Cultural and Social Anthropology
Human-Environment-Relations, Social and Environmental Justice, Social Movements, Practice Theory, Agency
Title of PhD Project:
Communities of Practice in Urban Agriculture in Cape Town, South Africa: linking knowledge, communication, power and practice
Jun.-Prof. Sandra Kurfürst
Katharina Diederichs holds a Master’s degree (1, 3) in Political Sciences, African Studies and Islamic Studies from the University of Cologne. Since 2016 she is working on her Ph.D. in Cultural and Social Anthropology at the University of Colognewith the title: Communities of Practice in Urban Agriculture in Cape Town, South Africa: linking knowledge, communication, power and practice. Between 2016 and 2018 she conducted three field trips to Cape Town to research citizenship, social movements and the political-ecology of Environmental Justice, Food Sovereignty in Urban (Organic) Agriculture projects as well as interface situations with national and municipal governance. Central to her research are the varied manifestations of power and agency; especially in processes of knowledge production and transfer. As a Graduate Research Assistant, she is professionally involved in the academic and coordinative tasks related to the research network of the Global South Studies Center (GSSC) at the University of Cologne. With the aim to help guarantee a smooth interdisciplinary research environment, she supports the GSSC-coordination team in the organisation of international conferences and workshops, in public relations and in research as well as in the preparation of publications.
For my progess as a researcher and for my Ph.D. project the GSSC is a very supportive framework. As a member of the GSSC I am integrated in a feedback-process, which enhanced my research. GSSC workshops, conferences and public lectures thematically enriched the focus and scope of my work. Beyond that, I profited from the GSSC’s internationalisation strategies. I realised two research trips to one of the GSSC's partner universities, the University of Cape Town in South Africa. As a Graduate Assistant in the GSSC coordination office, I additionally got the great opportunity to professionalise in the Science and Research Mananagement.
The thesis conceptualizes three grass-roots urban agricultural projects in the Capetonian Food Sovereignty and Environmental- /Social Justice Movement as Communities of Practice (CofP - Lave and Wenger 1991). In the thesis’ research design the CofP’s represent local nuclei of a broader Social Movement in South African Cities. The thesis focuses on the social practice of knowledge production in the CofP’s and its networks. It seeks to put local and global Food Sovereignty narratives into a context-specific urban perspective. The thesis’ research design allows for a rights-based focus on Food Security which, in the case of the three selected CofP’s in Cape Town, is deeply linked to a sense of place and cultural/natural heritage for its members. The thesis seeks to contribute to the Rights to the City (Marcuse 2009; Parnell/Pieterse 2010) debate and combines elements of Natural and Cultural Heritage as New Commons with Social Movements and Struggles for Participation.
Due to the urbanization of poverty it is imperative to downscale the emerging debate about the developmental state and food security to the city scale (Parnell and Pieterse 2010: 146). In the first DAAD-funded explorative stay in 2016, the broader urban network of Food Sovereignty activists was mapped. After that, in the second research stay funded by a.r.t.e.s. in 2017/18, the study zoomed in on essential actors within the urban fabric of Cape Town’s Food Sovereignty Movement. Three CofP’s were identified from within a vibrant network of agents located in this field, which engage in sustainable, heritage-sensitive urban agricultural projects: The Oranjezicht City Farm (OCZF), EARF81 and the Phillippi Horticultral Area Food and Farming Campaign (PHA-FFC). The focus was on the collection of individual narratives that revealed place-related challenges. Due to their locatedness within or close to the urban center, one could assume similar access to infrastructure and basic public services. Nevertheless, this is not entirely true for all of the CofP's. The CofP's differ considerably with regard to their socio-economic embeddednes and in terms of organisational structure, their public perception, their funding (opportunities), their legal recognition as well as their personal networks with government and private stakeholders. This fact has significant implications for the realisation of their rights and was further adressed in the 2018 research trip.
As the CofP’s narratives exceed those of individual membership and agency, in 2018, the focus was extended on community dialogues and on the production of knowledge across the CofP’s boundaries, including „distributed CofP’s“ (Daniel, McCalla and Schwier 2003). In the previous stays, I noticed that the activists of the CofP’s ambitiously share three common goals: the implementation of sustainable urban agriculture, a more just food system in terms of access to nutrition-rich food and the protection of the current heritage status of their respective area. However, research revealed that they quite uniquely address these goals and experience different government responsiveness to their aims. Additionally, with regards to their motivations to engage with sustainable urban agriculture and food security/ food sovereignty they vary massively. This finding correlates with an essential insight of a growing number of studies in the Social Movement research body (Bond 2001; Fominaya 2010). It revealed a lack of cohesion in Social Movements in terms of the articulation and definition of common goals. The third stay in 2018 thus also mapped the contradictive experiences of the three CofP’s in association with their socio-economic inclusion/exclusion and with regard to the realisation of human-rights. The 2018 research trip focused on the boundary work of each of the three CofP’s, by putting „interface situations“ (Norman Long) with public and private stakeholders into perspective. Notwithstanding the fact, that there are viable policies in place, it is aimed to gain a sense of the municipal and national government’s responsiveness to the CofP’s specific claims and to gain a sound insight in governance structures and challenges towards Food Sovereignty on the macro-level. These are necessary steps to articulate recommendations for improvement.
Bond, P. 2001. Cities, social movements and scale-politics in an era of ‘globalisation’. Paper presented to the University of the Western Cape and University of Hamburg Seminar on the Spatial Form of Socio-Political Change. University of the Western Cape, 13 September 2001
Diani, M. 2015. The cement of civil society: Studying networks in Localities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lave, Jean & Etienne Wenger. 1991. Situated Learning. Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Parnell, S. and Pieterse, E. 2010. The ‘Right to the City’: Institutional Imperatives of a Developmental State. In International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Vol. 34, No. 1, p. 146-162
Marcuse, P. 2009. From critical urban theory to the right to the city. In Routledge, City Vol. 13, No. 2-3.
Saule Jr., N. 2008. The right to the city: strategic response to social exclusion and spatial segregation. In R. Cymbalista (ed.), The challenges of democratic management in Brazil — the right to the city, Polis Institute–Ford Foundation, São Paulo.
While the OCZF is a well-established and well-funded showcase project the other projects, namely the PHA and EARF81 are highly contested urban spaces, with conflicting claims on the land from private/government stakeholders. Both CofPs suffer from urban sprawl and private housing investment that may lead to eviction/rezoning of land. In addition, they address problematics of water privatization. Both projects represent the urban nuclei of resistance to the neoliberal orientation of the national and urban political economy, such as the privatization of land and water.