When strategies collide: de Certeau and South African planning

Authors: Phil Jones*, University of Birmingham, Lauren Andres, University of Birmingham, Lorena Melgaco Silva Marques, University of Birmingham, Stuart Denoon-Stevens, University of the Free State
Topics: Planning Geography, Cultural Geography, Africa
Keywords: de Certeau, planning, South Africa
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Ambassador Ballroom, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Michel de Certeau (1984) makes a distinction between the strategies of the powerful and the tactics that are used to resist those strategies. The idea of tactics is central to de Certeau’s attempt to understand and theorise the everyday. Strategies, conversely, remain somewhat undertheorised despite setting the conditions of possibility through which both everyday life and tactics of resistance are brought into being. This is a significant lacuna that we address here through an examination of the planning profession in South Africa. The research is based on the largest survey to date of practitioner attitudes toward the state of the profession in South Africa, comprising 212 questionnaire responses and 96 in-depth qualitative interviews.

Strategies, for de Certeau, are about the control of space, but while he acknowledges different forms of strategies – political, military, capitalist – he says very little about different strategies, especially how these different forms of power are played off against each other. Spatial planning has a particular affinity with de Certeau’s work because he used it as a key example of a strategy seeking to control and dominate space by creating the concrete forms that constrain people’s everyday activities. In our South African example, planning practitioners are, however, in the front line of often contradictory strategies that are determining the shape (both metaphorical and literal) of the post-Apartheid nation, balancing a broadly neoliberal political economy with the need to mitigate the effects of ongoing racial injustice.

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