MUSSI Fellowship Event - Moving at the speed of trust’ – A theoretical reflection on the data strategies of two civil society organisations in South Africa - Prof Nancy Odendaal

Tuesday, November 15, 2022 - 12:30 to 14:30
Online & MUSSI Seminar Room 2nd Floor Iontas

Whilst the social and spatial divides within South African cities cannot be denied, the country’s Constitution nevertheless enables free speech and popular protest aimed at addressing inequalities. Two civil society organisations, Ndifuna Ukwazi and Cape Town Together (CTT), use a range of digital media to mobilise and connect marginalized communities. The former focuses mainly on shelter whilst CTT emerged as a response to extreme lockdown measures during the first months of Covid-19. The presentation will focus on the use of storytelling as a form of activism, harnessing technology to represent experiential and qualitative aspects of urban life, to alter dominant urban discourses. Part of this sensibility is captured by CTT in their approach to ‘move at the speed of trust’ in enabling neighbourhood mobilisation in addressing livelihoods, through community action networks. An emphasis on trust building, connection and co-creation of livelihood solutions to livelihood issues, runs contrary to the state’s emphasis on evidence-based decision making and a temporally linear and centralized approach to service delivery.
After an initial introduction to the empirical work that grounds this research, the presentation will reflect on the theoretical implications in relation to knowledge production processes and the implications for data politics. Whilst the work is based in South Africa, the aim is to generate discussion on broader implications for further research on urban knowledge practices.

Nancy Odendaal is a Professor in the School of Architecture, Planning and Geomatics, at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. She is also the current Head of the School. Her recent research examines the generative sociotechnical practices of urban residents in a number of African cities in their appropriation of digital platforms. This is encapsulated in a book entitled ‘Disrupted Urbanism: Situated smart initiatives in African cities’, to be published by Bristol University Press in January 2023. Recent collaborations with Ola Söderström and Ayona Datta consider the provincialisation of smart city discourses in South Africa and India. Nancy’s work is firmly rooted in a Southern Urbanism perspective, with a future focus on data politics and the experiential knowledge generation practices of civil society organisations in cities.

The MUSSI Fellowship Scheme began in the 2019/2020 academic year and was designed to enhance the research community of the University by fostering collaboration between Maynooth University Social Sciences Institute Visiting Fellows and academic staff at Maynooth University. Fellowship recipients have the opportunity to engage with a vibrant research culture in the Institute (see www.maynoothuniversity/mussi ) and across the wider university, Dublin city area and the region.

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