Opening Panel: Un-visioning Cities

Date: Wednesday, May 4, 2022 | 16:00-17:30 CET

Abstract: The spectre of urbanisation and urban growth statistics - especially in the global south - has led to an intense preoccupation with urban futures: what size of population by when, what percentage, where, poverty, consumption and cost projections... These forecasts underpin a now fairly established narrative about the future of cities that has to do with urban planning, infrastructure and services, spatiality and efficiency, public health, sustainability (pollution, consumption, degradation, climate vulnerability), technological solutions, and so forth. The "smart city" or the "sustainable city" is one of the future-proofed, packaged solutions to all of this.

These conversations, while with their own validities, tend to locate within a single frame; a particular paradigm about what “city” is, and therefore about what the “future of cities” will inevitably emanate or reproduce from. This panel conversation seeks to peer into this a little, grounding enquiries in different contexts, and to begin offering other interesting starting points for conversation about “the future of cities”. Panel speakers are invited to tell a story about “the future of cities” from vantages or through questionings that they find interesting, rooted in their scholarship or practice. The audiences will be invited to partake in the reframing.

Prof. Geci Karuri-Sebina

Speaker Biography: Prof Geci Karuri-Sebina is a Visiting Associate Professor at the Wits School of Governance(South Africa), involved in coordinating African Civic Tech Innovation Network and establishing the new Tayarisha African Centre of Excellence in governance. Geci has been working in the intersection between people, place and technological change for over 2 decades and is a well-known urban scholar-practitioner associated with the University of Cape Town’s African Centre for Cities, South African Cities Network, and Singularity University’s global faculty on the future of cities and governance. An architect, planner and futurist with a tech background, she also serves as a founding director of the Southern African Node of the Millennium Project, a regional advisor to the Africa Innovation Summit, and Vice Chair of AfricaLICS (the community of innovation scholars in Africa). Geci is co-convenor of the Capacity to Decolonise initiative, and is a curator with The Emergence Network.

Prof. Arturo Escobar

Speaker Biography: Arturo Escobar is an activist-researcher from Cali, Colombia, working on territorial struggles against extractivism, postdevelopmentalist and post-capitalist transitions, and ontological design. He was professor of anthropology and political ecology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, until 2018, and is currently affiliated with the PhD Program in Design and Creation, Universidad de Caldas, Manizales, Colombia, and the PhD Program in Environmental Sciences, Universidad del Valle, Cali. Over the past twenty-five years, he has worked closely with several Afro-Colombian, environmental and feminist organizations on these issues. His most well-known book is Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World (1995, 2nd Ed. 2011). His most recent books are: Designs for the Pluriverse: Radical Interdependence, Autonomy, and the Making of Worlds (2018), and Pluriversal Politics: The Real and the Possible (2020). He is currently working on a book on relationality (Designing Relationally: Making and Restor(y)ing Life) with Michal Osterweil and Kriti Sharma.

Thireshen Govender

Speaker Biography: Thireshen Govender is an architect, urban designer, and educator working in Johannesburg, South Africa.

A keen observer of the contemporary urban world, Govender is interested in the speculative nature of architecture and its ability to put forward necessary provocations and possibilities for post-traumatic sites and cities. Speaking back to society through a set of spatial tactics and strategies in order to make sense of, and build literacy around these troubled sites is central to his work. UrbanWorks Architecture & Urbanism, Govender’s design-research studio founded in 2008, employs innovative and responsive design strategies toward radical transformation in South African cities across cultural and economic infrastructures.

Govender also leads a design research Unit at the Graduate School of Architecture at the University of Johannesburg investigating rogue, subversive spatial tactics and has recently co-authored the book Township Economies: People, Spaces and Practices which collates and distils nine years of research and insight into 11 townships across Southern Africa. The book was published by HSRC Press (February 2020).

Video Recording