James Duminy, MA (2008-2010)

Jame DuminyAfter completing an undergraduate degree in the biosciences and a postgraduate degree in urban planning, both in South Africa, I was fortunate to come across the Masters in Urban History programme offered at the Centre for Urban History (CUH). My studies in urban planning left me with an interest in the history of cities and the ideas surrounding urban improvement and planning, and I was hoping to find a postgraduate programme with a historical and spatial focus. The Urban History programme at the CUH offered precisely the balance of disciplinary and conceptual material I was looking for. It seemed a perfect fit, and I eagerly enrolled to study at the CUH in 2008.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the CUH, particularly the warm, collegial atmosphere of the staff and my fellow students, as well as the intensity of intellectual engagement allowed by the coursework and teaching. I was lucky enough to have my studies at the CUH coincide with the launch of the New History Lab – an exceptional student-led initiative. I found that the Urban History programme provided an excellent balance between learning through peer interaction and individual reading. I greatly developed my skills in the critical analysis of texts and material culture, as well as in writing and discursive argument.

Since graduating from the University of Leicester I have worked as a Research Officer on a series of interdisciplinary research projects operated by the African Centre for Cities, based at the University of Cape Town. These projects have been located in a conceptual space at the intersection of educational, planning and urban theory, as well as what could be termed ‘Southern theory’. The multidisciplinary nature of the Urban History programme has been invaluable in informing my current work, enabling me to feel comfortable in working across different theoretical paradigms and a broad range of applied urban research topics.

Despite the contemporary and applied orientation of my work, the ‘history bug’ remains with me, and I intend to pursue a PhD examining the genealogy of ‘informality’ as a set of discursive and spatial practices in colonial and postcolonial Africa. Staff and students at the CUH certainly deserve credit for helping me to develop an enduring interest in (and understanding of!) postcolonial, poststructuralist and ‘spatialised’ historical thought (and, of course, for keeping me alive by feeding me cake at the regular seminars).

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