Announcements Learning News Presentations Uncategorized

“Decolonizing Urbanism” Trier Summer University, 6-12 June 2017 (Call for Applications 31 January)

Henrik Ernstson is an invited keynote lecturer at the upcoming Trier Summer University on “Decolonizing Urbanism: Transformative Perspectives”, Trier University, Germany June 6-12, 2017. Deadline for application January 31, 2017. For updated information and application details, see their website

Participants in Decolonizing Urbanism Summer School at University of Trier, 2017.

Trier Summer SchoolCall for Applications:

Trier Summer University “Decolonizing Urbanism: Transformative Perspectives”

Trier University, Germany June 6-12, 2017
The Governance and Sustainability Lab at Trier University is now inviting applications for its 2017 Summer University, which will take place June 6-12, 2017. Applications are invited from advanced doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers as well as from early career professionals working in geography, urban studies, urban planning, political science, international relations, development studies, gender studies, native studies, cultural studies, sociology, ecology and related fields. Participants will explore the theme of ‘decolonizing urbanism’ through a mixture of public lectures, seminar sessions, advanced skills trainings, excursions, and cultural activities. The Summer University will be held in English. The deadline for applications is January 31, 2017.

On Our Theme, ‘Decolonizing Urbanism’

When the United Nations was founded in 1945, nearly a third of the world’s population lived in territories that were dependent on colonial powers. Since then, many territories have found freedom, yet a variety of colonial relationships and physical legacies have persisted, such as between military occupiers and surrounding populations, native and non-native populations, and through the presence of major religious organizations, just to name a few. Moreover, a considerable body of critical scholarship has pointed out that contemporary societies are still inextricably linked to coloniality, defined not only as a historically situated and unjust economic model, but also as a racialized, androcentric, and class-based hierarchy of knowing and being which marginalizes non-western cultures, knowledges, and histories.

Today, the coloniality of knowing, being and power also intersects with the negative and unevenly distributed consequences of global mega-trends such as urbanization and climate change, which raises pressing questions. How has the span of urbanism and urbanization – from the related academic disciplines to the physical places, people, politics, infrastructure, and cultures – been affected by the forces of colonization and coloniality? Moreover, as efforts to deliberately steer societal transformations in the so-called ‘Anthropocene’ and the ‘Urban Century’ are unavoidably related to questions of power and politics, we ask what efforts to bring about social change are needed or already underway. We are interested in established themes in the literature as well as forging less obvious and exciting new linkages together among disciplines, practices, and places.

Structure of the Summer University

Well in advance, a number of suggested texts will be made available to participants in preparation for the Summer University. The actual Summer University will last seven days and will include keynote speeches, panel discussions, advanced skills training sessions (e.g. presentation tips), as well as excursions and cultural activities in the city of Trier, the Moselle region, and Luxembourg. Participants will discuss each day’s keynote lectures, workshops, and excursions together in small groups, forging new linkages between readings made available in advance, the presented ideas, and the inputs from participants. Further, participants will be able work on a sub-topic of their interest that is related to the overarching topic of ‘decolonizing urbanism’. Some relevant examples include:

    • Decoloniality in theory and praxis (for example in research, education and urbanism)
    • Urban imaginaries and the relation between space, power and knowledge in the urban sphere
    • Perspectives for societal transformations in the face of everyday coloniality and accelerating global change
    • The neoliberalization of the city and strategies for realizing alternative visions of urban change
    • The role and transformation of colonial heritage in urban settings

We envision that through this intensive interdisciplinary dialog a joint publication such as an edited volume or special issue will emerge, and time will be dedicated to this effort.

Confirmed Speakers

Below you can find our keynote speakers. Additional speakers will be confirmed over the next months. For regular updates on the Summer University program, please visit our website.

  • Dr. Epifania Amoo-Adare. University of Bonn, Germany, Center for Development Research (ZEF)

Dr. Epifania Amoo-Adare is a social science researcher and educator with over 25 years of experience, working in countries such as Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ghana, Qatar, the UK, and the USA. Dr. Amoo-Adare has a Ph.D. in Education from UCLA and is also a RIBA part II qualified architect. Additionally, she has diverse and post- disciplinary interests in areas such as Critical Pedagogy, Critical Spatial Literacy, Cultural Studies, Decoloniality, International Educational Development, Mobility Studies, ‘Third World’ Feminisms, and Urban Studies.

  • Prof. Dr. Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodríguez. Justus-Liebig-University Gießen, Germany Department of Sociology

Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodríguez studied sociology, political science, and Romance languages in Frankfurt, Lyon, and Quito, Ecuador. She has taught and worked at the universities of Manchester and Hamburg, as well as in the USA, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Portugal, Sweden, Finland, Austria, and Switzerland. Her areas of interest include global inequality and its local manifestations, and the application of a post- Marxist and decolonial perspective on migration, labor, and culture. Her research projects have been realized in part through support from the DFG (German Research Foundation), the British Academy, the EU, and the Ford Foundation. Gutiérrez Rodríguez has published broadly.

  • Dr. Henrik Ernstson. University of Cape Town, South Africa (African Centre for Cities) KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden (KTH Environmental Humanities Laboratory)

Dr. Henrik Ernstson spends most of his time at the African Centre for Cities at University of Cape Town, while serving as Research Fellow at the KTH Environmental Humanities Laboratory in Stockholm. He recently concluded a PostDoc at Stanford University and holds a PhD from Stockholm University. He is developing a situated approach to urban political ecology that combines critical geography, urban infrastructure studies and postcolonial and global South urbanism, with a focus on collective action, radical democratic theory, knowledge practices and the co-production of alternative research ‘outputs’, including film and theatre. This includes workshops for younger African scholars in South Africa and Uganda and a PhD winter school at ACC on ‘Democratic Practices of Unequal Geographies’ with Dr. Andrés Henao Castro. He is an experienced Principal Investigator with case studies in Cape Town, Kampala, New Orleans and Stockholm with grants from Swedish, British and South African funders. He is currently finalizing two edited book manuscripts and the environmental humanities research film called ‘One Table Two Elephants’, which focuses on the ontological politics of how race, nature, city and history is interconnected in Cape Town.

  • Dr. Noa Ha. TU Berlin, Germany, Center for Metropolitan Studies

Dr. Noa K. Ha is an Asian German urban studies scholar based in Berlin and wrote her dissertation in Architecture (Technical University Berlin) on street vending in Berlin. Her research investigates processes of urban production from decolonial, critical race theory, feminist and queer theory perspective. She is on the board of the council of migration Berlin and Brandenburg (Migrationsrat Berlin Brandenburg e.V.), active in the Asian German network orientation e.V. and a board member of Critical Ethnic Studies Association (CESA). Currently she is a post-doc at the Center for Metropolitan Studies, Technical University Berlin, and researches the spatial production of Asian diasporas in European cities. She was a scholarship holder of TU Berlin, Rosa-Luxemburg-Foundation and an associate fellow of the transatlantic graduate program ‘History and Culture of Metropolises in the 20th Century’ at the Center for Metropolitan Studies (Berlin).

  • Prof. Dr. David Simon. Mistra Urban Futures, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg and Royal Holloway

David Simon is Director of Mistra Urban Futures, an international research centre on co- production for urban sustainability based at Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden and also Professor of Development Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London. He has vast international experience in research on sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, the UK, USA and Sweden. His research in relation to urban areas and climate/environmental change has examined the likely implications of environmental change for cities and their populations, as well as seeking to understand how cities are preparing mitigation and adaptation strategies in response. David Simon has served as specialist advisor to UN-HABITAT on cities and climate change, and was one of only two academics on the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s specialist Africa Advisory Group. He has also served on the Scientific Steering Committee of the international Urbanization and Global Environmental Change (UGEC) program which is now within Future Earth. He holds a B.A. with Distinction from the University of Cape Town, B.A. (Hons) from the University of Reading, and a DPhil from the University of Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.

  • Prof. Dr. Tuna Tasan-Kok. University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands Department of Human Geography, Urban Planning and International Development

Dr. Tuna Tasan-Kok is an urban social geographer and planner. She graduated from the Department of City and Regional Planning at Dokuz Eylul University of Izmir and completed her M.Sc. in Regional Planning at the Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey in 1996. Her research focuses on regulation of urban development and change from different angles. Being awarded by Turkish, Polish and Hungarian scientific funds, she worked as a research fellow in Polish and Hungarian Academy of Sciences until 2000. She has received her PhD degree in Social Geography from the University of Utrecht, the Netherlands, in 2004. Dr. Tasan-Kok took up researcher and lectureship positions at the Universities of Leuven (2005-2007), TU Delft, OTB Research for the built Environment (2007-2015), and University College Roosevelt (2011-2014), before taking up her current position in Department of Human Geography, Urban Planning and Inter- national Development at the University of Amsterdam in September 2015.

  • Stokley Towles., M.F.A., MLIS The Evergreen State College, USA Member of the Faculty and Performance Artist

Stokley Towles is a public artist, librarian, and member of the faculty. His work focuses on the relationship of people to their daily working and living environments, be it the publics’ experience on a trail system, the dynamic world of police officers on the street, how patrons interact with the public library, or the environment of a municipal waste- water system. He holds a B.A. in Semiotics from Brown University, USA (1986), a M.F.A. in Art and Photography from the California Institute of the Arts (1990), and a MLIS, Library and Information Science, from the University of Washington (2008).

Announcements Commentary HICCUP News Uncategorized

The Urban Action Lab at Makerere University is in action!

Urban Action Lab at Makerere University, Uganda.
Urban Action Lab at Makerere University, Uganda.

The Urban Action Lab (UAL) at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda has launched their website. The UAL is run by Professor Shuaib Lwasa and his team of urban researchers and students and the Lab will make a crucial contribution from East Africa to pan-African attempts in facing urban challenges of the 21st century.

By Henrik Ernstson

Shuaib just sent out an email to a row of urban scholars that are all serious about contributing to urban sustainable and just cities through the particular experiences and challenges of Africa and the South. He writes:

[A]fter several years of engaging in urban research, conceptual rethinking as well as solutions-oriented co-generation of knowledge with all of you at various points, we now have an online platform for sharing the knowledge while we continue to galvanise the understanding of urbanisation in sub-Saharan Africa. With Uganda and East Africa as the launch pad, the UAL is envisaged to grow into a regional knowledge hub and Centre focused on the various issues in regard to African Urbanism and sustainable urban development.

UN Habitat 3 Conference in Quito, 2016, on the "New Urban Agenda"
UN Habitat 3 Conference in Quito, 2016, on the “New Urban Agenda”

For those going to the Habitat III conference in Quito, Ecuador 17-20 October 2016, the Urban Action Lab will exhibit in the Exhibition Hall. Shuaib Lwasa and PhD student Peter Kasaija, will also be running the networking event on “Emerging innovative solutions to leapfrog towards urban sustainability in Africa”. The event is scheduled to take place on 20 October, from 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. in room MR13 at the venue of the Habitat III Conference, Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana “Benjamin Carrion”.

Pan-African network of similar urban research institutes

The UAL follows a broader trend to re-think urban knowledge, policy and action based on experiences from African cities. Since 2011 the African Urban Research Initiative, or AURI, has been an effort to link urban research labs and institutes in order to form a pan-African response to the particular urban challenges that the continent is facing, an effort “to scale-up applied urban research and practice on the African continent” as stated at the African Centre for Cities webpage, one of the initiators*. AURI brings together no less than 14 research institutes across the major regions and language groups of Africa, including urban research and practitioner institutes that have been around for decades, to more recently formed labs, including institutes from Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Togo, Senegal, Ethiopia, South Africa, Burkina Faso, Niger, and now hopefully also Uganda.

The HICCUP project – supporting the UAL

We are a bunch of urban scholars who are very excited for the UAL and its future. The Situated UPE collective — and my home institutions of KTH Environmental Humanities Lab and UCT’s African Centre for Cities — are supporting the Lab directly through the research project HICCUP. This is a Swedish Research Council (VR)-supported project that runs from 2016 to 2019. It focuses on urban infrastructure challenges in the areas of waste and sanitation in Ugandan cities and with a broader regional learning component. Shuaib Lwasa plays a leading role in this project and we have in collaboration integrated the training of one PhD student and three Master students at Makerere University as part the project. AURI and research collaborations like HICCUP seems crucial in building research capacity and transformative capacity in African cities. To learn more about the UAL, please visit their website.

* AURI originates from a grant that the African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town received in 2011.



Learning News Publications Uncategorized

New Publication: Unlearning [un]located ideas in the provincialization of urban theory

A new publication from our Situated UPE Collective was just published in Regional Studies by Mary Lawhon, Jonathan Silver, Henrik Ernstson and Joseph Pierce. It continues our contribution to Urban Political Ecology and Urban Studies.

Photo by Alicia Nijda, Wikimedia Commons
Figure: Photo by Alicia Nijda, Wikimedia Commons.

Postcolonial scholars have argued for the provincialization of urban knowledge, but doing so remains an opaque process. This paper argues that explicit attention to ‘learning to unlearn’ unstated theoretical assumptions and normativities can aid in provincialization, and demonstrate ways in which theorizing entails a socio-spatial situation. The authors’ efforts to grapple with operationalizing learning to unlearn in three different urban cases are described, followed by an articulation of strategies for theorizing which more explicitly acknowledge theory-building’s situatedness as well as points of reflection for developing postcolonial urban theory. The authors argue that this usefully shifts the focus of unlearning from ‘who’ is theorizing ‘where’ towards theory’s unstated norms and assumptions.

Intervention in UPE and Urban Studies

The new paper on “Unlearning (Un)located Ideas” (2016) follows our two previous co-authored papers, in Antipode on “Provincializing Urban Political Ecology” (2014) and in Regional Studies “Conceptual Vectors of African Urbanism” in (2014). Together they constitute a theoretical intervention and exploration of Urban Political Ecology and Urban Studies that aims to develop a situated approach to cultural and material politics of urban life that draws a lot of its energies from postcolonial and global South urbanism literature.

Three Situated UPE paper 2014-2016 small3
Three Situated UPE paper 2014-2016 small3

The arc we are traversing, follows one of seeing how UPE has operated as a crucial discourse to politicise urban environments and urbanisation as a process that transforms ’nature’ into social forms of power. UPE’s contributions have been to understand how the material of the city is configured to maintain and enforce social forms of power, and how urbanisation is part of wider economic, geographical and profit-driven processes.

We have then explored how the ‘image of the city’ has changed through the work of global South urbanists. Theoretically this literature centres around the postcolonial insight that ‘location’, or from where one theorises, is important to take into account when making sense of (new) empirical situations.

When the bulk of urban theory comes from a quite different spatiotemporal situation, an industrialising Europe and North America, global South urbanists helps to be cautious of how far such ‘Northern theory’ is in its reach and how well it can explain practical and empirical situations. This means to re-insert the ‘localness’ of European thought to allow for experiences of urbanization and scholarship from different regions to take hold and influence theory-making. For instance, global South urbanists have foregrounded the important role that ‘informality’ and everyday practices plays in the politics of urban environments and urbanisation. And to depart from the everyday and ‘informality’ is one line of thought we are pursuing, see for instance our new research project in Uganda, HICCUP. This way of working does not mean to set aside ‘wider’ economic and geographical processes, but it means to call for a re-alignment from where one can theorise cities and urbanisation, and extend the ways by which specific geographical and historical experiences can feed into thinking cities, political ecologies etc. This reading of global South urbanists have helped us to “provincialize” UPE, i.e. to re-tune and extend its basic critical project, and it has influenced our work to try to build an extended analytics (with adjoining new methods) through which we can re-think how urban environments are politicised.

In this our latest publication on “Unlearning (Un)located Ideas” we reflect explicitly on what this work of “provincialisation” means in practice for us as scholars, i.e. how do we, in our own empirical projects, de-centre our habits of thought, our training as critical scholars so as to let actual cities and forms of urbanisation that we study—its people, technologies, places and their particular histories etc.—speak into theory.

You can read our three publications here:

“Provincializing Urban Political Ecology”, 2014 in Antipode

“Conceptual Vectors of African Urbanism”2014, in Regional Studies

“Unlearning (Un)located Ideas” 2016, in Regional Studies

Also check out our newly funded project: Heterogeneous Infrastructure Configurations in Cities in Uganda Project (HICCUP).

Announcements Commentary News NEWS: Ways of Knowing Urban Ecologies Uncategorized

STOMPIE: Crafting stories from Cape Flats using Afrikaaps, hiphop and popular theatre

A couple of weeks back STOMPIE was screened on 25 Feb 2016 as a work-in-progress on how to weave together experiences of hiphop pedagogy with popular theatre. This was a ‘South-North’ collaboration around crafting stories from marginalised areas. Next steps being discussed among the STOMPIE Crew is a ‘Garage Tour’ to find STOMPIE Supporters, followed by a tour of High Schools in Grassy Park. Here is a short background to the project that involves The Heal the Hood Project, Mixed Mense Collective of artists, Teater Reflex, and the African Centre for Cities. 

STOMPIE - work in progress on crafting stories from Cape Flats
STOMPIE – work in progress on crafting stories from Cape Flats

STOMPIE is the result of three weeks of intensive collaboration between Emile Jansen (The Heal The Hood Project) and Kent Ekberg (Teater Reflex). They are two pedagogues with long-term experience from working in marginalised urban areas in their respective cities of Cape Town and Stockholm using dance/hip-hop/rap and popular community theatre, respectively. During these weeks they have worked with Leeroy Philips, Stefan Benting and Andre Bozack from the Mixed Mense Collective of dancers, artists and b-boys from Lavender Hill/Grassy Park. On 25 Feb it was showed as a work-in-progress on the “Garage Stage” in Grassy Park for kids and adults.

The focus has been on what it means to tell and craft stories from Cape Flats today and the collaboration also feeds into an initiative by Henrik Ernstson at the African Centre for Cities at UCT on Democratic Practices of Unequal Geographies that strives to create and extend the spaces and practices involved in thinking democracy and politics in Cape Town, South Africa & global South cities.

Humour; and Afrikaaps as language of subaltern experience

The play/performance is developed fully in Afrikaaps*, which is seen as a language with its own proper history and genealogy with sounds, rhythms, beats and tones beyond simply being an ‘accident’ or ‘dialect of’ Afrikaans**. This has been explored by Emile and others in the major stage production called Afrikaaps, that played at Artscape and turned into a documentary by Dylan Valley. In STOMPIE, Afrikaaps is mixed with English. But apart from dialogue, the actors use their skills as dance and music artists, to explore a story-line where characters are faced with an important choice that will influence growth, and individual and collective efforts.

The play engages realities of urban living with humour and seriousness. During this work-in-progress session it was clear how it engaged a wide audience from kids to adults that seldom get to see theatre/performances in their own language. This made possible the opening up of thoughts and wider conversations of what it means to grow up, become part and change Cape Town. Afterwards there was a discussion on how to take these practices, stories and lessons-learnt further. Next steps being discussed among the “STOMPIE Crew” is a ‘Garage Tour’ and a tour of High Schools in Grassy Park.

To me, the play explores how to break out of confines, and where agency to change the city might sit, and through what practices that could be done. Language becomes a tool for creating agency, for bringing forth and recognising everyday collective experiences as valid and important, and from where agency can be created. This lies clearly in the use of Afrikaaps, but also in how other registers or languages is being used as in dance, rap, dialogue and story-telling. I look forward in having conversations about this more with people who saw the play, and those who will hopefully see it as it evolves.


* I am adding this video, a link to the documentary film of the on Afrikaaps project:


** Afrikaans has in turn a quite unstable relation to Dutch.

Commentary News

A Story to Encourage Storytelling: “We have a life in Kibera”

Kibera in Nairobi: Bukonola (Bukky) Ngobi and Joe Mulligan from Kounkuey Design Initiative (KDI) gives the background to a video about life in Kibera that they facilitated in making. It displays important down-to-the-ground innovative design and infrastructure practices that makes a difference. And that can scale and change the urban fabric.


As far as I can see, a lot of people talk about Kibera, but my BIG question is: do they really know what they are talking about? We have a life in Kibera, our children go to school in Kibera, we buy food in Kibera, we get clean water from Nairobi Water, we own our businesses, we are students, we are land owners, we can bank in Kibera, we have good social organisations. 

The above extract comes from a passage written in 2015 by Ibrahim Maina, a life-long Kiberan and Program Coordinator at Kounkuey Design Initiative (KDI). Ibra had been trying to write a blog piece about life in Kibera after reading a wildly inaccurate article about the settlement in a well-known international news outlet last year.

Kibera is a poor neighbourhood in the centre of Nairobi which has been described as many things, including “Africa’s largest slum” and one of the “10 places you would not want to live”. The settlement has many challenges including insecure housing, poor sanitation, vulnerability to fire and flooding and high rates of unemployment and crime. At the same time it is has a vibrant informal economy, thriving community networks, and contributes a huge part of the city workforce which underpins the larger Nairobi boom. As a city of 100’s of 1000’s of people Kibera cannot be simply categorised and many of its residents are increasingly aware of and exasperated by the simplistic external portrayal of their home.

To provide a more nuanced view of the place, KDI along with LightBoxAfrica, made a short video called “We have a life in Kibera”. The first-time blogger in the video is living Ibra’s experience, struggling to counter the overwhelming pre-eminence of negative narratives and imagery by using his voice to introduce the realities of Kibera life, and also provide examples of positive resident-led activities within the slum using the example of the Kibera Public Space Project.

Check out more videos from KDI here.

Ibrahim Maina, Community Clean-Up, KPSP04, Kibera in Nairobi.
Ibrahim Maina, Community Clean-Up, KPSP04, Kibera in Nairobi.

About “We Have a Life”: The video was a winner of Rockefeller Foundation’s Storytelling Challenge Award in 2015, the proceedings of which KDI has used to launch a competition in Kibera called #TuJengeKibera (“We Build Kibera”), that aims to foster and support resident-led change in the settlement. Contact joe[AT]kounkuey[DOT]org and bukky[AT]kounkuey[DOT]org for more info.

About KDI: KDI was started in Kibera in 2006 as a partnership with residents that explored the potential of public space to address priority needs of under privileged communities within the settlement. Ibra was one of the first community members to partner with KDI and has since been central to developing the organisation in Kibera. The resulting Kibera Public Space Project (KPSP) has grown into a network of active, and attractive community hubs spread across the settlement. To date there are seven completed projects with an eight in construction and ninth in planning, all designed, implemented and operated by residents. The foundation of all these projects is built on the existing assets of people and land, an understanding of the realities and dynamics of Kibera life, and solutions that respond to resident’s real needs and priorities. For more information on KDI go to learn more about recent changes in Kibera at Contact: joe[AT]kounkuey[DOT]org for more info.

Announcements News Uncategorized

Three year Situated UPE research on waste & sanitation in Uganda!

The Swedish Research Council decided on the 3rd of November to fund a multi-disciplinary team from Sweden, Uganda, South Africa, UK, and USA to develop crucial knowledge about urban infrastructure challenges in Africa and the developing world. The team—with Drs Henrik Ernstson, Mary Lawhon, Shuaib Lwasa, Jonathan Silver and David Nilsson—will focus on waste and sanitation and they bring together world-leading institutes and a North-South advisory team. The project will use a political ecological framework to understand sustainable transitions based on everyday experiences among the poor, while linking to higher-level policy levels and regional discussions.

Africa’s urban revolution

Cities in Africa are growing at unprecedented rates, and face historically unique constraints including poverty, VR-logotypresource scarcity and colonial legacies. The project Urban Infrastructure Challenges of the South will work in two Ugandan cities and focus on waste and sanitation, two factors that significantly impact    the health of residents and impact other development indicators, including school attendance, economic   development, and gender equity. The World Bank estimates  that Uganda loses a net 177 MUSD every year due to poor sanitation, which contributes to 23,000 annual deaths, including many youth and women and around 3,000 cases of cholera (World Bank WSP 2012). Only 40% of household receive solid waste services in Kampala creating hazardous human environments and leakages to ecosystems (KCC 2008). This situation demands urgent, grounded and theoretically informed research.

Not uniform, but diversity of infrastructures

The way we think about cities is still very much shaped by European and North American experiences. Uganda sanitationAfrican urbanisation is quite different and new policies and theories needs to be formed. Building on African urbanist literature, the project challenges the notion of the “infrastructure ideal”, the goal that service provision should be created through a uniform solution throughout the city. Instead, and by co-producing knowledge with slum dwellers and their organisations, the project focuses on understanding the existing range of options that poor urban dwellers have created and fought for to improve services. These experiences are crucial in thinking about the possibilities to transition towards universal services, but through a range of infrastructures, from networked to self-constructed.

Provoking a shift

The project works from the idea that there are lessons to be learnt from the street. Uganda wasteHowever, the work is also based on historical archival research to understand colonial and racist legacies of infrastructure provision. It analyses the contemporary political, economic and regional situation. And it will provide unique city-wide maps for formal/informal service delivery systems. A key practical implication is therefore to provoke a shift from seeking large-scale, uniform solutions, towards theory, planning and policies of implementing an array of infrastructures. Through a regional workshop, discussions will be held on how findings can translate to other African and global South cities.

The project combines a study of everyday practices and sociotechnical configurations. It seeks to develop a situated and political ecological framework that explains how infrastructure services are navigated, distributed and fought over, and how more just and sustainable cities can be achieved.


Full name: “Urban infrastructure challenges of the South: Waste and sanitation research in Ugandan cities to develop theory and methods for heterogenous infrastructure.”

Funded by: The Swedish Research Council (VR, Vetenskapsrådet) as a development research grant previously administered by Swedish foreign aid agency SIDA.

Project duration: Jan 1, 2016- Dec 31, 2018.

Research team:

PI: Dr. Henrik Ernstson, KTH Royal Institute of Technology (SWE) & University of Cape Town (SA)

Co-Is: Dr. Shuaib Lwasa, Makerere University (Uganda), Dr. Jonathan Silver, Durham University (UK), Dr. Mary Lawhon, The Florida State University, (USA), Dr. David Nilsson, KTH Royal Institute of Technology (SWE).

Advisory board: Professor Edgar Pieterse and Professor Susan Parnell (Univ of Cape Town), Professor Garth Myers (Trinity Univ), Dr. Colin McFarlane (Durham Univ), and Proferssor Awadhendra Sharan (Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi).

For more information, please contact: Mary Lawhon or Henrik Ernstson and see website for more information about Situated UPE.

ACC Logo full text 2014Durham University Logo FSU_seal_logoKTH_logo   images-2 UCT_logocircless_high-res

Announcements Learning Uncategorized

ACC Seminar: “Political Theory Meets Global South Urbanism: Where is the Political?”, July 27-31, 2015

Dr. Henrik Ernstson and Dr. Andrés Henao Castro is organising a week-long #SUPE literature seminar on “Political Theory Meets Global South Urbanism: Where is the Political?”, July 27-31, 2015 at ACC, University of Cape Town. I am happy to have invited Dr. Andrés Henao Castro to come to ACC at University of Cape Town for a month in July/August. Andrés is a Colombian who wrote his dissertation at the University of Massachusetts on political theory, working through the classics, but with a viewpoint from the immigrant, a very important topic from Europe, USA to South Africa these days. He writes about his dissertation:

My dissertation offers a new framework through which to theorize contemporary democratic practices by attending to the political agency of unauthorized immigrants. I argue that unauthorized immigrants themselves, by claiming their own ambiguous legal condition as a legitimate basis for public speech, are able to open up the boundaries of political membership and to render the foundations of democracy contingent, that is to say, they are able to reopen the question about who counts as a member of the demos.
Together we putting together a reading seminar on two bodies of literature—political theory and global South urbanism. With PhD students and participating scholars, we will explore how these literature can speak to each other, their tensions and possibilities. We hope this will be a yearly seminar so that we can run this again next year in 2016.
For those interested, the seminar is a great opportunity to read classics and contemporary literature in political philosophy with somebody that has studied these texts a lot. Andrés will be our guide to discuss these texts and place them in a wider context of political theory. When paired with global south urbanism literature we hope we can contribute to the theoretical terrain of ACC, Situated UPE, global South urbanism and beyond. The seminar is part of the new 3 year project that Henrik Ernstson is developing with Edgar Pieterse on “Radical Incrementalism and Situated Urban Political Ecologies” that through empirical work and scholarly seminars will explore theories and practices of emancipatory change in unequal urban landscapes.
More information about the seminar will be sent out when we have clarified the scope and framing. If you are interested, please send me a line (email address at UCT or KTH). There are no funding available to cover any costs for international participants.
Best regards,
Henrik Ernstson
PS: Here is more information about Dr. Andrés Henao Castro and his dissertation:
PhD dissertation by Andrés Fabián Henao CastroMy dissertation offers a new framework through which to theorize contemporary democratic practices by attending to the political agency of unauthorized immigrants. I argue that unauthorized immigrants themselves, by claiming their own ambiguous legal condition as a legitimate basis for public speech, are able to open up the boundaries of political membership and to render the foundations of democracy contingent, that is to say, they are able to reopen the question about who counts as a member of the demos. I develop this argument by way of a close reading of Sophocles’ tragedy Antigone, which allows me to dramatize democracy’s vexed relation to the question of foreignness and to challenge traditional concepts of democracy, political membership and agency.My turn to the classical Greek tragedy of Antigone is doubly motivated. First, it allows me to translate the political agon (conflict) staged by unauthorized immigrants today in order to read its rival narratives of membership. It provides me with a frame by which to link the politics of burial at the borders with the public protests performed by unauthorized immigrants in the streets of Tucson and Paris. Secondly, it allows me to decenter the frame, to facilitate a new trajectory for this classical tradition against the dominant reception of Antigone as civically circumscribed to one polis. Exploring Antigone’s alternative subtext of metoikia helps me to contest the idealized construction of Athenian culture that has influenced Western European ideals. Filling the gaps in our accounts of democratic theory, this research will contribute to our understanding of the phenomenon of alienage and provide a deliberative platform through which to articulate questions surfacing from this other form of political membership. My research also provides future scholarship with a theoretical basis for a broader interrogation of political agency and opens up a different trajectory for the reception of the classical tradition and for different inter-disciplinary ways of doing political theory.

Announcements News

Workshop: Radical Incrementalism & Theories/Practices of Emancipatory Change

This workshop examines ideas of radical incrementalism across our towns and cities. It seeks to explore theories and practices that can support emancipatory change across urban regions through the power of urban dwellers to challenge poverty, oppression and unjust environments. Such actions and processes take place within and beyond the state and suggest important ways to evaluate prospects for socio-ecological equality across infrastructures, everyday life and the wider urban condition. 


This workshop is part of a series of conversations that form a collaborative investigation into developing situated ways of undertaking urban political ecology. Each session focuses on different dimensions of critical approaches to urban theory and brings together scholars from different disciplines whose work explores critical understandings of processes of socio-ecological urbanization. We have 17 confirmed participants who will provide a series of keynotes and shorter provocations to support the open debate nature of the workshop.

Speakers include: Malini Ranganathan (American University, Washington D.C.), Mark Swilling, University of Stellenbosch, Edgar Pieterse (ACC, UCT), Laurence Piper (University of Western Cape), Andrew Charman (Sustainable Livelihoods Foundation), Jonathan Silver (Durham University), and Henrik Ernstson (ACC, UCT).

The workshop starts at 14.00 on Thursday 23rd of October with an afternoon session and keynote by Edgar Pieterse. This is followed by a full day of workshop sessions between 9.00-16.30 on Friday 24th of October, covering the following themes: “Outlining a radical incrementalism in theory and practice”; “Articulating a radical incrementalism”; “Experiments across infrastructures”; “In and beyond the state”.

Main organisers is Henrik Ernstson and Jonathan Silver with support from Edgar PieterseErin Goodling (Portland State University) will function as rapporteur for this workshop. This post is cross-posted from African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town and please go there for details on venue, how to participate and readings. There are still some seats available for students and scholars.

The workshop is an initiative by the Situated Urban Political Ecologies Collective (#SUPE) and the African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town. It forms part of SUPE Year of Conversation 2014.



News Teaching

Urban Political Ecology in African Cities Workshop [Pre-notice]

*PRE-NOTICE* Details regarding application deadline and available funding will be provided as soon as possible (late May). In the meantime, we wanted to circulate this notice with existing dates and details for your planning!

Urban Political Ecology in African Cities Workshop

University of Pretoria 22-26 September 2014


WHY? As cities become increasingly significant to development and environmental crises at multiple scales, there is a growing need for research that can both contribute to theory and practice. We use the term “urban political ecology” to emphasise a particular approach to considering the city across a number of themes, ranging from more traditional environmental issues (such as climate change and air pollution) to urban flows (such as sanitation and electricity provision). Like many other scholars, we believe there is a need for a more explicitly political approach to these topics that draws attention to the winners and losers as cities continue to change. 

WHAT? A 5 day workshop to discuss critical approaches to urban environmental research, drawing on recent conversations in the literature about theory and methodology. This workshop is aimed to support new ideas, research collaborations and grant applications and provide an opportunity for discussion and in-depth engagement around these issues. The workshop will include presentations by participants and established scholars, discussions, and exercises for developing critical political lenses into existing research topics. We will also have targeted discussions on establishing research partnerships, funding applications, and academic publication. Screen-Shot-2014-04-25-at-09.29.59-300x221

WHO? We envision that the workshop will include 15-20 emerging scholars, 2-3 established scholars, and the organising team. Applicants should have some experience in conducting research and academic publication and an interest in further international engagement. Preference will be given to participants from underrepresented categories (race, gender, nationality, etc).

COST? Some funding has been secured to subsidize the cost of the workshop. Further applications are pending, and it is our hope that we will be able to cover the majority of costs for participants. More information to follow.

HOW? Send us a short email noting interest to ensure we send you the forthcoming application details, deadlines and funding information.

For more information and suggestions, email us at (you find more about us here):

  • Dr. Mary Lawhon, University of Pretoria (marylawhon[AT#!]
  • Dr. Jonathan Silver, Durham University (j.d.silver[AT#!]
  • Dr. Henrik Ernstson, University of Cape Town (henrik.ernstson[AT#!]
  • Dr. Joseph Pierce, Florida State University (jpierce3[AT#!]

For more reading and to learn about the broader collective involved in these approaches, please browse the Situated Urban Political Ecologies website. Read for instance about our earlier workshop this year, and our ‘Pluralizing Urban Political Ecology’ special session at DOPE in Lexington (and an upcoming one at RGS in London). 



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SUPE organises student/early career workshop in Johannesburg in March

The SUPE Platform is organizing a workshop for students and early career researchers just before the Southern African Cities Conference in Johannesburg. The workshop on the 26th of March explores how to do Urban Political Ecology studies in African Cities and is part of our longer initiative to build networks, skills and companionship in developing critical urban political studies in Africa. We will follow up with a longer course/workshop later this year in September in Pretoria, and we applying for funds for a similar workshop in Kampala in 2016.

If you are student (PhD or Masters) or early career research, please read more on the banner below and then contact either Mary or Jon (more formally know as Dr. Mary Lawhon and Dr. Jonathan D. Silver) on their emails in the banner below, or on their profiles. Contact them as soon as possible. More details on reading etc. will be sent to you if you are accepted to this workshop.

Please note that no travel grants or other financial support can be given to this workshop. However, we hope future workshops will have such possibilities in order to gather students and researchers from across the African continent. So please stay tuned to the SUPE News feeds for upcoming events and workshops.