Thinking about urban dynamics and processes in any society is very much influenced by what is deemed rural or urban, or even whether we are simply discussing a spectrum from ‘rural’ to increasingly ‘urban’ settlements with no clear cutoffs. Labels and definitions matter if only to enable effective discussion. There are often good justifications for different positions on what ‘urban’ means and different starting points can all lead to thoughtful insights about what is going on. However debates can be tedious or misleading if differing premises are not recognized. Different settlement types can have many different implications for ‘development’ although much of the work in sub-Saharan Africa tends to focus on the economic implications.
This seminar will reflect on some of these issues, drawing on examples of widely differing interpretations of urban dynamics in Eastern and Southern African countries.