Report: Guest Lecture “Dis-location: understanding public space from Cape Town”, by Prof. Myriam Houssay-Holzschuch

Date: April 11, 2019

Time: 10am to 12pm

Location: Anthony Lady Bank Hall, Institute of African Studies, UI

IFRA-Nigeria, together with the WORDOC (Women Research and Documentation Centre), as part of our monthly seminar, welcomed a guest lecture by Prof. Myriam Houssay Holzschuch (University of Grenoble, France) themed on “Dis-location: understanding public space from Cape Town”. The event was held at Anthony Lady Bank Hall, Institute of African Studies (University of Ibadan), on Thursday 11th of April 2019.

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Myriam Houssay-Holzschuch is a Professor of Geography at the University of Grenoble-Alpes in France. She has conducted extensive research on the concept of public spaces looking at South African cities and particularly Cape Town where she studied since 1994 the production of segregated spaces. She describes herself a “feminist” geographer and has been notably looking at the inclusivity of public spaces from a gender perspective in African cities. She is currently researching on the meanings that carry the ‘post’ in the widely-use notion of “post-Apartheid” in South Africa.

Prof Houssay-Holzschuch’s Guest Lecture was exploring the concept of public space, its deterritorialization from its Western origins (within the theoretical frame of the “Southern Turn”) and it re-territorialization in the South African context.

“The Southern Turn in the social sciences challenges us to carefully consider the situatedness of the concepts we use, and to try to speak back to theory from de-centered locations. In this regard, the South African case, and Cape Town in particular, are useful locations from which to think about the vexed idea of public space. One reason for this is the apartheid past, during which Africans were systematically excluded from public space, whether political, social or urban/juridical public space. Another reason is the contemporary context of a new democracy, in which rights and citizenship are still very much in flux. The talk will then explore both theoretically and through specific case studies how the notion of public space is dislocated and reconfigured when re-territorialized in Cape Town.”

Prof. Houssay-Holzschuch concluded her seminar by introducing the results of her fieldwork in Rondebosch at the occasion of the “Occupy Rondebosch common” protests in 2012, a striking example of contestation over a public space by its different users (Cf. Houssay-Holzschuch, 2015, Dis-locating public space: Occupy Rondebosch common, Environment and Planning).

The lecture was followed by a series of questions from the audience including some comments of Dr. Sharon Omotoso, WORDOC’s coordinator.

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Photo: Prof. Myriam Houssay-Hozschuch situating the notion of public space

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