International Development Planning Review

Overcoming the disjunctures: competing discourses on informal settlements in South Africa

International Development Planning Review (2017), 39, (4), 443–459.

Abstract

Informal settlements are an undeniable feature of developing cities. Activists, governments, community groups, academics, artists, international funders, built-environment professionals and entrepreneurs all find the challenge of informality an important project and intriguing frontier for practical and conceptual intervention. This paper unpacks four discourses which frame understandings of informal settlements and how they should be addressed. Technology and design discourses, institutional discourses, rights-based discourses and structural discourses all come to bear on the framing of the debate and the propositions for change. Within the sector, the various actors and stakeholders continually struggle to acknowledge the contributions of other discourses. This paper unpacks these discourses and identifies the possible contributions and limitations each has to offer. The paper draws on empirical evidence from South Africa, providing insights relevant both to and beyond this context. In conclusion, it is argued that a generous, multi-scale, interdisciplinary discourse is needed in South Africa and beyond.

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Hart, G. (2013) Rethinking the South African crisis: nationalism, populism, hegemony, Athens, University of Georgia Press. Rethinking the South African crisis: nationalism, populism, hegemony Google Scholar

Huchzermeyer, M. (2003) ‘Housing rights in South Africa: invasions, evictions, the media, and the courts in the cases of Grootboom, Alexandra, and Bredell’, Urban Forum, 14(1), 80–107. Housing rights in South Africa: invasions, evictions, the media, and the courts in the cases of Grootboom, Alexandra, and Bredell Urban Forum 14 80 107 Google Scholar

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Huchzermeyer, M. (2011) Cities with slums: from informal settlement eradication to the right to the city in Africa, Cape Town, UCT Press. Cities with slums: from informal settlement eradication to the right to the city in Africa Google Scholar

Huchzermeyer, M. (2014) ‘Troubling continuities: use and utility of the term “slum”’, in S. Oldfield and S. Parnell (eds), 86–97. Troubling continuities: use and utility of the term “slum” 86 97 Google Scholar

Isandla Institute and CORC (2011) ‘The right to the city in a South African context’, National Roundtable, http://isandla.org.za/publications/149/ (accessed 13 October 2017). Google Scholar

Lemanski, C. (2009) ‘Augmented informality: South Africa’s backyard dwellings as a by-product of formal housing policies’, Habitat International, 33(4), 472–84. Augmented informality: South Africa’s backyard dwellings as a by-product of formal housing policies Habitat International 33 472 84 Google Scholar

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Marx, C. (2009) ‘Conceptualising the potential of informal land markets to reduce urban poverty’, International Development Planning Review, 31(4), 335–53. Conceptualising the potential of informal land markets to reduce urban poverty International Development Planning Review 31 335 53 Google Scholar

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Napier, M., Berrisford, S., Kihato, C. W., McGaffin, R. and Royston, L. (2013) Trading places: accessing land in African cities, Somerset West, African Minds. Trading places: accessing land in African cities Google Scholar

National Department of Housing (2004) Breaking new ground. A comprehensive plan for the development of sustainable human settlements. Pretoria. Google Scholar

Nyar, A. and Wray, C. (2012) ‘Understanding protest action: some data collection challenges for South Africa’, Transformation: Critical Perspectives on Southern Africa, 80(1), 22–43. Understanding protest action: some data collection challenges for South Africa Transformation: Critical Perspectives on Southern Africa 80 22 43 Google Scholar

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Cirolia, Liza Rose

Cirolia, Liza Rose