended by scholars from all over the continent and beyond. Themes which will be explored include: decolonial methods; queering cities; black geographies; everyday infrastructure; digital transitions, ecologies of repair; and many more.

In 2024, the workshop will be hosted in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Partners include Ardhi University and the Just City Platform (FES-Tanzania). The program includes keynote lectures and workshops from, among others, Gautam Bhan, Stefan Ouma, Wangui Kimari, Adam Bledsoe, Huda Tayob, Tatu Limbumba, and Youssuf Al Bulushi.

Project Website