ICS Seminar Series - Andrea Pollio and Ilia Antenucci

Date: Thursday 11 May 2017
Time: 11.30am–1pm
Venue: EB.G.35, Western Sydney University, Parramatta South campus

Andrea Pollio and Ilia Antenucci

(Institute for Culture and Society)

The Technopolitics of Ubuntu: City and Citizen-making in Post-apartheid Cape Town


In the last two decades, the construction of contemporary South Africa has relied on various post-apartheid narratives, among which the ethics of Ubuntu (Nguni for humanity)—a word that sealed the epilogue of the transitional constitution of 1993—has been particularly powerful. As a moral philosophy of redistribution and mutuality, Ubuntu marks the idiosyncratic nature of liberal governmentalities in South Africa.

In this paper, we bring together our separate research work in Cape Town, which broadly focuses, respectively, on the two all-encompassing issues of the contemporary city in South Africa: economic marginality (Andrea) and security (Ilia). Our aim is to show the ambiguous pervasiveness of Ubuntu in the making of cities and citizens. By addressing how a postcolonial concept filters down to actual technologies of government, we question the material politics of Ubuntu in techniques and devices of urban development: from technologies of organisation, like private-public partnerships, to anti-poverty infrastructures, like container architectures and NGOs fundraising strategies, to artefacts, like patrolling SegwaysⓇ and GPS-enabled hardware for informal vendors.


Andrea Pollio is completing his PhD at the Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University. He is interested in the relationship between cities and techno-entrepreneurial cultures. His doctoral research has focused on the performativity of economic and humanitarian knowledge in the making of Cape Town's startup 'scene'. His previous publications also addressed questions of technocratic expertise around the introduction of smart city policies in Italy.

Ilia Antenucci is completing her PhD at the Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University. Her research focuses on the role of security discourses and practices in the making of 'smart' or 'global' cities. For her thesis, she has investigated security strategies and urban transformation in Kolkata and Cape Town.