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Circulating planning ideas from the metropole to the colonies: understanding South Africa’s segregated cities through policy mobilities.


Year published: 2019
Categories: Journal Article

Author / Authors:

  • Wood, A.


In the early part of the twentieth century, South African cities were segregated in accordance with British city planning concepts that embodied the belief that social order can be manipulated through the urban form. This paper surveys the history of South African planning practices to understand the spread of segregation policies and practices. Whereas scholars tend to agree that the apartheid city (post−1948) is a more highly organized and structured version of the colonial city (pre−1910), the literature lacks consensus on the development of the segregated city (1910−1948) within South Africa. How did concepts of segregation circulate and why was it implemented with such consistency? Accordingly, this paper employs concepts of policy mobilities to trace historical configurations in South Africa to international influences. The focus on the circuits of knowledge explains how concepts and designs transplanted from elsewhere helped create the form of South African cities today. Understanding the movement of planning ideas through policy mobilities furthers geographical understandings of historical circulation processes, the role of the local actors, and policy mobilities failure. This history of learning also challenges the assumption that South African cities are unique and in so doing opens the doors for knowledge sharing between postcolonial cities.

Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography, 40: 257-271. doi:10.1111/sjtg.12273


  • Journal Article