Urban Worlds

Hosted by University of Johannesberg, South Africa

4 – 7 October 2009

More than half of the world's population currently lives in cities and most people will do so by 2050. Urban populations in Asia
and Africa will double over the next 25 years, and by 2030, 80% of the world's towns and cities will be in the developing world.
The scale and rate of urban growth, particularly in the developing world, is staggering. Lagos, for example, currently has over 10
million inhabitants and this is expected to nearly double by 2015. In South Africa, the Gauteng city-region is expected to grow
to 14 million inhabitants by 2015, putting the region in the top 15 biggest urban areas in the world. Towns and cities are not only
increasing in size, but also in complexity—varying in forms, structures and functions. Migrants with diverse backgrounds, skills
and expectations move to urban areas in their own countries and across borders, despite having to cope with social disruption,
lack of secure housing, poor services and bad environmental conditions. Nevertheless, living in these circumstances is preferred
by many as compared to staying behind in rural areas.

Setha Low (2005) argues that anthropological voices are seldom heard in urban studies discourse although many anthropologists
do research in urban environments. She suggests that the city is under theorised in anthropology. This conference would like
to pose general theoretical and methodological questions about urban anthropology. Are we, for example, doing anthropology
in the city or anthropology of the city? How do we understand social relations and the role of kinship in urban environments?
What is the relevance of a framework using culture to describe and analyse the lives and worlds of city dwellers? How are health
seeking behaviour and healing practices changing to accommodate emerging diseases of lifestyle? What is anthropologists'
involvement in urban research, and in urban policy making?

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