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Dr Caroline Wanjiku Kihato

Visiting Fellow

Dr Caroline Wanjiku Kihato is a Visiting Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Architecture, University of Johannesburg, and Global Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, Washington DC and serves on the board of Mistra Urban Futures.

In 2011, she received a MacArthur grant on Migration and Development and spent a year as a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for the Study of International Migration (ISIM), Georgetown University, Washington DC. Her career has involved both teaching and conducting research in the academy and the non-profit sector in Southern and Eastern Africa. Between 2006 and 2013 she worked for Urban LandMark as its southern African program coordinator. She was previously a Policy Analyst at the Development Bank of Southern Africa and a Senior Lecturer in the School of Architecture and Planning at the University of the Witwatersrand. She worked for six years as a Policy Analyst at the Centre for Policy Studies.

Her research and teaching interests are migration, gender, governance, and urbanization in the global South. She has published widely on academic and popular platforms. She is the author of Migrant Women of Johannesburg: Life in an in-between City (Palgrave Macmillan) and co-editor of Urban Diversity: Space, Culture and Inclusive Pluralism in Cities Worldwide (Johns Hopkins).

Research at ODID

Place matters: How urban space shapes the developmental outcomes of marginalised urban residents.

My project explores what spatial justice might mean in cities in the global south. Using space as a heuristic, I interrogate the ways in which marginalised urban populations’ everyday practices are supported or undermined by the spaces they traverse and occupy. Rather than treat space as a neutral backdrop, this project conceptualises space as an active protagonist in urban lives – shaping relationships, livelihoods and future trajectories in significant ways. The focus on space provides insights into how urban systems – energy, transport, water, sanitation, housing etc. – shape the developmental outcomes of marginalised urban communities. Indeed, research in the US has shown that urban spaces that are deprived produce and reproduce poor socio-economic outcomes. But geography is not just the outcome of socio-political processes. It is a dynamic force that affects these processes in ways that have lasting effects on cities and their inhabitants. A critical analysis of space allows us to see how urban resources like infrastructure, or public resources like parks and safety are geographically distributed in a city. It also provides a window through which to explore the social, political and economic processes that produce and reproduce injustice through urban spaces. We need to understand how space plays a part in realising the goals of SDG 11 and the New Urban Agenda. The call for spatial justice is necessarily a call for inclusive and just cities that ‘leave no one behind’.

Research interests:

Urbanisation, informality, migration, governance, global south