state-capital-society relations around land, housing & real estate
post-apartheid & settler colonial urbanism
provincializing global urbanism
urban geographical political economy
critical development studies
My research explores the mundane forms of urbanization through private development that shape our built environments and their politics, particularly in the spaces between elite gated communities and informal settlements in cities of the Global South. My recent and current research focuses on developer-driven ‘affordable’ housing for a growing Black middle class on the edges of Johannesburg, South Africa. I am interested in what these suburban, middle-class-in-the-making spaces can teach us about post-apartheid socio-spatial change; about race, space and inequality, and about urban political economy and urban politics.
Globally, affordable housing for a growing middle class in emerging markets has become a new asset class for investors. Yet despite its apparent financialization, producing affordable assets requires confronting locally-embedded developers, financial institutions, state agencies, planners, residents and land itself, in all their political and material complexity. My research unpacks the making of greater Johannesburg's greenfield 'affordable' suburbs through qualitative research methods and a heterodox set of theoretical tools, including geographical political economy of housing and land, critical development studies and theorizing on practices of the state, planning, land and race in cities of the Global South. Rather than a natural function of supply and demand, or a repetition of subprime housing experiences elsewhere, this approach helps to understand how urban development is made and legitimated in place, through particular grammars of inclusion and exclusion.
Ph.D., University of Minnesota
M.A., University of Cape Town
B.Soc.Sci., University of Cape Town
Ballard, R., & Butcher, S. (2020). Comparing the relational work of developers. Environment and Planning A, 52(2), 266-276. https://doi.org/10.1177/0308518x19893684
Ballard, R., & Butcher, S. C. (Eds.) (2020). Theme Issue: Work of developers. Environment and Planning A, 52(2).
Butcher, S. C. (2020). Appropriating rent from greenfield affordable housing: developer practices in Johannesburg. Environment and Planning A, 52(2), 337-361. https://doi.org/10.1177/0308518X19895278
Butcher, S. C. (2020). Creating a gap that can be filled: Constructing and territorializing the affordable housing submarket in Gauteng, South Africa. Environment and Planning A, 52(1), 173-199. https://doi.org/10.1177/0308518x19885391
Rubin, M., Samson, M., Butcher, S., Joffe, A., Merlo, S., Smith, L., & Wafer, A. (2020). Investigating infrastructures of urban inequality. In D. Francis, I. Valodia, & E. Webster (Eds.), Inequality Studies from the Global South (pp. 163-183). (Routledge Inequality Studies). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429282447-13