Ph.D. defense/Soutenance de thèse – Une ville moyenne pour des classes moyennes

Une ville moyenne pour des classes moyennes ?

Discours et acteurs de la fabrique urbaine. Une étude du cas de Johannesburg, un détour comparatif par New Delhi.

Karen Lévy (Université Paris Nanterre).

Sous la direction de Philippe Gervais-Lambony (Université Paris Nanterre / UMR LAVUE).

La soutenance aura lieu le 19 octobre de 14h à 17h à l’Université Paris Nanterre, bâtiment Pierre Grappin (Bât. B), salle B15.


An Average City for the Middle Class ?

Urban Factory Discourse and Actors. The Case Study of Johannesburg (with a Detour in New Delhi).

The post-apartheid urban policies of the last decades aiming at “rebuilding” the nation, have not led to reducing spatial injustice in Gauteng. Spurred on by private actors, bottom-of-the-range closed residences, which symbolise the upward social mobility of the middle class, spread new forms of relegation and fragmentation, thereby challenging social links, urban sprawl and growing mobility. The little research carried out on this “average” city, which is meant to be synonymous with progress and modernity, is an opportunity to develop new thoughts on existing interrelations between urban production, practices and territories.

Far from being monolithic, bottom-of-the-range housing is being developed through many specific and geographically located institutional arrangements. The role played by private actors involved in urban governance has become the keystone of the city’s contemporary transformations. The novelty behind this research work is that it reveals the principles of what constitutes specialised and spatialized expertise, thereby shedding light on the codification process of practices and, as such, the birth of institutionalised security town planning within the metropolis.


Karen Lévy is an architect and town planner, she has been a research associate to IFAS-Recherche since 2014. Her fieldwork in Johannesburg from 2014 to 2017 was supported by AFD (French Agency for Development), Université Paris Nanterre/UMR LAVUE and IFAS-Recherche. She is the author of Small Atlas of Johannesburg. A Graphical and Critical Analysis of Urban Trends and Issues, Johannesburg, Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and Institut Français d’Afrique du Sud (IFAS), 2014.