“Right to the City” and the structure of civic organizational fields: Evidence from Cape Town

Mario Diani, Henrik Ernstson, Lorien Jasny

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This article proposes a network analytic approach to the role of frames in shaping the structure of civic organizational fields. Adopting a perspective from the global South, it looks at the impact of the expression “Right to the city” (RTC) over alliance building among civil society actors, exploring patterns of collaborative ties among 129 civil society organizations active in Cape Town from 2012 to 2014. The article addresses two broad questions: What is the relation between RTC and other frames that are also frequently invoked to describe urban struggles and issues? Does the RTC frame affect the structure of urban civic organizational fields in significant ways? Data suggest that while RTC plays a significant role in local civil society, it is neither the only interpretative frame that Capetonian civic organizations draw upon to characterize their activity, nor the more salient. “Urban conservation”, especially tied to nature conservation and environmental issues, actually shapes the structure of local organizational fields in a sharper manner. This is, however, a potentially more divisive frame, rooted as it is in the apartheid legacy that still shapes urban dynamics in the city.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)637-652
Number of pages16
Issue number4
Early online date25 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018


  • Civic organizational fields
  • Collective action frames
  • Inter-organizational alliances
  • Right to the city
  • Urban environment


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