Reconceptualising urban politics: thinking with transnational circuits and diverse territorialisations across Europe, Africa and Asia

In the wake of both post-colonial critiques of urban studies and the emerging propositions of “planetary urbanization” there is a need to revisit theories of urban politics. As urban forms globally are becoming fragmented and extended across often vast areas, earlier theoretical analyses of urban politics focussed closely on the municipal institutions and configurations of actors in a North American idiom are increasingly redundant. Attention now needs to be directed to a range of transnational actors and practices, material and financial flows which are key drivers of urban development. Additionally, with rapid urban growth and extending urban territories, new political territorialisations come into view which opens the scope for more comparative insights across cities. The paper draws on empirical research on city strategies in London, Johannesburg and Lilongwe, and on large-scale urban developments in London, Shanghai and Johannesburg, to propose ways in which the politics of urban development might be conceptualized in relation to a wider urban world.
Jennifer Robinson is a leading thinker in the development of a postcolonial critique of urban studies, with her seminal book Ordinary Cities (2006). Her recent writings address methods for a new international comparative urbanism. Her ESRC funded research compares the governance of large-scale urban development projects in London, Johannesburg and Shanghai. Another project explores the transcalar politics of such development projects in African contexts.

The lecture is convened by the Urban Africa Group, Department of Human Geography, and by the Forum for Asian Studies at Stockholm University.