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PhD in Urban Planning Lecture – Dr. Joseph Schaffers

Dr. Joe Schaffers (District Six Museum) delivers the inaugural PhD in Urban Planning Lecture, “Forced Evictions, Memory, and Hope: The Story of District Six, Cape Town” with an introduction by Tom Slater (Professor of Urban Planning, GSAPP).

Prior to the 1950s, Cape Town was one of the least racially segregated cities in sub-Saharan Africa, but all that changed in dramatic fashion under the apartheid system (1948-1994). In this lecture, Dr. Schaffers tells the story of what happened to the people of District Six, an extraordinarily vibrant and diverse neighborhood in the heart of Cape Town that was destroyed by apartheid. From 1966 to 1984, the District Six community was torn apart following the declaration of apartheid urban planners that it would become an area for the “sole occupation of the white race group.” This policy was implemented in order to turn valuable urban land to more profitable uses and to realize the apartheid dream of turning the central city into a White city serviced by cheap Black labor that would, under no circumstances, be allowed to live and play in that white city. Informed by Dr. Schaffers’ lived experience and 25 years of experience as an educator in the District Six Museum, he elaborates what happened to more than 60,000 residents of color who were forced out of their homes in District Six. It discusses how displaced people attempted to rebuild their lives as they were scattered among so-called “colored townships”, miles away from District Six and from each other, and as their history and identity was taken away from them. Dr. Schaffers places strong emphasis on the importance of memory, community, and hope to human well-being in the face of massive dispossession, inequality and suffering. Schaffers also discusses the prolonged process of land restitution claims post-1994 in South Africa’s fractured democracy. The story of District Six is unfinished, and he offers his thoughts on what a socially just Cape Town might look like.

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