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LCS-GY301 Nourishing Cities: Reading Urban Africa through Food

Food is fundamental to human life everywhere, not only in terms of biology but also in terms of society and culture. In recent years, scholarship on food has grown dramatically as researchers explore how what we grow, buy, cook and eat illuminates many other social dynamics including power relations, deeply-held beliefs, and intimate relationships. Food Studies has thus become one of the most exciting research areas in the social sciences.

Our food systems also shape the places we live in. Given that the African continent is urbanising twice as fast as most other world regions, understanding the relationship between food and our cities is critical. This course uses food as a means to understanding broader urban processes, from the connections between African cities and other global sites, to the micro-politics of identity formation among ordinary city residents. The course has three interwoven threads: (i) we critically engage with the work of some of the foremost theorists to understand the major debates within the interdisciplinary field of Food Studies and how these open up urban issues, (ii) we explore case studies of food production, distribution and consumption across a number of African cities, and (iii) we undertake fieldtrips to several sites within Cape Town where food is the focus of particular city residents.

The course begins with an overview of Food Studies and the history of food in Africa. We explore food systems from a global perspective, paying particular attention to how African cities fit within this, and then shift gears to examine local urban food economies. In the second week, we unpack the ways in which urban governance and policy shape food on the ground, and take a closer look at food as a tangible manifestation of culture in African cities.

Full Course Outline

Shari Daya

Dr Shari Daya is a Senior Lecturer in Human Geography at UCT. Shari’s research interests lie in the sub-discipline of cultural geography and her work focuses on cultures of production and consumption in the global South - particularly Africa and India. She is particularly interested in how urban citizens imagine and participate in ‘alternative’ spaces such as informal, ethical, and social economies. Her current research explores middle-class consumer ethics and identity through food in three South African cities. She has an additional interest in literary representations of cities, and is involved in an ongoing project exploring the modern Indian city through contemporary English-language stories.



Jane Battersby

Dr Jane Battersby is a Researcher at the African Centre for Cities at UCT. Jane is an urban geographer with an interest in all things food related. Her current areas of particular interest are urban food systems, urban food policies and the construction of food security theory in Northern and Southern research contexts. This work has both theoretical and applied components. Underpinning her food work is an ongoing interest in the linkages between spatial transformation and identity transformation in post-apartheid urban areas – a topic she has addressed through the lenses of youth identities, education, music and land restitution. Jane has been the Cape Town Partner of the African Food Security Urban Network (AFSUN) since 2008, and is currently the Research Co-ordinator of the ACC’s Consuming Urban Poverty Project, and is associated with the Hungry Cities Programme.