The African Centre for Cities (ACC) is pleased to announce that researcher James Duminy has been awarded the Joseph Arenow Prize for the best PhD thesis for 2017 in the Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment (EBE), University of Cape Town.


His thesis, entitled ‘Scarcity, Government, Population: The Problem of Food in Colonial Kenya’, completed under the supervision of Prof Vanessa Watson, was undertaken as part of the ACC’s Consuming Urban Poverty (CUP) project, funded by ESRC and DFID. Since 2014, this project has examined the dynamics of food insecurity and poverty in three secondary African cities: Kisumu, Epworth and Kitwe. CUP has, in part, sought to critique the dominance of ‘productionist’ or supply-oriented responses to African food insecurity – the notion that the continent’s food problems can be solved by simply increasing agricultural production. The project has argued for contextualised responses to the specific food access challenges arising from rapid African urbanization.


Duminy’s thesis explored how food scarcity emerged as a problem and responsibility of the Kenyan colonial government. It analysed the events, policies and political-economic processes through which a ‘productionist’ logic and mode of addressing food scarcity was established before and following the Second World War. By revealing the detailed interests at work in this process, he sought to provide a more historically-informed basis for the critique of contemporary food security practice in Kenya and elsewhere in Africa.


On receiving the award, Duminy said: “I feel surprised, honoured and grateful to have had my thesis been selected for this award. Writing a doctoral thesis is a long and at times difficult process. For most of that process, you aren’t really sure whether your research and writing is good or significant in any way, so this kind of recognition is very meaningful.”


He also feels that it reflects the support and encouragement he consistently received from his friends and colleagues in the ACC, the School of Architecture, Planning and Geomatics, and in the wider EBE faculty.


“They deserve much of the credit and my thanks,” Duminy concludes.