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During 2018 we are taking a rest! ACC Winter School on “Democratic Practices of Unequal Geographies” plans to be back in 2019.

There will unfortunately not be an ACC Democratic Practices Winter School during 2018. However, we are planning another three years from 2019, 2020 and 2021 that will tentatively be more centred on racial capitalism, settler colonial urbanisation, resistance and democratic practices in the contemporary era. The organising committee is convening meetings during 2018 to lay the foundation for these three years and seek funding to hold the course including travel bursaries and organisational assistance. We are also not sure where the course will be held next time since Henrik Ernstson, who has been the anchor for funding and organising the course at ACC in Cape Town is joining The University of Manchester full time during 2018. However, we are still hopeful to be able to hold the course in South Africa, either at ACC again or in collaboration with another university. We will keep you posted and you can expect an update later in 2018. For questions or input, please contact Henrik.

For those new to the Democratic Practices Winter School, its an intense one-week seminar where we read political philosophy with and against Southern urbanism. Rather than a geographical container, we are interested in the global South as an epistemological position and a field of experience that can trouble and re-new both radical urban theory and political theory. The Winter School has been developed by Dr. Henrik Ernstson and Dr. Andrés Henao Castro, and in 2017 together with Dr. Ashley Bohrer, as a contribution to students and scholars interested in critical urban and political theory. Below you can find more information about the Winter School, its  aims, content and reading lists for 2015, 2016, and 2017 when we worked through the themes of THE DEMOS, THE POLITICS, and THE POLICE. During these three years we have had over 40 participants, with 12-18 participants per year, primarily from South African universities, but also from Kenya, Namibia, Sweden, Germany, UK, Canada and USA.

For more information, go to the course webpage.


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 NEWS: Ways of Knowing Urban Ecologies

“Somos Sur” :: The need to think, analyse and act from the South—and hip hop as radical democratic practice.

“Somos Sur” is a rap and hip-hop song by Chilean-French artist Ana Tijoux. To me it insists that this world needs thinking, analysis and action from the South. 

The song vibrantly also features Palestinian-British rapper Shadia Mansour and provides hip hop and rap at its best—constructively angry; ruthless in speaking back to power. But also in joining dots; rhythmically it enfolds and unfolds wider geographies of solidarity. So, in solidarity with the people of Gaza, listen to it!

Somos Sur, Hip Hop and Cape Flats

“Somos Sur” also speaks through its registers of rhythm and movement to our own academic project around situated urban political ecologies (SUPE)—and to southern urbanism; and in making use of experiences and intellectual traditions from ‘the elsewheres’ of this world in order to assemble departure points for critique and radical democratic practice.

The song links directly to what I have learnt from my meetings with Capeflatsian hip hoppers Emile YX? and Mixed Mense. Their hip hop and pedagogic work in Cape Town can certainly be described as a democratic practice in that it shifts how, and who can speak into the future of Cape Town.

Over the last couple of years I have reported on how their hip hop performs deep differences to call into being the possibility of agency and new imaginaries of democracy, in spite structural oppression. See for instance my texts on their performance at Princess Vlei, in the magazine Urban Wetlands: South Asia; and here in conversation with Emile at Stanford. Their hip hop has flowed into my critique of ‘ecosystem services’ and other technologies of de-politicisation that environmental discourse is often wrapped up in (listen to this argument in my webinar from Portland State University).

Hip hop as tool of critique and pedagogy: documentary from Cape Town

In regards of what hip hop can do, as a practice to critique and engage structural oppression, I can here mention a recent documentary film about the Cape Town hip hop scene created by US-based Kareem Alston.

The film features the many nationalities of hip hoppers in Cape Town that share their talent and devotion to hip hop as a tool of critique and pedagogy. It goes a long way to animate discussions how  democratic practices can be developed from the felt sense of equality, and not from handed down ideas of simply voting every fourth or fifth year. As such of course it revives the deep democratic experiment and tradition from Cape Flats of the 1980s when United Democratic Front and other collectivities developed street-based direct democratic practices in the height of onslaught and struggle (see for instance writings by Jeremy Seekings). Another contribution from the film is that it shows how Cape Town is worlded across the continent through these hip hoppers. (30 min long.)

In solidarity: Palestinians, Mapuche and Capeflatsians

So, listen to “Somos Sur” in solidarity with Palestinians, Mapuche, and Capeflatsians. As my friend Oddveig wrote to me in fighting spirit when recommending “Somos Sur”, herself latina living in Cape Town, “doesn’t this just make you happy!”