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Incubators at the Frontiers of Capital: An Ethnographic Encounter with Startup Weekend in Khayelitsha, Cape Town


Year published: 2020
Categories: Journal Article

Author / Authors:

  • Andrea Pollio


Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 110:4, 1244-1259, DOI: 10.1080/24694452.2019.1680232


Technology incubators are one of the infrastructural ends at the urban frontiers of capital. When built in areas of poverty in cities of the Global South, these hubs cultivate entrepreneurialism and opportunities for profit at the intersection of development and technological innovation. They promise to address the social challenges of urban marginality with remunerative market solutions. In Cape Town, Africa’s so-called Silicon Cape, the largest technology incubator of the city ventured into its most marginal township—Khayelitsha—in 2015, pledging to lay the infrastructural groundwork for fruitful entrepreneurial innovation. This article recollects, ethnographically, an important moment at the outset of this incubator: a fifty-four-hour franchised hackathon, Startup Weekend, which took place in September 2015 as an inaugural event. The argument of this article is that such an incubator was a sociotechnical formation meant to create the conditions for entrepreneurship in a deprived urban area, relying on a web of material and immaterial connections; that it materialized the rationalities of millennial development as well as alternative goals; and that, as infrastructure, it was patched with diverse aspirations and improvised forms of sociality. The article thus contributes to an urban geography of development that acknowledges its uncertainties and singularities as political openings.


  • Journal Article