High Stakes, High Hopes creates urban theory in the political and physical realities of everyday southern city life. In a city bursting at its seams, struggling to deliver services, to manage the conflicts that threaten to tear it asunder. In a township neighbourhood grappling with evictions, with the legacies of apartheid, forced to fight for every right, service, and resource. And, in a university up on the city's mountain slopes, tasked to teach the city, to theorise its pasts and futures. This work examines the high stakes at play in a decade-long research and teaching partnership, which has brought this university and the neighbourhood’s civic organization in Cape Town to research the city together to collaboratively build urban theory. In narrating the project and partnership, this lecture will explore collaborative forms of theory, immersed in the registers, inspirations and meanings of everyday struggles and learning across the city. This approach brings together multiple voices, registers and accounts, shaping urban theory in shared spaces across the city. In this context of extreme urban inequality, this approach to theorising infuses the personal, political, and public struggles through which urban theory is generated, expertise opened up, and solidarity and commitment built.
Sophie Oldfield is the University of Cape Town and University of Basel Professor in Urban Studies, based at the African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town and in the Department of Social Sciences at University of Basel. Her post-graduate studies at University of Minnesota were completed in the Department of Geography and as part of ICGC. Her research focuses on informality and governance, and urban politics. She has a track-record of excellence in collaborative research practice, challenging how academics work in and between ‘university’ and ‘community’. Commitment to this collaborative approach lies at the heart of her research and writing on cities of the global south.