A virtual conference is the perfect online destination!

But ,while POLLEN 2022’s stimulating presentations and fascinating conversations will be taking place online, and the conference team will be hard at work behind-the-scenes and screens to create this vi.rtual gathering from on-the-ground in South Africa, let’s not forget that the conference originated out of the Centre for Civil Society at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Howard College in Durban, South Africa



Video courtesy of Durban Tourism

Famous for its tropical climate and home to popular attractions like the the Golden Mile Boardwalk – the longest beachfront promenade in sub-Saharan Africa – Durban (also known as its administrative entity eThekwini Municipality) is a large metropolitan city located on the east coast of South Africa.

Durban has a population of 3.66 million people and has high levels of poverty, unemployment, and informality. The city was developed as a colonial city in the nineteenth century. Its built form was therefore significantly shaped by colonial and, later, apartheid era discourses and practices of racial separation, as well as a post-apartheid ‘vortex’ of transition and rapid urbanization. Durban houses the largest and busiest port in Africa, and second largest manufacturing centre in South Africa, as economic growth and trade drove the emergence and growth of the city from its genesis.

Durban is thus a product of global flows of capital, goods, people, diverse cultures (exhibiting a strong Afro-Indian character), and knowledge, and an intermediary between the global economy, and the South and Southern African hinterlands. Today, Durban contributes approximately 11% of national gross value added.

Africa’s oldest surviving botanical garden. Image credit: Durban Botantic Gardens Facebook

eThekwini is located within a biodiversity hotspot, the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany Region, with 25% of its species being endemic to this region. As a result of this high biodiversity, its location in the transitional zone between a warm subtropical and cooler temperate climate, and its varied topography, the municipality’s unique biogeographical position supports a wide range of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, and serves as a tourist destination on the African continent.

Explore Durban on your next trip to South Africa. Discover more with Durban Tourism

This text was excerpted and adapted from Sutherland, C., Scott, D., Nel, E. et al. Conceptualizing ‘the Urban’ Through the Lens of Durban, South Africa. Urban Forum 29, 333–350 (2018).

For more information please visit the Durban Tourism website.

North, South, and beyond in Durban:

In line with the conference theme (Political Ecology: North, South, and Beyond), Durban has been used for the construction of new geographies of urban theory based on the experiences of cities in the Global South – as a lens to provide insight into the changing nature of cities in the Global South and Africa in particular, and to “recalibrate urban theory” (see Sutherland et al. 2019).

There are diverse learnings from the experiences and challenges Durban faces as it grapples with its history, and contemporary socio-economic-political-environmental and global realities. Particularly striking in this regard are the efforts to embrace tradition and modernity, rural and urban life and dual governance, efforts to enhance sustainable environmental management, to enhance economic development, and how the city has tried to negotiate its colonial and apartheid history in the contemporary era. However, issues of social contestation, marginalization, and discrimination continue to characterize elements of social life in the city.

As such, Durban exemplifies the realities facing cities both in the North and the South and hence is an ‘ordinary city’, with trajectories and processes that need to be better reflected upon and re-theorized in general urban theory, which all too often are portrayed as dualistic rather than relational conceptions of urban geography.

This text was excerpted and adapted from Sutherland, C., Scott, D., Nel, E. et al. Conceptualizing ‘the Urban’ Through the Lens of Durban, South Africa. Urban Forum 29, 333–350 (2018).