This book provides new insights into popular understandings of urbanism by using a wide range of case studies from lesser studied cities across the Global South and Global North to present evidence for the need to reconstruct our understanding of who and what makes urban environments.
Myers explores the global hierarchy of cities, the criteria for positioning within these hierarchies and the successes of various policymaking approaches designed specifically to boost a city’s ranking. Engaging heavily with postcolonial studies and Global South thinking, he shows how cities construct one another’s spaces and calls for a new understanding of planetary urbanism that moves beyond Western-centric perspectives.
Africa’s urban population is growing rapidly, raising numerous environmental concerns. Urban areas are often linked to poverty as well as power and wealth, and hazardous and unhealthy environments as the pace of change stretches local resources. Yet there are a wide range of perspectives and possibilities for political analysis of these rapidly changing environments.
Written by a widely respected author, this important book will mark a major new step forward in the study of Africa’s urban environments. Using innovative research including fieldwork data, map analysis, place-name study, interviewing and fiction, the book explores environmentalism from a variety of perspectives, acknowledging the clash between Western planning mind-sets pursuing the goal of sustainable development, and the lived realities of residents of often poor, informal settlements. The book will be valuable to advanced undergraduate and graduate level courses in geography, urban studies, development studies, environmental studies and African studies.
The introduction situates the exploration that ensues in the six chapters by outlining the parameters of how the discussions and debates in urban studies about global connections and circuits of urbanization emerged and evolved over the last half-century or so. It defines the four key terms of the book title (urbanism, rethinking, postcolonialism and the Global South). Approaches to global urban studies via the Chicago School, Globalization-and-World-Cities Research Network, the Los Angeles School, Henri Lefebvre, and planetary urbanization are explored. It then discusses the considerable critique and vast opening of comparative urbanism that arose out of postcolonial studies and southern theory, challenging universal understandings emanating from European and North American cities. The challenges of working toward a southern and postcolonial global urban studies are highlighted, and the work of Edouard Glissant is introduced.
Chapter one examines historical processes of urbanization, with the focus on Hartford, seen from indigenous, postcolonial, Caribbean and African/African-American re-mappings of its metropolitan geographies. The chapter thus applies global South ideas to an examination of planetary urbanization in an urban area conventionally located in the global North. It argues that southern concepts are highly relevant to understanding and remapping Hartford as a global urbanism. Developing an historical geography from indigenous, postcolonial, and southern angles gives opportunities for detailing the specificities of planetarizing processes. Scholars need to look at longer-term processes producing planetary urbanization from elsewhere, to erase blind spots that universalizing theorizations produce. Here, this means rethinking the historical geography of indigenous peoples in the region, slavery, and labor migration.
The second chapter centers on patterns, specifically the geographic land-use and housing patterns common to rapid urbanization that overtakes the surrounding countryside. The chapter uses the Chinese concept of chengzhongcun, or urbanized village, along with the related concepts of chengbiancun and chengwaicun, villages on the city-edge and in the suburbs, and Chinese scholarship analyzing what happens to them in the PRD. The chapter applies these ideas to other similarly rapid urban transformations in Dakar and Zanzibar, with references to the comparability in other cities of the book. The purpose is to work toward conceptualizing from outside global North frameworks when looking at land-use patterns in urbanization. If one seeks to understand the patterns of 21st century planetary urbanization, one ought to look at the places where those patterns are most rapidly transforming the landscape and find the language there that is used to describe and analyze them. This chapter is a small experiment in doing so.
The third chapter examines global urbanism as postcolonial. It concentrates on colonialism’s role in physically, ecologically and culturally re-structuring cities around the world, emphasizing the colonial shaping of urban landscapes –parks and botanical gardens - in Zanzibar and Port of Spain. The chapter shows the divergent, contested and reshaped character of the urban ecologies of these two settings in post-colonial times. British colonialism’s urban parks and gardens in both settings are the focus. Robert Orchard Williams, who served as curator of the botanic gardens of both colonies, serves as a foil for reflecting on the colonial legacy’s different refractions in these two post-colonial settings. The chapter also shows the agency of ordinary people in changing the environmental-spatial structure over time.
The fourth chapter discusses people and migration. It reverses the typical analysis of the socio-cultural experiences and identities of transnational or translocal migrants from the global South, by illustrating contemporary cultures of urbanization through literature and the arts in questions of translocality in Port of Spain, San Juan, Zanzibar, and Cape Coast. The chapter illustrates the ways in which ordinary people and creative artists in the global South work to reframe colonial experiences and re-imagine postcolonial cities and landscapes. Building on ideas from Edouard Glissant, the chapter explores the works of V. S. Naipaul, Tony Hall, Giannina Braschi, Jack Delano, Yaa Gyasi, Adam Shafi, and Abdulrazak Gurnah, as well as arts-activists affiliated with Alice Yard in Port of Spain and Casa Taft 169 in San Juan, for illustration of variations of variations in translocal experiences.
The fifth chapter, on products, deals with the global urban literatures around infrastructure, including both physical infrastructure and the economic understanding of infrastructural interconnections of the global urban system. While physical infrastructure dominates in Chinese investments in the global South, southern urban theory has turned attention to people-as-infrastructure. Books and articles about infrastructure in the global South for a decade or more have argued for seeing infrastructure as vital, lively, or alive, including human and nonhuman agency, and this chapter seeks to connect with this trend. It concentrates on trade and foreign direct investment from China in Africa, with a detailed case study of Zanzibar. It then examines the experiences and socio-material infrastructures of African traders in Guangzhou and the PRD.
This chapter examines the urban studies literatures on urban politics and policy mobilities, from postcolonial southern perspectives. Analysis of urban politics is in flux within global urban studies. For years, the predominant focus of global North urban studies in analyzing urban politics resided with understanding growth machines and urban. Recently, there has been a general change in focus from discreet units at scale (i.e. a city government) to a ‘relational’ approach. What does this work look like, viewed from the global South? How do urbanists from the global South or those focused on its cities approach these arenas of scholarship? The chapter seeks answers to these questions with specific policies in mind. specific policies examined include participatory budgeting, bus rapid transit, enclave urbanization (new towns or satellite cities), sister city relationships, and climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies. Case study material from Hartford, San Juan, Zanzibar and Dongguan helps to show different ways in which South-South connectivities shape politics, governance and urban cultures at both ends.
This brief epilogue summarizes the core arguments. The contention of the book as a whole is that rethinking urbanism means rethinking it from the ground up, from literal and metaphorical places ‘South’ of where urbanism has been previously defined. This book is reckoning with a world of interconnected cities linked to one another in a process of planetary urbanization, but which is characterized here, following Glissant, as a process of ever-changing ‘relation’ between cities. Many scholars have stressed the centrality which learning from ‘elsewheres’ must assume in a cosmopolitan and truly global urban studies. With the growing literature of planetary urbanization pushing toward a more global urban studies, the aim of this book has been to re-center the discussion southward, with that ‘South’ reconceived. It argues for starting the discussion of 21st century planetary urbanization from the ideas and concepts and perspectives that emerge from both the intellectual and everyday southern urban worlds.