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HSRC Press :: Imagining the City

Imagining the City
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Imagining the City

Memories and cultures in Cape Town

Sean Field, Renate Meyer, Felicity Swanson (eds)

Format168mm x 240mm
ISBN 100-7969-2179-2
ISBN 13978-07969-2179-6
Publish Year2007
DescriptionRelated ProductsEmail To A FriendProduct RatingCustomer Reviews

Imagining the City :: Memories and cultures in Cape TownFree DownloadImagining the City :: Memories and cultures in Cape Town
PodcastIn this HSRC Press podcast package of three segments, we hear the views from historians who took part in the panel discussion "Writing History in the Wake of Apartheid - How one writes history in the post-apartheid period" at the Cape Town Book Fair 2009. First up was oral historian Dr Sean Field, Director of the Centre for Popular Memory at the University of Cape Town.

Duration: 4 min 39 sec


“The overriding strength of this book is that it places people – ordinary people – at the centre of memory, at the centre of historical and contemporary experience, and thus at the centre of re-imagining and owning the city of Cape Town. It is as they speak – what they choose to say, what they choose to remain silent about, that we become aware of the possibilities of the city, if it really did embrace all its people, in all of their diversity.”
From the Foreword by Mike van Graan, playwright and arts activist

Cities are not only made of buildings and roads, they are also constructed through popular imagination and spaces of representation. Imagining the City: Memories and Cultures in Cape Town presents an array of oral and visual histories drawn from people, who live, work and creatively express themselves in the city.

This book explores the apartheid legacies of the city and demonstrates that cultural life flourished through people’s resilience in spite of adversity. Authors move beyond apartheid history to analyse the reflective ways in which people are coming to terms with that history through memory work, performance and memorialisation. Other chapters provide contemporary views of local interactions such as moments of urban violence or people negotiating the challenges of a globalised world.

Whatever the context, this book traces social and cultural interactions over time and across city spaces that speak directly to the senses, memories and imagining of Cape Town.

Imagining the City makes an important contribution to public discourse about a vision for, and ownership of the city by affirming the memory of its inhabitants, and by hinting at the work that can, and should still be done in foregrounding memory and culture in the re-imagination of Cape Town as a city.


Foreword (Mike van Graan)
Introduction (Sean Field and Felicity Swanson)

Disruptive memories
1 Sites of memory in Langa (Sean Field)
2 So there I sit in a Catch-22 situation’: Remembering and imagining trauma in the District Six Museum (Sofie M.M.A. Geschier)
3 Between waking and dreaming: Living with urban fear, paradox and possibility (Renate Meyer)
4 The quickest way to move on is to go back’: Bomb blast survivors’ narratives of trauma and recovery  (Anastasia Maw)
5 Where is home? Transnational migration and identity amongst Nigerians in Cape Town (Iyonawan Masade)

Resilient cultures
6 ‘Catch with the eye’: Stories of Muslim food in Cape Town (Gabeba Baderoon)
7 Julle kan ma New York toe gaan, ek bly in die Manenberg’: An oral history of jazz in Cape Town from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s (Colin Miller)
8 Da struggle kontinues into the 21st century: Two decades of nation-conscious rap in Cape Town (Ncedisa Nkonyeni)
9 Changing nature: working lives on Table Mountain, 1980–2000  (Louise Green)
10 ‘Language of the eyes’: Stories of contemporary visual art practice in Cape Town (Thabo Manetsi and Renate Meyer)
11 ‘Die SACS kom terug’: Intervarsity rugby, masculinity and white identity at the University of Cape Town, 1960s–1970s  (Felicity Swanson)

About the Author/s

Dr Sean Field is the Director of the Centre for Popular Memory in the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Cape Town.

Renate Meyer is a researcher and archival officer with the Centre for Popular Memory

Felicity Swanson is a training co-ordinator with the Centre for Popular Memory


Extract from review by Christopher Merrett (The Witness, Pietermaritzburg) in The African Book Publishing Record, Vol. XXXIV/2/2008 p.95:

"This is an intriguing collection of 11 essays about the memory and identity of ordinary people of Cape Town "below the radar of officialdom" (p. v). The recent history of the city is considered in terms of popular culture using material gathered mainly from interviews. The chapters are divided neatly in two under the headings 'disruptive memories' and 'resilient culture'. ... Imagining the City is a work of urban sociology and geography that can also be recommended for general collections on South African history. Furthermore it is a good practical example of oral history method."

Click on the links below to see more reviews:

Cape Mail & Guardian 17 Aug 2007



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