Session 6

Socio-Spatial Research in Post-colonial States: Urban and Political Economy Perspectives

Urban policy and politics strongly configure spatial development outcomes, particularly in terms of sustainability, climate change, physical infrastructure, public health, safety etc. This session invites submissions which examine the implications of urban policy and politics for various facets of spatial development. Specifically, papers should employ concepts in policy analysis and/or political economy to investigate the urban spatial, socio-political or ecological forms. Possible matters of investigation include how policy or political economic choices shape sustainable urbanism. Moreover, the intermeshing of public policy and political economy in configuring climate change mitigation measures by local authorities can be investigated. Also, the implications of strategic policy and political interventions for infrastructural development, public health, safety etc. could be explored. Papers can also examine how the nature of spatial development in turn shapes the policy and political economic choices available to municipalities. Accepted submissions should employ relevant methodological approaches and demonstrate how these techniques enrich the discourse on policy analysis and/or political economy.




1.Space, community, and identity in Botswana

Ikanyeng Stonto Malila  (University of Botswana, Botswana)

Botswana likes to present itself a state wherein national identity and national priorities trump local identities and needs. In terms of the Tribal Land Act every citizen is entitled to apply for land outside their community of origin. Yet at local level whether it be at the level of family, ward, village or tribal community, land use and claims to right of use are strongly anchored in identity and community and are far removed from bureaucratic notions of land use and ownership. There has been growth in litigation over or following attempts by the state to engineer mergers of identity and /or land use in name of development pitting community against community even where the villages/communities belong to the same tribal community. This paper discusses the place of community and identity in the control of and contestation over the use of space in the context of a state-driven development agenda.


2.Pulsing Grounds: A collaborative research project tackling Beirut’s emerging actor constellations and power relations through a data driven approach to knowledge co-production

Balsam Madi  (B.M. Studio, Lebanon)

Joanne Hayek  (An Open Studio. Adjunct faculty at DIDI. Senior lecturer at AUB., Lebanon)

Lebanon’s fragmented territories, continuous political deadlocks due to its power sharing governance model as well as its deteriorating economic situation have triggered a revolution starting in October 2019. This research’s methodological problem is that now more than ever, planning tools that can respond to the urgency of change happening in the urban realm are needed for sustainable land management and development. Due to the lack of state led administrative systemization several collectives and initiatives emerged in order to help archive and utilize the emerging responses. was one of these platforms, it is an open source publicly accessible platform that allows users to upload real time interventions. The platform also easily transfers data in different formats from other archiving agencies in order to overlay all the information and assess the gaps and needs. The research methodology builds on previous mappings of the actors and their interactions through a governance analysis to link between data driven knowledge co-production and urban policy making. In analysing narratives and spatial mappings at the different scales through a result model the researchers aim to deduce findings and recommendations that can help answer the following questions: (1) Can positive responses be replicated, scaled, rippled and matured into long term systemic change that are adaptable to global movements? (2) Since the spatial and narrative mappings are generated by a code, is it also possible to code a smart / AI policy generating algorithm that would respond to the real time urgent need for change? (3) How can this digital platform act as a central and neutral data information ecosystem that links between grassroots movements and top-down planning. In terms of literature the paper intends to explore Foucault’s concepts of power and knowledge production linking power to the grassroot movements generated knowledge and the proliferation of online information ecosystems having fair and open data. The role of technology in decentralizing the hegemony of power across sectors will thus be explored in relation to an increase in democracy, active citizenship and participatory planning.


3.Tracing policies and politics behind the spatial development of the tea landscapes of Assam: A perspective from North-east India

Barsha Amarendra  (Independent Researcher, India)

When the British East India Company brought tea cultivation to Assam, apart from the economic interests, it was largely based upon the potential to initiate a predominantly colonial enterprise in the region, manned by white British Planters, under whom brown natives would work as subordinates. The company’s first tea garden in 1833, marked the start of a spatial and visual transformation of the region’s natural landscape; the pattern of this transformation being largely dependent on the company’s policies for development, but also the politics of power play. While it is commonplace to have academic discussions on the policies and politics that are responsible for the development of the tea landscapes, the spatial implications on the landscape as a result of them are largely left undiscussed, as can be witnessed from a large number of available academic writings on the topic. This paper intends to create a methodology for a landscape-based cross-layering approach that would enable research to parallel the policies and politics behind developmental initiatives with the spatial transformations occurring on the ground. Being set in the colonial time period beginning in the 1830s, the methodology would base its focus on extracting from archival sources such as manuscripts and government reports, the policies that have a landscape implication and cross-reference this by tracing the development patterns through the study of historic topographic maps and archival photographs. The development patterns to be studied through this methodology include topographical alterations, irrigation developments, settlement growth and infrastructural development. In doing so, it would be significant in enabling researchers to visually illustrate to concerned stakeholders how their policies materialise in profoundly changing regional landscapes. The potential that the methodology provides for creating overlaps between sociological and spatial aspects would empower researchers and designers to better understand the biography of the landscape to be worked with.


4.Qualitative Methods for Street Naming Research in a Postcolonial African Context

Eric Yankson  (Namibia University of Science and Technology, Namibia)

Johannes Becker  (Namibia)

The political economy of street naming is enmeshed in the historical tapestry of the society within which this occurs. Towards understanding these temporal dynamics, it is important to adopt relevant qualitative approaches which provide biographical trajectories of the social, political and other actors around which these toponymic inscriptions revolve. Based on a case study of Windhoek (in Namibia), this paper argues that within the sub-Saharan African context, primary methods such as interviews, field observations and photography are crucial for capturing the history of postcolonial African states as evinced through street naming. These approaches help to decipher residents’ perceptions and insights of urban planners regarding socio-political temporal developments. Moreover, they underscore the implications of toponyms for place identity and culture. The aforementioned primary data sources must be combined with secondary methods such as document or discourse analyses to provide a more holistic picture of the historical evolution of a society.


5.Women and political representation in Botswana: 55 years after independence and beyond

Tshephang Dipogiso  (Thuto Khumo Foundation, Botswana)

Women all over the world face significant social, cultural, political, and economic barriers that prevent them from obtaining leadership positions. Botswana is no exception. But one of the most fascinating developments in African politics has been the increase in women’s participation since the mid 1990’s. Women are becoming more engaged in leadership positions of institutions from local government to legislatures and even the executive. Today, Africa is a leader in women parliamentary representation globally with a Global Average of 22.5 percent. For instance, Rwanda has the highest number of women in parliament in the world with 63.8% of women in lower house (UN, 2016). Despite this remarkable increase of women representation in parliament, Botswana remains behind in the number of women in parliament. The country is yet to sign SADC Gender Protocol that requires 30% quota of positions reserved for women in leadership. Botswana has been recording low participation of women in both elective and appointive political positions in particular parliament. For instance, out of the 18 recently confirmed ministerial appointments made by President Khama’s administration, only three (3) are women, translating to 16.7%. In the National Assembly there are only five women out of 57 constituencies which constitute a paltry 8.8%. This has been a growing concern because for democratic governments to deliver to their constituents, they must be truly representative hence women must be equal partners in the process of democratic development. However, one divergent fact is that the performance and determination of women in leadership roles in parastatals and private sector supersede that of their male counterparts. The question therefore remains why women participation in politics is low. The literature on this subject is fairly emerging but commonly points to cultural stereotypes especially the patriarchal nature of Botswana’s society (Maundeni, 2002; Ntseane 2005; Ntseane & Sentsho, 2005, Geisler, 2004). Using the Afro barometer perception survey data, this paper presents descriptive statistics and regression analysis of selected variables that explain low participation of women. In the data, the dependent variable is measured by a question: Men make better political leaders than women and should be elected rather than women. The paper analyses responses of those who agree with the statement using location, age, sex, interest in public affairs, and education. The research provides a baseline for the implementation of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), Agenda 2063: a pledge for Gender Equality and Women Empowerment, Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development and Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The significance of this study’s conclusions and recommendations is to further stimulate women of Botswana to stand up and challenge their male counterparts in contesting for, party positions, parliamentary seats during general elections and present themselves for executive appointments. Also, the study has policy implications in the sense that it will improve evidence-based planning and programming involving women in decision making.


6.Decolonizing “Work”: Prioritizing Life

Melanie E. L. Bush  (Adelphi University, UNISA Research Fellow, United States)

The era of coloniality and racial capitalism is in great upheaval; we have entered a period of intensifying crises of new proportions. Economic institutions, social relations, and political structures are being contested all over the globe. Whether formulated as abolitionism, eco-socialism, communism, or through frames such as “a world in which many worlds fit”, the very foundation of the social world is in flux. This past year, 170 million people had COVID 19 worldwide; over 3.5 million died. Five men now own as much wealth as half the world’s population combined. In the United States, this has been devastating for those already challenged and means that food, and shelter are increasingly inaccessible to many. Among adults, 27% have trouble paying expenses; for Black households, 42% and for Latinos, 36%. At times of heightened insecurity, communities seek the means for survival through many strategies. Some are grounded in political power such as the Zapatistas or Rojava. Others include cooperatives e.g., Mondragon (Spain) and the Seikatsu Club (Japan). Still others are evident in dual power networks of mutual aid, time banks, and urban gardens. Some are raising awareness about and interest in understanding the structural context for the difficulties faced. This presentation draws upon ethnographies with two projects in the United States and research more broadly. In the analysis, I assert that a decolonizing transformation is occurring globally in economic and social relations. There is an expanded emphasis on the building of new structures and cultivating new ideologies in addition to protesting and critiquing the current system. This shift signifies that the future of work, especially with the development of technology “for the people”, will be one framed in values of community, reciprocity, wellness, justice and care rather than constrained by competition and profit. For the future of work may not be work at all.