The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


DPU Working Paper - No. 146

Exploring 'difference' in place-making


15 October 2012

photo by ©Lerato Maduna, in Benit-Gbaffou, Doerman, Matsipa, 2010

Author: Elsa Soussan Burzynski

Publication Date: October 2012

ISSN 1474-3280

Urban regeneration processes have often been criticised for being insensitive to the needs of vulnerable urban dwellers inhabiting the places to be reinvented. A common argument puts forward their shaping by neoliberal thinking and their endeavour to deliberately displace the poor. This argument tends to overlook the complexities surrounding regeneration processes, as well as the fact that these processes sometimes occur in an overall pro-poor context. In this respect, how can one explain the apparent insensitivity to or inability to meet the needs of the poor through regeneration?

This paper proposes an alternative perspective, focusing on the relation between institutional place-making practices and vulnerable residents’ place-making practices through the lens of the concept of “difference”. Drawing on the case of residential regeneration in the inner city of Johannesburg, it argues that the apparent insensitivity or inability to respond to vulnerable urban dwellers’ needs can be (partly) read as related to the ways in which the latter’s place-making practices are constituted as different in specific planning configurations, and subsequently addressed through planning strategies and interventions. It ultimately points at operationalising a new planning imagination for urban regeneration, one that builds and engages with different place-making practices in a positive and radical manner.

Download this paper