Claire Benit-Gbaffou

Researcher Profile

My name is Claire Benit-Gbaffou. I am an urban/ political geographer by training. I did my studies in France (Ecole Normale Superieure), and am currently an associate professor at Wits school of architecture and planning, and the acting director of CUBES (Center for Urbanism and the Built environment studies). This research center is interested in the place of the poor in the cities of the South / the materialities of the lives of urban residents (built environment, issues of access to urban public goods, issues of representation and local democracy).

My main research interests are in urban governance and popular politics – the different channels (formal and informal, democratic and non-democratic, etc.) through which low income urban residents access the state, influence urban policies, projects or their implementations. I am developing an interest in local leadership and party politics, inspired in particular by the reading of Partha Chatterjee (2004).

Current Research

  • Ending the coordination of a French-South African research programme (CORUS), 2008-2011, on ‘the voices of the poor in urban governance: participation, mobilisation and politics in SA cities’ (involving about 30 researchers).
  • Part of JUGURTA research programme (Spatial justice, Urban governance and territories in African cities)
  • French ANR programme (2008-2012) involving 5 African countries and partners – I am the South African coordinator.
  • Part of GDRI ‘Governing African cities’ (French-SA research network), University of Bordeaux- University of Stellenbosh (2008-2012)
  • Developing a new comparative research programme on ‘Political societies in cities of the South: an Indian-SA comparison’
  • Coordinated Yeoville Studio, a community oriented research initiative (partnership between Wits School of Architecture and Planning) and community based
    organizations in Yeoville (popular neighbourhood in JHB) – 2010-2012. Preparing the next City studio.

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