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On the Edge of Reason: Planning and Urban Futures in Africa

Philip Harrison
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Philip Harrison: School of Architecture and Planning, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, Private Bag X3, WITS 2050, South Africa,

Urban Studies, 2006, vol. 43, issue 2, 319-335

Abstract: The shift in planning theory from technical-instrumental to relational conceptions of rationality is helpful in relating to urban environments in Africa that are characterised by the intersection of multiple rationalities and also by spatially extensive and shifting networks of economic and social transaction. However, the relevance of contemporary planning theory is limited by its origins within the intellectual traditions and experiences of the West. If we are to engage effectively with the multiple rationalities that are shaping the cities of the world-cities that are increasingly centred in the global South-then we must bring Western intellectual tradition into a critical relationship with the epistemologies, rationalities and value-based traditions of the non-Occidental world. This paper argues that post-colonial literature and theory may provide some of the intellectual resources needed to sustain such an engagement, as post-colonial thought directs attention to the hybrid intellectual formations and practices that emerge in the on-going interaction between colonised and coloniser. By using Johannesburg as the prism through which to look at cities and at planning, this paper provides some thoughts on how to construct an 'other way' of thinking that is situated both within and outside dominant representations.

Date: 2006
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