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Building with Ruins and Dreams: Some Thoughts on Realising Integrated Urban Development in South Africa through Crisis

Edgar Pieterse
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Edgar Pieterse: Isandla Institute, Mandela-Rhodes Building, 150 St George's Mall, Cape Town 8001, South Africa.

Urban Studies, 2006, vol. 43, issue 2, 285-304

Abstract: It is often lamented that South African cities are beset by interminable crises: segregation, inequality, fragmentation, violence, the Aids epidemic and so on. This lament is premised on the assumption that somehow urban challenges must be stabilised, brought under control through analytical or policy tools and then the ideals of urban integration and holism can come to pass. This paper challenges this conception of urban development policy and politics by recasting crisis as an opportunity (temporarily) to align and co-ordinate energies in order to undo the deeply engraved legacies of urban segregation and fragmentation. Concretely, the argument unfolds along three guideposts. In the first section, it is proposed that there are essentially three key conditions for addressing the structural crises of urban fragmentation: vibrant city politics in a radical democratic mode; a substantial 'epistemic community' in cities that generate imaginative ideas about alternative futures premised on a set of meta-objectives and concrete intervention strategies for the city; and, sufficient investment capital (private and public) to give economic support and expression to the implementation of concrete programmes and projects in line with the ideas generated by the epistemic community for alternatives. The second section of the paper elaborates prospective meta-objectives that epistemic communities can work with in order to advance more integrative urban development based on the framework of Ayyun Malik. The third section proposes some tangible interventions to construct socially and politically projects to build alternative futures in the context of Cape Town.

Date: 2006
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