Publication Date



Sonali Chakravarti


College of Social Studies


English (United States)


In the twenty years since the end of Apartheid, historical, cultural, and economic arguments all suggest that Cape Town’s pursuit of the designation of “World-Class City,” is fully underway. The city’s desire to integrate globally is no secret, given its embrace of the ideology and practice of neoliberal urban governance, which promote privatization, liberalization, and deregulation, and, somewhat counter intuitively, mobilize the state towards these ends. The exclusionary urban experiences that this form of governance initiates and sustains, however, is not always apparent; even the City of Cape Town’s development planning processes systematically exclude the interests of the majority of Capetonians. Compare this understanding of the city against its radically progressive governing documents, which explicitly state commitments to both political and socioeconomic rights and vow to correct Apartheid-era wrongs, and it is obvious that at stake in Cape Town’s urban development is the realization of another version of the “World-Class City”—one that is less economically determined, and more so defined by the diversity and inclusivity of its opportunities. This thesis takes up the charge of how to theorize and imagine the displacement of the economistic version of the World-Class City, in order to promote the ideal in its more inclusive formation. It argues that the normative goals of urban development must be overhauled if inclusivity is to be realized; instead of privileging distributions, the alternative normative framework proposed re-politicizes the processes employed in development planning and rejects neoliberal urban governance’s universalizing prescriptive tendencies in favor of the celebration and protection of social difference and contextual specificity in urban policy. To these ends, the thesis concludes with an assessment of the theory and practice of current resistance in Cape Town in order to propose resistance strategies that are likely to succeed in realizing Cape Town as an inclusive World-Class City.



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