Dr. Nathalie Jean-Baptiste

Cities in their own right: southern urban planning theories and practices

Funding period: 28 February 2019 – 1 January 2020
Type of funding: Seminar Series

Host institution: Ardhi University (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)
Date: February 28th 2019 onwards (Zanzibar and Muscat)
Lead organiser: Dr. Nathalie Jean-Baptiste (Ardhi University)
Team members: Prof. Nikolaus Knebel (German University of Technology in Oman) and Prof. Nina Gribat (Darmstadt University of Technology)
Contact: Dr. Nathalie Jean-Baptiste

Abstract: Cities in the South are transforming into diverse, unapologetic urban centers on their own terms. To understand these terms, we need to revisit the idea of urbanity in places with different layers of opportunity and disparate building environments. This Seminar Series takes place at a time of recurrent questions on what Southern Urbanism actually is. What theoretical propositions are offered to describe Southern cities? And in which disciplines and academic communities do these propositions unfold? While these questions are being asked, there is however one thing in common: The recognition that cities in the South are cities in their own rights. And as such, planning theories and practices ought to seek explanations and signals rooted in an urbanity that is southern.

Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar and Muscat have a history of contestation over land, but also thriving social interventions that can serve as a starting point for reflections on global contemporary urban environments. It is in these contexts that new planning values can be unpacked and questioned. It is also in these cities that ideas on how to best act and intervene can emerge. We therefore argue that questions of development, growth and urban transformation cannot be treated and measured without assessing the unique local situations for these processes.

With this in mind, the two Symposia planned in Zanzibar and Muscat offer the prospect to venture into a region which remains distinct in its essence of urbanity, but is also connected in a globalized world. We intend to provide participants with a forum to debate the distinctive type of human settlements that constitute African and Middle Eastern cities from a Southern planning perspective. The foreseen debates draw from a number of ongoing research efforts aiming at co-producing knowledge in regions that need to reassess their development goals and planning instruments to incorporate new challenges stemming from global changes.