I believe urban planning does not end with a plan. It only begins there.
Broadly, I study how communities contest and repurpose planning schemes and the resultant composition of cities, regions, and territories. I draw on mixed-methods research, institutional analysis, urban planning history and theory, and planning law. My research lies at the intersection of public policy, democracy, and equitable urban development, focusing on the everyday local state through on-the-ground institutions of urban planning.
My dissertation research considers specific tactics of bottom-up accommodation, negotiation, and resistance to apartheid-era spatial planning practice in one former South African "Bantustan" capital city, a non-white receiving site of widespread forced relocation, Mmabatho and today Mahikeng, North West, South Africa. Focusing on this case study of Mahikeng, my study finds that residents have repurposed top-down technocratic planning premises with an array of multi-actor amalgams, creative assemblages, and heterogeneous spatial forms. Residents respond to public architecture and planning with amalgams that remain subject to contestation, disruption, repurposing, and innovation. I believe that repurposing is a glimpse into grassroots popular democracy. From my research, a general lesson applicable to the field of urban planning and processes of urbanization emerges: planning does not end with the plan; it merely begins with the plan.
My interest lies in how those relocated residents, those whom we might call the “planned upon,” received colonial and apartheid plans, and how varied resistances produced, fomented, or otherwise reworked master-planning premises. To engage such processes, I draw on institutional analysis and mixed methods including archival research, semi-structured interviews, and a close analytic readings of built sites.
Residents' responses to public architecture and planning themselves remain subject to contestation, disruption, repurposing, and innovation. These responses of repurposing stem from healing, but also for both universal and contextually specific demands for human dignity, economic equality, and social justice.
Connected to my dissertation, related research projects consider the ways in which land, law, and property condition urban planning, and how planning is embedded, historicized, and institutionalized within specific community contexts, power relations, and socioeconomic struggles.