CALL FOR PRESENTATIONS> Johannesburg City Portrait

International Conference, June 25th – June 26th 2015,
School of Doctorate Studies,Università IUAV di Venezia, Venice, Italy

organised by: Leonardo Ciacci | Paola Piscitelli

in collaboration with: Elena Ostanel & Giovanna Marconi (SSIIM Unesco Chair); Giovanni Vio

Deadline for submissions: 3rd of May 2015



The “Johannesburg. City Portrait” conference, about the city of Johannesburg, will be held on June 25th – June 26th 2015, within the cycle of International Conferences City Portraits, organized by the School of Doctorate Studies, Università Iuav di Venezia. The goal of the International Conference is to provide a wide range of points of view in order to investigate the current transformations of the “city into being” par excellence and to attempt a better understanding of its coming evolutions in the post-apartheid era on the base of an interdisciplinary approach, which ranges from the urban planning, historical and contemporary architectural issues to arts, design and cultural policies.

PhD candidates, researchers coming from different worlds (university, public authorities, NGOs, independent research) and practitioners who have developed original studies/theoretical frameworks or projects/ instruments on the “city of extremes” linked with one or more of the following four sessions, are invited to submit their contributions in the forms of papers (both short and long paper), presentations, photo-reportages and/or videos.


1. Urbanism and Architecture

Johannesburg appears at the same time a unique city, characterized by an incomparable and absolutely peculiar past, and the “city of the future”, potential precursor of fates common to old and new cities of different continents.

Left behind the reputation of the quintessential apartheid city, but also its promise of beating heart in the post-apartheid “Rainbow Nation”, the former mining town is today a cosmopolitan world-class city, hit by a substantially neoliberal urban development that has been strengthening socio-spatial fragmentation. It is still a deeply fractured city made of non-communicating class-based worlds.

This sessions calls for contributions able to critically investigate the ‘structure’ of urbanism and architecture in Johannesburg with reference to specific plans and projects, but also to engage with the agency of social informal infrastructure made by people, as a form of critical discourse on the formal city.

Suggested topics include but are not limited to:

    > Urbanism after Apartheid

    > Spatial politics in Johannesburg

    > Insurgent Urbanism, Insurgents Architecture

2. Migration

Being the financial and manufacturing centre of the country, growing out of the development of gold and diamond mining industries, Johannesburg has always attracted migrants both from South Africa and from other countries since its origins, so that it can be considered a city developed due to the migration flows.

Howbeit, the concentration of wealth in Johannesburg masks strong social inequalities and xenophobia, which often give rise to violent manifestations of racism (such as the revolt of Alexandra in 2008), dishonoring the promises of the Rainbow Nation.

Many migrants struggle to access to the fundamental rights and often find in informal economies a way to survive. Informal trading is a key economic activity in the city, source of income and of empowerment for those who practice it.

Although its declared aim to reduce inequalities and promote development, however, either Joburg 2030 or the Integrated Development Plan – the Johannesburg’s two main policy frameworks- barely mention migration and reflect on the inclusion of migrants in the City of Johannesburg.

Therefore, this session calls for contribution focusing on migration as a key feature of the city, with a focus on socially and economically marginalized migrants.

Suggested topics include but are not limited to:

    > regulatory system of migration;

    > actors, practices and places of the management of migration;

    > informal economies and livelihoods;

    > tactics of resistance carried out by migrants


3. Mobility and Public Life

The infrastructural system planned by apartheid has deeply shaped Johannesburg’s configuration, bringing on unusual spatial contradictions: sprawl and high car dependence, on one hand; dense townships and informal settlements cut off- rather than connected- by the freeways and rail-lines that surround them, on the other hand.

The apartheid spatial legacy of containment and marginalization has lasted long even in the post-apartheid period, currently resulting in an extremely socially and economically polarized city-region. There is a city of wealth and excellent infrastructure coexisting with a disconnected and disadvantaged city. These two cities seldom interact across their divide.

Nevertheless, in the last decade a ‘new era’ for transport planning seems to be envisaged, since the implementation of the policies related to the Gautrain project. Within the strategic objectives of this project, the design of public space becomes particularly prominent. It calls for a consideration of the already existing forms of public life and of those not yet supported by an adequate provision of spaces.

Therefore, the session encourages contributions both on the way in which the post-apartheid mobility system in Johannesburg could be an instrument for social change and on the kinds of public life taking shape today, privileging those able to enlighten connections between these two aspects.

Suggested topics include but are not limited to:

    > Mobility system (formal and informal)

    > Spaces of segregation/spaces of interaction

    > Public life in post-apartheid Johannesburg

4. Arts and Urban Renewal

Johannesburg is undergoing a continuous urban renewal which reflects the present process of reinforcement of the major African cities as cultural capitals. The most important ‘afropolis’ (Nuttall and Mbembe, 2007) is fostering urban renewal as a strategy to gain a global-level position. Johannesburg’s effort to “remake itself” and become more attractive for urban tourism is evident both in its arts precincts (such as Maboneng and Newtown) and in the development of the so-termed ‘township tourism’, namely small tourism businesses in the former black townships (such as Soweto and Alexandra).

The double-edged nature of such a process- able to produce vibrating cultural atmosphere but also consequences associated with gentrification- leaves open the question of an equitable involvement of all the social constituents.

The goal of this session is to provide a critical overview of the current cultural and artistic production in Johannesburg and the implication of the running process of urban redevelopment.

Suggested topics include but are not limited to:

    > Art and cultural production: practices, forms and leading actors

    > Cases of ‘art precincts’

    > The phenomenon of ‘township tourism’



Researchers and PhD candidates interested in presenting a contribution should submit an abstract of the work of maximum 2000 words in English by May 3rd 2015. Complete papers, videos, portfolios can be attached to the abstract.

Abstracts should be sent via e-mail to

Please include the following information: full name, date of birth, affiliation (university/institution), e-mail address, working title of the contribution, four keywords.

In the email subject please write the session you want to participate to.

The curators of the International Conference, taking into account the interest of the themes proposed, will select the papers to be presented during the conference and notify the authors via e-mail by May 10th.


Call for presentations launch February 9th 2015

Deadline for abstract submission May 3rd 2015

Notification of acceptance May 10th 2015



*The initiative is a follow-up of the International Project “SharingSpace – Research on intercultural city and collective space” financed by the European Union Marie Curie International Research Staff Exchange Scheme (FP7-PEOPLE-2012-IRSES)

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**The cycle of conferences “city portraits” is a project launched by the IUAV school of doctorate studies, with the objective of having a thorough insight into the city from a variety of disciplinary perspectives: architecture and planning, literature, visual arts, cinema, etc.. so as to document and narrate as much as possible of its complexity.

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