CFP: Urban Anxieties in the Global South

16 August 2017 

A workshop at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa 

We live in an age of free-floating anxiety. Popular media, culture and politics are awash with concern about the future of economies, of democracy, of modernity, of the planet. The regions sometimes defined as the ‘global south’ feature strongly in these anxieties. Across the world, media and political discourses repeat the notion that global south cities are deeply enmeshed in continuing crises around movement, terrorism and the environment. In many of these narratives the global south features as the bogeyman in a northern imaginary, with anxieties about migration, religion, identity and trade from the south leading to rightwing backlash in the north. But what about the south’s own imaginary? What keeps us up at night in the megacities of the global south? 

This workshop is premised around a very basic reality: to feel anxiety about the global south is very different to feeling anxiety in the global south. The dominant discourse about urban life in the south is objective, a steady stream of scholarship that essentially views southern megacities as large problems to quantify and to solve. We are proposing an alternative approach: a focus on global south urban subjectivities and an attempt to map experiences of contemporary urban anxiety in the global south. 

The workshop aims to draw together perspectives from a variety of disciplines and methodologies to begin a contemporary conversation around discourse, space, narrative, cultural production and lived experience as they relate to anxious global south cities. The workshop is intended to initiate the development of a network of researchers in the south who share similar interests, as well as to result in publication. Scholars who work in this area but are unable to attend are encouraged to contact the organisers in order to be invited to future projects. 

Keywords and possible subthemes: 

  • Risk, crime, security
  • Anxious selves, anxiety-inducing others
  • Health and environment
  • Media, literary, artistic representations of anxious global south cities
  • Wealth and poverty
  • The future
  • Northern actions, southern consequences
  • Cultures of fear
  • Class and consumption

Please submit abstracts of around 300 words, along with a brief biography, to nicky.falkof@wits.ac.za or cobus.vanstaden@wits.ac.za by 30 April 2017. This event is co-hosted by Wits Media Studies and WISER (Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research).