Prof Sophie Oldfield holds the University of Cape Town–University of Basel Professorship in Urban Studies. On 3 October 2017 she gave her inaugural lecture entitled High Stakes, High Hopes: Creating Urban Knowledge Collaboratively at the University of Basel, Switzerland.
According to Oldfield 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.”
Her work examines the high stakes at play in a decade-long research and teaching partnership, which has brought the University of Cape Town and the neighbourhood’s civic organisation in Cape Town to research the city together to collaboratively build urban theory. In narrating the project and partnership, her lecture explored collaborative forms of urban 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.