Global Discourse
An interdisciplinary journal of current affairs

Surviving in Overcome Heights: living in and alongside crisis in Cape Town

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  • 1 Aalborg University and the Danish Institute Against Torture (DIGNITY), , Denmark
  • | 2 Aarhus University, , Denmark, and University of Cape Town, , South Africa
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What can surviving in Overcome Heights teach us about the concept of crisis? In the multi-ethnic informal settlement in Cape Town, residents faced multiple and continuously unfolding emergencies during our ethnographic, participatory fieldwork in 2018 and 2019. By taking an inductive approach to crisis, we explore the layered nature of crisis and foreground a sensitivity towards how differently positioned actors have distinct modes of being the protagonists of, confronting or engaging with crisis. By examining how intersecting inequalities on the margins of the city place people sometimes within and sometimes alongside crisis, we sketch out three different scales and temporalities of crisis: individual, communal and crisis as large-scale historical structures. Understanding survival in Overcome Heights as lives lived in and alongside crisis means resisting neat theorical definitions of crisis. Rather, we suggest that it may be an analytical heuristic to pose new questions as to how phenomena that may politically, institutionally and temporally be considered as separate intersect, compounding their negative effects, and how actors within these intersections are positioned differently along spatial lines and the temporal rhythms of urban life.

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  • 1 Aalborg University and the Danish Institute Against Torture (DIGNITY), , Denmark
  • | 2 Aarhus University, , Denmark, and University of Cape Town, , South Africa

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