CityLab: Super-diversity

MPI-MMG signs Memorandum of Understanding with University of Cape Town to launch a new  ‘CityLab: Super-diversity’.

In collaboration with the Max-Planck-Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity (MPI-MMG), the African Centre for Cities (ACC) will establish and host the ‘CityLab: Super-diversity’. The new CityLab will sit alongside a number of other CityLabs within the ACC (see http://africancentreforcities.net/ ).

The new CityLab: Super-diversity will follow already established ACC CityLabs in form, structure, activities, website design and reporting mechanisms with the ACC. The CityLab: Super-diversity will pursue a research programme relevant to the ‘Super-diversity, South Africa’ agenda described in an earlier MoU between the Parties.

Professor Edgar Pieterse (UCT/ACC) will act as Director of the CityLab: Super-diversity. Professor Gordon Pirie will act as his support and alternate Acting Director when Prof Pieterse may be engaged with other commitments. Prof. Pieterse will be assisted by a CityLab: Super-diversity Steering Committee that includes Prof. Steven Vertovec (MPG), Prof. Robin Cohen (Oxford), Prof. Gordon Pirie (UCT/ACC). Additional ACC staff who will be involved in the CityLab: Super-diversity research programme are Professor Susan Parnell (member of ACC’s Executive Committee) and Warren Smit (Manager of the ACC’s CityLab programme). The CityLab: Super-diversity research programme will be linked into broader research programmes of ACC and MPG where possible.

The CityLab: Super-diversity research programme will initially develop around four thematic clusters:

  1. Contact and the labour market. This theme concerns (a) the nature, quality and quantity of social interaction between individuals of various backgrounds as well as the effects such modes of contact have upon inter-group attitudes, and (b) the labour market experiences of individuals of various backgrounds, particularly the ways in which individuals gain information about, and access to, the labour market. The main activities of this cluster surround a large-scale survey in Johannesburg and Cape Town (already underway under the auspices of the original MOU between the Parties).

  2. Prof. Owen Crankshaw (UCT) and Professor Miles Hewstone (Oxford) will jointly share the role of Research Coordinator. Dr. Hermann Swart (Stellenbosch) will assist Prof. Hewstone with data analysis of contact questions, while Dr. Elena Moore (UCT) acts as survey manager, and will also assist Prof. Crankshaw in data analysis surrounding labour market questions.

  3. The socio-linguistics of super-diversity. This theme concerns the variety of ways people adapt to ever-increasingly complex contexts of multilingualism (arising from combined processes of migration, new features and functions of signs within transformative linguistic landscapes, and rapid development of communication technologies). The cluster’s main activities include data collection, assemblage and digitizing of existing documentation, and new ways of visualizing and mapping linguistic phenomena (in conjunction with thematic cluster 3.), and training of young scholars through conferences, expert workshops and summer schools. Work within this thematic cluster is to be undertaken with reference to a MOU between MPI-MMG and the University of the Western Cape, currently under development.

  4. The cluster will be largely centred at, and developed through collaboration with, the Centre for Multilingual Studies at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), supported by a cluster-specific Research Committee comprised of Prof. Chris Stroud (UWC), Prof. Raj Meshtrie (UCT), Prof. Jan Blommaert (Tilburg) and Dr. Karel Arnaut (MPI-MMG).

  5. Visualizing urban diversities. This theme concerns two meanings of ‘visualizing’: one addresses techniques for creating, gathering and documenting urban visual material (especially photography, film and video) regarding a range of diversity dynamics in Cape Town; another refers to making data concerning the city visible in new and analytically compelling ways (such as innovative graphics and GIS mapping). Within this cluster the main activities will include development and collection of visual resources, and development and training surrounding state-of-the-art data graphics and cartography. This cluster will be developed in collaboration with the GLOBALDIVERCITIES project at MPI-MMG.

  6. Prof. Pieterse (UCT/ACC) and Prof. Vertovec (MPI-MMG) will jointly share the role of Research Coordinator, with activities supported by Ismail Farouk and Tau Tavengwa (both ACC), Dr. Norbert Winnige and Alexei Matveev (both MPI-MMG).

  7. Diversity and public space. The theme addresses public spaces – approached as physical settings such as streets, squares, parks and markets which are in principle accessible to all regardless of background. In practice, public spaces are differentially perceived and experienced with respect to markers and modes of diversity (gender, age, ethnicity, legal status, disability, etc.). Cluster activities will include qualitative research on the variegated meanings of specific public spaces in Cape Town, undertaken in conjuction with the thematic cluster on visualizing urban diversities. The research entry point will be public art initiatives undertaken to provide a basis for inter-cultural dialogue and engagement.

  8. This cluster is to be coordinated by Edgar Pieterse and Gordon Pirie (both UCT/ACC) and Darshan Vigneswaran (MPI-MMG).

The CityLab: Super-diversity will produce a series of qualitative research studies (original data and a documentation depository), research outputs (edited volumes, academic articles and various visual materials) and activities (conferences, workshops, exhibitions and summer schools) during 2012 and 2013. All publications and activities produced will acknowledge both MPI-MMG and ACC.