Making Sense of Multiple Conversations: Research, Teaching, and Activism in and with Communities in South African Cities

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South African Geographical Journal/ Suid-Afrikaanse Geografiese Tydskrif

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University of Cape Town

In the South African context, our research is produced in multiple conversations that include conventional academic disciplinary communities, but extends beyond the university, engaging with a range of social and political institutions and actors. As a result, the relationship between research, theory and politics frames our research in explicit and implicit ways. I draw here on my own practice as a researcher, teacher, and activist to examine the ways in which my engagement with community organizations articulates into conventional university activities of research and teaching; but, as importantly, the ways in which it is shaped by community-based agenda that not only inform the research but sustain the relationships critical to my research. I conclude that the overlapping nature of research, teaching and activism is more than a political and contextual imperative, potentially it is a theoretical strength that adds depth, reflexivity, and, in the relationships built, the construction of robust urban knowledge.