Wits City Institute Workshop

Southern Orientations

Southern Constructions

Noëleen Murray, Andrew W. Mellon Chair in Critical Architecture and Urbanism, Director of the Wits City Institute

Blocked Buildings, Queer Concrete

Jonathan Cane, Wits City Institute Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow

Struggles for Housing, Whiteness of the State and Modernism in São Paulo

Stella Paterniani, Visiting student at the African Centre for Cities, UCT

On Renovation in Beira

Pamila Gupta, Associate Professor at WISER (Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research)

Respondent Ângela Ferreira

Tuesday 9 May 2017 / 14.00-17.00 Johannesburg Art Gallery, Joubert Park

Image Credits

Photographer: Bronwyn Cane


In conjunction with the exhibition South Facing by Ângela Ferreira at the Johannesburg Art Gallery, the Wits City Institute convened a workshop on the possibilities and problems of ‘southern’ orientations.

“What does it mean to be oriented? asks Sarah Ahmed. “How is it that we come to find our way in a world that acquires new shapes, depending on which way we turn? … If orientation is a matter of how we reside in space, then [it] might also be a matter of residence, of how we inhabit spaces, and who or what we inhabit spaces with” (2006 Towards a Queer Phenomenology). The ‘South’, as the Comaroffs suggest, has come to replace earlier categories like the Ancient World, the Orient, the Primitive World, the Third World, the Underdeveloped World, the Developing World. It is arguably, however, neither a simple synonym nor only a euphemism for these more unfashionable anachronisms. Rather, the South suggests not only a place but a set of contemporary theoretical concerns, methodologies, relations, and orientations. The most compelling of which is the Comaroffs’ argument for theory from the South—theory that not only works with the postcolonial and post-totalitarian South but offers what one critic called an “anthropology of anticipations”, that is the provocative idea that the South “prefigures the near future of the West” (Juan Obarrio). The seminar, “Southern Orientations”, is an attempt to think through the relations and positions of thinking about cities in, of and from the South.