Traditional Authorities in African Cities: Exploring the tensions between urban expansion and urban governance in the African context

Ntombini Marrengane's picture
Call for Papers
June 15, 2018
Subject Fields: 
African History / Studies, Geography, Humanities, Urban History / Studies

Call for Special Issue Paper

Traditional Authorities in African Cities: Exploring the tensions between urban expansion and urban governance in the African context

Guest Editors:  Daniel Tevera, Lindsay Sawyer and Ntombini Marrengane


We are inviting submission to a special journal issue dedicated to Traditional Authorities in African Cities: Exploring the tensions between urban expansion and urban governance in the African context The aim of this special issue is to assemble recent papers concerned with the duality of traditional leaders’ actively commanding authority over access to infrastructure, housing and natural resources as part of established, if sometimes ambiguous, frameworks of urban jurisdictions.  

Traditional authorities in the form of Kings, Oba, Kgosi, chiefs, Ohene, Amakhosi - all play a critical role in the physical development of urban spaces. However, in the African context, research on traditional authorities has historically focused on the cultural and political influence of these leaders as guardians of tribal customs and laws. Scholarly treatment of traditional leadership has often been framed in the context of rural development or colonial history (Beall et al 2005; Buur and Kyed 2005). More recent discourse has looked at traditional authorities in relation to the new political systems and administrative architectures of the post-independence African state (Logan 2008; Logan 2009; Goodfellow and Lindemann 2013). Traditional authorities are now being recognised as significant actors in urban spaces, yet given the scale and pace of urbanisation on the African continent, and the wide array of social and cultural contexts, the role and implication of traditional authorities in urban contexts needs closer and more comparative examination. This special issue seeks to explore the similarities and differences in how traditional authorities operate both within and outside of urban environments across different regions, and the ways this is influencing urban development. A focus will be on examining the “formal and informal” roles of traditional authorities in the distribution of resources such as land and the changing landscape of governance. It will also encourage discussion on the extent to which these authorities have been incorporated into administrative structures and the ways that it supports or frustrates urban development.

We welcome papers on the following areas of traditional authorities in urban contexts:

  • Citizen perceptions of traditional authorities in urban and peri-urban areas;
  • The role of traditional authorities in the governance of administrative territories;
  • The role of traditional authorities in urbanization;
  • The urbanisation of previously rural traditional authorities
  • The role that traditional authorities play in local development
  • The role of land-based authority, and the implications for tenure or land value capture
  • The influence of traditional authorities in urban public and social life
  • Traditional leadership and public participation at the city scale

In order to be considered for publication, a submission must have a significant novel component. Papers are particularly encouraged from scholars undertaking research on traditional authorities in urban settings in underrepresented regions of the continent. Submission must be in English. Authors who are uncertain about the suitability of their paper are encouraged to contact the editors. All submissions must contain original unpublished work that is not being considered for publication elsewhere.


The editorial team will consider the submissions received by the deadlines below. The selection of abstracts and papers will be based upon the following criteria:

  1. the quality of the paper in term of scope and thesis;
  2. the extent to which the paper as a whole makes an original, coherent and creative contribution to the field;
  3. the extent to which the paper stimulates wide-ranging debate and cutting edge discussion of an issue that appeals to a broad audience in urban geography in particular and African urbanism in general.


Abstract length: Should not exceed 500 words

Manuscript length: Should not exceed 7000 words.

Special Issue Timeline:

15 June 2018 - Deadline for submission of abstracts to editorial team.

1 July 2018 - Reply from editorial team on acceptance or rejection of abstract.

30 August 2018 - Submission of full drafts via email in word format (font size 12; standard margins, Harvard referencing style).

15 October 2018 – Feedback to authors.

Questions and comments may be directed to

Contact Info: 

Ntombini Marrengane, African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town