PhD Seminar Series: Democratic Practices of Unequal Geographies

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ACC’s NOTRUC project presents the annual PhD Seminar Series on Democratic Practices

ACC Winter School on “Democratic Practices of Unequal Geographies”, year III PhD Course/Seminar, University of Cape Town

Democratic Practices of Unequal Geographies

The ACC Winter School on Democratic Practices of Unequal Geographies is about reading political philosophy with and against Southern urbanism. Rather than a geographical container, we are interested in the global South as an epistemological position and a field of experience that can trouble and re-new both radical urban theory and political theory. The Winter School has been developed by Dr Henrik Ernstson and Dr Andrés Henao Castro as a contribution to critical urban and political theory, and in 2017 this was done together with Dr Ashley Bohrer. Now (during 2017-2018) we are planning the coming years of the seminar, which will develop from the three previous years. To get a good understanding of the Winter School, please see our detailed course descriptions and reading lists from previous years.


In summary, we have focused on three themes: The DemosThe Politics and The Police:

  • In 2015 we focused on THE DEMOS. The seminar was entitled “Reading Political Theory with Southern Urbanism” and focused on classic and contemporary political theory from Aristotle, Plato, Jacques Ranciére, Bonnie Honig and Wendy Brown, to Southern urbanism, including amongst others, Comaroff and Comaroff, Richard Pithouse, Edgar Pieterse, and Achille Mbembe.
  • In 2016, THE POLITICS put focus on the ability to interrupt normalized orders with equality as principle. It was entitled “The Aesthetical and the Political of Unequal Geographies,” and included texts by Jacques Ranciére, Karl Marx, Walter Benjamin, and Elias Canetti with artist-related work from the Black Radical Tradition with Saidiya Hartman and Fred Moten, and interventions in Southern cities, including essays by Dominique Malaquais, Achille Mbembe, Asef Bayat, Filip De Boek, and Fiona C. Ross.
  • In 2017, THE POLICE, we focused on the normalized and oppressive orders that are engendered by patriarchal, neocolonial and racist patterns of social relations. The seminar was entitled “Understanding Capitalism in Unequal Geographies” and meant to discuss essays from the Marxist tradition and works on intersectionality, including Karl Marx, Anne McClintock, Angela Davis, Silvia Federici, Iyoko Day and Jason C. Moore, with Southern urbanism work by Rosalind Fredericks, Gautam Bhan, Koni Benson and Faeza Meyer, Colin McFarlane and Jonathan Silver, amongst others.

Who is it for? Who has participated?

The course is especially directed to PhD students and younger scholars from South African and African universities that wants to engage in a high-intensity reading seminar around critical theory and urban research. The aim is to provide the space to think with others about your own research and find ways to develop your work and thought in relation to contemporary critical and urban theoretical notions around equality, class, race, gender, power, capitalism and democracy.

In total we have had 44 participants with some taking the course more than once. These participants have come from South Africa, Kenya, Namibia, Botswana, Italy, Sweden, UK, USA, representing Durban University of Technology, University of Cape Town, University of the Western Cape, University of the Witwatersrand, Gauteng City-Region Observatory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, The University of Manchester, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, New School (New York), and York University.

Updates on the course for 2018 will be done at this website. For more and detailed information, go to the course webpage here.

The Lecturers and Organisers
The seminar series is part of the ACC’s Notations on Theories of Radical Urban Change (NOTRUC) project, lead by Henrik Ernstson and Edgar Pieterse.

Dr. Andrés Fabián Henao Castro is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts Boston. His research deals with the relationships between ancient and contemporary political theory, via the prisms of de-colonial theory and poststructuralism. He is currently working on a book that explores different subject-positions and forms of agency imagined in the theoretical reception of Sophocles’ tragedy Antigone. He is also a member of the international research network Performance Philosophy, a columnist for the online journal of political analysis Palabras al Margen (Words at the Margins), and a member of Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine at UMB.

Dr. Ashley J. Bohrer is a feminist, activist, writer, translator, teacher, and philosopher based in Syracuse, New York. She holds the Truax Postdoctoral Fellowship in Public Philosophy and works as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Hamilton College in New York. Her academic work explores the interstices of philosophy, critical race studies, decolonial theory, intersectional feminism, and Marxism. She holds graduate degrees in both Philosophy and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. She has studied, taught, or held research positions in the United States, France, China, and Germany. In addition to her academic work, Ashley is a committed organizer who works with, among other organizations, International Women’s Strike US, the Center for Jewish Nonviolence, and Jewish Voice for Peace. Ashley is currently finishing a book project that traces the ways in which the rise of capitalism in the fifteenth through eighteenth centuries was structured intersectionally.

Dr. Henrik Ernstson is a Research Fellow and Principal Investigator from the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm; and an Honorary Visiting Scholar at the University of Cape Town, where he has been since 2010. His theoretical and empirical work is focused on the politics and collective organizing around urban ecology, including urban land and wetlands, with his new projects focusing on the access to clean water, sanitation and electricity. His recent studies in Cape Town, South Africa, has been an ethnographic study about ‘who can claim to be in the know’ of urban ecology, and a large social network study that interviewed over 130 civil society organizations to understand different modes of collective action around the highly unequal urban environment of Cape Town. With others, he is developing a situated approach to urban political ecology drawing upon upon critical geography, global South urbanism and postcolonial theory, social mobilization theory and environmental history. Theoretically he has recently tried to think with Jacques Ranciére’s ideas of democracy, politics and the political through everyday settings in Cape Town and the city’s of the global south. For more information, see and his publications at

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