Capital Cities: Space, Justice and Belonging Project

Professor Alan Mabin

Capital cities in young electoral democracies focus the construction sites of justice and belonging in numerous ways and are home to the contestations, debates and engagements out of which something new is born.

Fundamental questions about human condition in the city need to be addressed to realize the potential of a capital city to contribute to unity, peace, cohesion and creative development of people and democracy. To do this, new vocabularies are needed and new practices of working across the traditional disciplines of urban design, architecture, engineering, urban planning and the institutional development of government.


The Capital Cities Project is an exciting and new cross-faculty research project initiated by the Faculty of Humanities, but involving several other faculties within the University of Pretoria community. Researchers and postgraduate students from the Faculties of Humanities; Law; Health Sciences; Natural and Agricultural Sciences; Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology;Theology; and Economic and Management Sciences will collaborate by asking new questions about the city of Pretoria/Tshwane as a city, and as a capital city. The uniqueness of capital cities in general and our capital city in particular, will be investigated from the viewpoint of a variety of disciplines including arts and language, architecture and urban planning, social work, criminology, law, history, drama, psychology, anthropology, political science and economics.


The overall aim of the project is to create a platform for coherent research on and intervention in the city and other capital cities. This common meeting ground will facilitate and coordinate interaction among role-players that engage the City of Tshwane by their research and practice. The project will form a node around which postgraduate training and postdoctoral support can be organised, and from which the leveraging of funding will be facilitated. Collaboration with other universities, local and international communities and governmental departments and municipalities is envisaged.


The Capital Cities Project represents an invitation by the University of Pretoria to the residents of the city, civil society and public authorities on all levels, as well as international communities, to engage one another in theory and practice about the capital cities in which we live, and the capital cities in which we want to live.

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