Deborah Potts – University of Copenhagen

Deborah Potts

Reader in Human Geography , Department of Geography,
King’s College London

Tuesday 26th of January, 10:30 – 11:30


Labels and definitions: reflections on the rural and urban in sub-Saharan Africa

Thinking about rural and urban dynamics and processes in any society is very much influenced by what is deemed rural or urban, or even whether we are simply discussing a spectrum. Labels and definitions matter if only to enable effective discussion. There are often good justifications for different positions on what the terms ‘mean’ and different starting points can all lead to thoughtful insights about what is going on. However debates can be tedious or misleading if differing premises are not recognized. Different settlement types can have many different implications for ‘development’ although much of the work in sub-Saharan Africa tends to focus on the economic implications.

This speech reflects on some of these issues, drawing examples from Eastern and Southern African countries.

Deborah Potts has a Geography degree (B.Sc First Class) and PhD from University College London. She taught and researched in the Geography Department at the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London from 1979-2001. She joined King’s College London in 2001 when SOAS’s Geography department merged with that at KCL. She is a Reader in Human Geography at King’s. She has twice been an Honorary Research Associate at the University of Zimbabwe. She is on the editorial board of the Journal of Southern African Studies, Africa (Journal of the International African Institute) and the Canadian Journal of African Studies. She has published extensively on cities, urban livelihoods and migration in sub-Saharan and Southern Africa.