Learning from Small Cities: New urban frontiers in the global south
Ayona Datta (University of Leeds)
Abdul Shaban (Tata Institute of Social Sciences)
For the last decade or so urban studies has been preoccupied in decentring its western bias and advocating a postcolonial lens in studying cities of the global south. Mega-cities such as Mumbai, Shanghai and Johannesburg are now ‘champions of urbanity’ (Banerjee-Guha 2013) in global urban studies. Yet, around half of the ‘urban’ population in Africa, Asia and Latin America lives in small and medium cities with populations of less than 500,000 (Satthertwaite 2006). Seen as provincial, parochial, even communal and on the peripheries of urban studies, small and medium towns nevertheless are the new frontiers of urbanization of postcolonial states. They service urban consumers, act as national trade centres, support global manufacturing processes or serve as regional administrative nodes. In recent years, the focus of postcolonial states on cities as engines of neoliberal development and economic growth (Kennedy and Zerah 2008), has also spurred rapid transformation of small and medium towns into new urban utopias of eco-city, smart-city, satellite city and a number of other corporate sponsored city-making initiatives. They therefore face a “triple challenge” (Veron 2010, 2833) of the impacts of increased urbanization, development and under-development. While they are characterised by the absence of local democratic institutions, poor urban infrastructure and continued ‘elite capture’ (Kundu 2011) of land for development projects, a broad range of grassroots struggles in these places are also working to redefine rights and justice through active citizenships. The indifference in urban scholarship however to the ‘smallness’ of cities have institutionalised existing inequalities between mega- and small cities, between urban regions and their urbanizing hinterlands, and between the centre and peripheries of urban studies itself.
In this session, we view small cities not as homogeneous, structurally and demographically defined entities, but rather as places with their specific social, cultural, political, historical contexts of ‘smallness’ that are produced through their particular relationships with neoliberalisation, globalization, urbanization and the postcolonial state. We invite papers that address but are not limited to the following questions:
- What we can learn from small cities and how can this ‘learning’ decentre the practices of ‘doing’ urban studies?
- What are the new frontiers of knowledge and action that are produced when we learn from small cities?
- What are the politics of being and becoming ‘small’, and what does it mean to challenge the injustices of ‘smallness’ in these cities?
- How do aspirations for ‘bigness’ in small cities produce new urban inequalities?
- How are urbanization of mega-city regions and transformations in the political, cultural, social and economic life of small cities co-produced?
Banerjee-Guha, Swapna 2013. ‘Small Cities and Towns in Contemporary Urban Theory, Policy and Praxis’, in R.N. Sharma and R.S. Sandhu (eds), Small Cities and Towns in Global Era: Emerging Changes and Perspectives, 17-35. Jaipur: Rawat Publications.
Kennedy and Zerah, H. 2008. The Shift to City-Centric Growth Strategies: Perspectives from Hyderabad and Mumbai, Economic and Political Weekly, September 27, 110-117.
Kundu, A. 2011. Politics and Economics of Urban Growth, Economic and Political Weekly, May 14, 10-12.
Satthertwaite, D. 2006. Outside the Large Cities; The demographic importance of small urban centres and large villages in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Human Settlements Working Paper Series Urban Change No. 3. IIED, London
Veron, R. 2010. Small Cities, Neoliberal Governance and Sustainable Development in the Global South: A Conceptual Framework and Research Agenda, Sustainabilities, 2, 2833-2848
RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2014
London: 26th to 29th August 2014
Call for papers
Entrepreneurship in peri-urban villages: Understanding empowerment and marginalization in the urbanizing global south
Organizer: Rohit Madan (Cardiff University)
In the global south urbanization is changing the nature of villages, and rural entrepreneurs play an important part in this. Entrepreneurial success requires good roads, labour, communications, technology, skills and (relatively) cheap land (Buciega et al 2009, Tacoli 2006), and these are readily available in the peri-urban fringe, where urbanization is most rapid. This is considered “modernization” and “progress” – a neo-liberal mindset within which the private entrepreneur is embedded.
Private entrepreneurship has been traditionally seen as vital in achieving poverty alleviation – there are several examples of this in studies from: China (Lin 2006, Ma 2002), Tanzania (Lanjouw et al 2001), Indonesia (Leinbach 2003), and India (Eapen 2001), amongst many others. Often government policies have tried to increase the proportion of non-cultivation employment in rural areas to achieve this (Rigg 2006). On the surface entrepreneurship suggests innovation, collaboration and partnerships between the state, civil society and private sector, however, de-regulation gives entrepreneurs increased access over human/natural resources. In the peri-urban fringe therefore the entrepreneur has greater capacity to affect both empowerment and marginalization of rural communities (Kay 2002, Xu and Tan 2002).
In this session we aim to theorize relationships between rural-entrepreneurship and urbanization, shifting the spotlight away from solely the “urban” or the “rural”, but also away from simplistic preconceptions that see urbanization within binary frameworks. We aim to converge strands addressing how entrepreneurship transforms individuals and the community, but also at national/global levels – on how both governance and everyday life are transformed.
We welcome papers connecting urbanization with rural entrepreneurship that deal with (but are not limited to) the following themes:
v How environmental and social justice are linked with entrepreneurship in the global south?
v How entrepreneurship shapes (and is shaped by) multi-level governance and policy?
v How can we theorize the agrarian dimensions of entrepreneurship (i.e. food, labour, multifunctionality, etc.)?
v How is entrepreneurship co-produced (through the nature/type of individual – institutional interactions)?
v How can we theorize the relationships between learning/education and entrepreneurship?
v How does entrepreneurship relate to rural-urban linkages and urbanization?
v Typologies and wider discussions / debates around entrepreneurship?
Please email abstracts of 150 words (max) with full contact details by Friday, 31st January 2014 to Rohit Madan (MadanR@cardiff.ac.uk).
Call for papers: RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2014:
London, 26th–29th August 2014
Witchcraft, spiritual beliefs, and the co-production of development knowledges and practices in the Majority World.
Convenor: Tom Smith, Department of Geography, The University of Sheffield, Sheffield, S10 2TN
Sponsored by the Developing Areas Research Group (DARG)
Traditionally a domain of anthropological study, witchcraft, occult and spiritual practices in the Majority World have received considerably less attention from geographers. Yet the continued importance of these knowledges and practices in Africa and elsewhere prompts this session to call for discussion over their contemporary role in the co-production of development knowledges and practices.
Whilst there has been some influential work on the history of magic and occult thinking in early geographical/scientific thought (Livingstone 1990; Matless 1991), and the embodied practices of witchcraft in the Minority World (Rountree 2002), much less consideration has been offered from the realms of Development Geographies (broadly defined) to the intersections between witchcraft, occult practices, and spiritual beliefs with development in the Majority World. Yet these themes seem ripe for discussion, particularly concerning the nature of rationality, or rationalities, being applied to contemporary development agendas at a range of geographic scales. Whilst current thinking on local knowledges for development and local participation in development have done away with privileging knowledges and technologies from the Minority World, a focus on witchcraft and the occult, and its role in development practice, might ask more fundamental questions about the kinds of rationalities, moralities and ethics being applied to development agendas and goals. In Africa, witchcraft and magical practices have not receded under the variegated forms of development which have and continue to operate across a range of national contexts (Kohnert 1996; Luongo 2010). This should prompt us to consider: What role does witchcraft and spiritual belief play in contemporary forms of development practice and knowledge at a range of scales? How do such practices and beliefs intersect with the current participatory/local knowledges agenda? Do witchcraft and spiritual beliefs contribute to the co-production of development knowledges and imaginaries, both locally and nationally?
This session invites contributions which discuss how witchcraft, occult practices, and spiritual beliefs intersect with the geographies of development at a range of scales and contexts. This might include the relationship between such practices and environmental management, education, rural and urban livelihoods, healthcare and medicine, law, community organisation, among others, whilst broader theoretical, conceptual and methodological reflections are also encouraged. I would also like to invite those from a broad range of disciplinary backgrounds to participate.
Please email proposals (title, 250 word abstract) or questions to:
Deadline for abstracts: 3rd February 2014
Format of the session:
The presentation of 4-5 selected papers.
Kohnert, D. (1996) Magic and witchcraft: implications for democratisation and poverty-alleviating aid in Africa, World Development 24(8), 1347-1355.
Livingstone, D. N. (1990) Geography, tradition and the scientific revolution: an interpretive essay, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers NS: 15(3), 359-373.
Luongo, K. (2010) Polling places and “slow punctured provocation”: occult-driven cases in postcolonial Kenya’s High Courts, Journal of East African Studies 4(3), 577-591.
Matless, D. (1991) Nature, the modern and the mystic: tales from early twentieth century geography, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers NS: 16(3), 272-286.
Rountree, K. (2002) How magic works: New Zealand feminist witches’ theories of ritual action, Anthropology of consciousness 13(1), 42-59.
This report identifies key issues and provides advice to new and established lecturers considering field courses in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Middle East. It includes case studies from successful courses and a database that can be used to contact colleagues who ran the case studies to gain more details about the opportunities and challenges. You can download the report from here (opens new website).
DARG would like to thank Elsbeth Robson, Katie Willis and Helen Walkington for producing this resource!
Congratulations to Dr. Aditi Chatterji who has been awarded a second Senior Fellowship by the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) from 2013 to work on ‘Landscape and the Bengali Diaspora’.
This seminar is about the place and importance of agriculture and aquaculture in the developing south. Comments at the AGMs of DARG and RGRG at this year’s RGS-IBG Annual Conference indicated postgraduate students are looking for opportunities to present their work and develop a network with others in this field. This seminar is intended to create space for postgraduate research students and early years researchers to present their work and network.
In many so-called developing countries, particularly in Asia, rural livelihoods are changing rapidly and agriculture is often only one part of a suite of activities; in parallel the scale of farm–based aquaculture is increasingly rapidly and projected to rise sharply in sub-Saharan Africa. However, many households are still highly dependent on the use of natural resources and much potential exists for the development of both agricultural and aquaculture. In Africa in particular, the attainment of many millennium development goals is problematic, while population growth and climate change are all predicted to impact negatively. This event is an opportunity to present work, work in progress, that addresses this field.
Key note speakers will be Prof Dave Little, Institute of Aquaculture, University of Stirling, an expert in rural aquaculture, and an agriculturalist (name to be confirmed).
I hope many of you will wish to make a 15 minute presentation, please submit your abstract of 250 words to me, Charles Howie, email@example.com by 15/1/14. I will be in touch with you by the end of January. Please register your intention to attend with Karen Rial-Lover Karen.Rial-Lovera@student.rac.ac.uk by 1st March 2014. Karen will supply details of how to reach the University. The nearest train station is Kemble, if several people all arrive at the same time, around 10am we will try and provide transport to Cirencester. Alternatively, there is a regular and frequent National Express coaches service from Victoria coach station, via Heathrow central bus station.
We expect the day to cost £12, inclusive of buffet lunch, teas and coffees. This will be confirmed at the end of January. Looking forward to hearing from lots of you, Charles Howie, Visiting Fellow, RAU. Adviser Faculty of Agriculture and Natural Resources, An Giang University, Vietnam.