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Tracing urbanism: methods of actually doing comparative studies in Johannesburg

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This paper locates itself within comparative urbanism by employing the concept of ‘tracing’ as the starting point through which to think across a range of urban experiences. It first reflects on the historical development of comparative urbanism in particular considering the way in which contemporary understandings have been shaped by this long record of debate. From there, the paper refines its focus to ‘tracing’ as one method of actually doing comparative urbanism. Putting this theoretical argument into action, the paper then experiments with three approaches to ‘tracing’ in Johannesburg: the ‘trace’ – a YouTube video, the ‘process of tracing’ – a public lecture by an international urban expert, and the ‘pathways of tracing’ – a network of cities, each of which exhibits a method of actually doing comparative urbanism. These terminologies represent a fine-tuned analysis of ‘tracing’ as both a conceptual framework and a process for actually doing comparative urbanism.
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Keywords: Comparative urbanism; South African urbanism; tracing; urban studies

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Geography, Politics and Sociology, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

Publication date: February 7, 2020

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