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Says who? How the water crisis shaped development discourse among key stakeholders in the Philippi Horticultural Area, Cape Town, South Africa

Authors: Elizabeth Carlino*, Southern Connecticut State University
Topics: Africa, Hazards and Vulnerability, Food Systems
Keywords: discourse analysis, climate change, sustainable development, situated meaning
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In May 2017, following nearly three years of drought, officials in Cape Town, South Africa declared a water emergency and began the process of implementing water use restrictions in order to stave off “Day Zero”—a day when the municipal water supply would be shut off and individuals’ water use would be rationed. While Day Zero was postponed indefinitely, these restrictions led to a marked shift in how people came to regard development, land use, and natural resource policies in Cape Town, specifically in the Philippi Horticultural Area (PHA). This 3,500-ha area is home to hundreds of farms and a large underground aquifer. The water crisis elicited several innovative responses for future mitigation techniques but our understanding of how discourse changed is less understood. Our world is shaped, produced, and reproduced through the language we use (Gee, 2012) and if we are to think critically about sustainable development and effective policymaking at a time of human-induced climate change, we must consider the connection between discourse, power relation dynamics, and climate action. I seek to chart the shifts in how stakeholders in the PHA shaped their discussions about development on this crucial agricultural land. I utilize techniques in critical discourse analysis and ground this understanding in the spatiotemporal contexts of situated meaning both to uncover implications for development that is resilient and just and to better understand how shifts in stakeholder responses to natural disasters could work to create more equitable climate action.

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