Politics and Community-Based Research. Perspectives from Yeoville Studio, Johannesburg

Edited by Claire Benit-Gbaffou, Sarah Charlton, Sophie Didier, Kirsten Dörmann

Wits University Press, 2019, 432 p. (with the support of IFAS-Research)

Yeoville Studio was a research and learning initiative driven by a collaboration between the Wits School of Architecture and Planning and several community partners in Yeoville, Johannesburg. It ran from 2010 to 2012 and aimed to produce research that would be of relevance, use and interest to the Yeoville community. As a result of the project, a book edited by Claire Benit-Gbaffou, Sarah Charlton, Sophie Didier, Kirsten Dörmann. 
Politics and Community-Based Research: Perspectives from Yeoville Studio, Johannesburg provides a textured analysis of a contested urban space that will resonate with other contested urban spaces around the world and challenges researchers involved in such spaces to work in creative and politicised ways. This edited collection is built around the experiences of Yeoville Studio, a research initiative based at the School of Architecture and Planning at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. Through themed, illustrated stories of the people and places of Yeoville, the book presents a nuanced portrait of the vibrance and complexity of a post-apartheid, peri-central neighbourhood that has often been characterised as a ‘slum’ in Johannesburg. These narratives are interwoven with theoretical chapters by scholars from a diversity of disciplinary backgrounds, reflecting on the empirical experiences of the Studio and examining academic research processes. These chapters unpack the engagement of the Studio in Yeoville, including issues of trust, the need to align policy with lived realities and social needs, the political dimensions of the knowledge produced and the ways in which this knowledge was, and could be used.

Claire Bénit-Gbaffou is an associate professor at Aix-Marseille University, a researcher at CHERPA (Sciences Po Aix), and a visiting researcher at the Centre for Urbanism and Built Environment Studies (CUBES) at the School of Architecture and
Planning at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

Sarah Charlton is an associate professor in the School of Architecture and Planning, and the associate director of CUBES, at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

Sophie Didier is a professor at the Paris School of Planning, University Paris-Est, France and a researcher at Lab’Urba.

Kirsten Dörmann is a lecturer in the School of Architecture and Planning, and a researcher at CUBES at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

The book is available in paperback or eBook.

Table of contents 


Section A Introducing the book

  • Chapter 1 Why tell the story of Yeoville Studio? – Claire Bénit-Gbaffou
  • Chapter 2 Introducing Yeoville: Context and representations – Sophie Didier and Claire Bénit-Gbaffou
  • Chapter 3 Exploring the politics of community-engaged research – Claire Bénit-Gbaffou

Section B Narrating: The politics of constructing local identities

  • Chapter 4 Introduction – Sophie Didier
  • Chapter 5 Being young in Yeoville – Potsiso Phasha
  • Chapter 6 Africa Week Festival in Yeoville: Reclaiming a social and political space through art – Pauline Guinard
  • Chapter 7 Love stories – Willy-Claude Hebandjoko, Claire Bénit-Gbaffou and Shahid Vawda
  • Chapter 8 Constructing Yeoville community: Public meetings, local leadership and managing xenophobic discourse – Claire Bénit-Gbaffou and Eulenda Mkwanazi
  • Chapter 9 Yeoville as a transgressional space: Voëlvry and the Afrikaner counterculture of the 1980s – Maria Suriano, William Dewar and Clara Pienaar-Lewis
  • Chapter 10 Leaving Yeoville – Sophie Didier and Ophélie Arrazouaki
  • Chapter 11 The Yeoville Stories project: Looking for public history in Johannesburg – Sophie Didier and Naomi Roux

Section C Recommending: From understanding micro-politics to imagining policy

  • Chapter 12 Introduction – Sarah Charlton
  • Chapter 13 My place in Yeoville: Housing stories – Kirsten Dörmann, Mpho Matsipa and Claire Bénit-Gbaffou
  • Chapter 14 Urban compounding in Johannesburg – Kirsten Dörmann and Solam Mkhabela
  • Chapter 15 Community land trusts and social inclusion – Heinz Klug and Neil Klug
  • Chapter 16 Building stories – Claire Bénit-Gbaffou
  • Chapter 17 Learning from low-income living in an inner-city suburb to inform policy – Sarah Charlton
  • Chapter 18 Sharing a flat in Yeoville: Trajectories, experiences, relationships – Simon Sizwe Mayson
  • Chapter 19 Running a spaza shop – Mamokete Matjomane
  • Chapter 20 Integrating the ‘community’ in the governance of urban informality at the neighbourhood level – Mamokete Matjomane and Claire Bénit-Gbaffou

Section D Politicising: Community-based research and the politics of knowledge

  • Chapter 21 Introduction – Claire Bénit-Gbaffou
  • Chapter 22 Street trader stories – Nicolette Pingo
  • Chapter 23 Designing with informality: Towards an urban design framework for Yeoville’s main street – Abdul Abed
  • Chapter 24 Street photography and the politics of representation: A portrait of Muller Street – Claire Bénit-Gbaffou and Sally Gaule
  • Chapter 25 Knowledge construction in a multidisciplinary perspective: Portraying Natal-Saunders Street – Solam Mkhabela, Claire Bénit-Gbaffou and Kirsten Dörmann
  • Chapter 26 Knowledge capital and urban community politics in Yeoville – Obvious Katsaura
  • Chapter 27 Activists in their own words – Eulenda Mkwanazi and Nicolette Pingo
  • Chapter 28 Knowledge production and the politics of community engagement: Working with informal traders in Yeoville and beyond – Claire Bénit-Gbaffou
  • Contributors
  • Photography credits
  • Acronyms
  • List of tables and figures
  • Index