Emerging Epicenters of Global Urbanization: Asia and Africa
(with the African Centre for Cities, the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, the Hyderabad Urban Lab and the Rujak Center for Urban Studies)
Tracks the key demographic, economic, socio-cultural variables driving massive urban growth in these two regions and, through grounded social action and ethnographic research, examining how heterogeneous processes of intensive and extensive urbanization are instantiated in select urban areas across these regions and, furthermore, with attention to the remaking of urban cores and peripheries.
Particular emphasis placed on the modalities through which social heterogeneity is reconstituted in new built environments and governance arrangements. First phase outcomes of the work, focusing methodologically on how everyday life and macrostructural changes can be considered simultaneously, elaborates how adaptive urban agendas—focusing on infrastructural change—can build cross-class, cross-sectoral coalitions capable of shaping urbanization processes across these regions in more sustainable and just ways.
Initial results are documented in Pieterse, Edgar and AbdouMaliq Simone (June 2017) New Urban Worlds: Inhabiting Dissonant Times. London; New York: Polity
New Forms of Collective Urban Life
Cities of the global south are experiencing substantial changes in forms of collective life. Old arrangements anchored in certain configurations of labor, housing, gender, politics, and uses of the city are being unmade. The new forms that are emerging in their place are unexpected, inspiring and disturbing in their attempts to manage both the seemingly intractable problems of metropolitan areas from high levels of inequality to the messiness of everyday life, as well as navigate significant economic, political and demographic changes. The project investigates these changes and the emergent politics and forms of collective life by engaging with the everyday of five cities: Delhi, Jakarta, Johannesburg, Yangon,and São Paulo, with colleagues Teresa Caldeira, Gautam Bhan, and Kelly Gillespie.
My work focuses largely on Jakarta and Yangon, examining the disentanglement of long-hone self-evolved districts and economies, the resettlement of larger swathes of the population within large-scale vertical housing complexes, and the concomitant remaking of collective action, conceptualizations of residence and urban life, as well as household units. Major findings so far point to a major transformation in how residents think about urban life, the valorization of circulation—through more expansive urban circuits and heterogeneous economic and social networks—and the prolific re-assembly of collective life under new, more provisional modalities that often diverge from the imaginaries suggested by the new built environments in which people increasingly reside.
Inhabiting Urban Corridors
As urbanization is no longer embodied by the city, it takes a multiplicity of spatial, physical and social forms. Much work has been done on the infrastructures, production networks and commodity circuits at work in the articulation of existent urban regions in the formation of corridors. This project undertakes a more socio-cultural exploration of the complexion of mobilities, labor, and social interchange at work in these corridors, using them as a site to understand the composition of new heterogeneities among materiality, everyday life, and built environments. A workshop of twenty-eight social scientists working on the relationship between culture, urbanization and infrastructure along the East African Indian Ocean coast was conducted in October 2016 to explore key theoretical and methodological issues that will be further investigated both in this region and in the emerging Kolkata-Kunming corridor (an element of the One Belt/One Road and Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar (BCIM corridor projects), and the East-West Economic Corridor (Mawlamyine, Myanmar to Danang)
An initial key finding is that the social and relational landscapes that constituted a platform on which subsequent, large scale projects of articulation could be imagined and built become increasingly marginalized and unraveled as new economic interdependencies emerge, which in turn devalues important livelihoods, social histories as populations are subject to intensive dispersals. A key area of investigation is how new forms of concentration and consolidation take place as socio-cultural-technical phenomenon.
An exploration of the ways in which the long, and by no means systematic history of black inhabitation of cities could be a critical method through which to engage urban life everywhere. This an urban life that is more than its multiple manifestations, that exceeds any definitive attempt to pin it down, and that yet remains something specific, and not simply a potential-making machine. How does this history open up new ways of engaging the very concrete efforts that constructed the city? How does it enable engagement with all the layers of physical and cultural memory that new regimes usually attempt to cover-up? How might it exhibit all that the city does not show, either because its inhabitants are prohibited from paying attention or because whatever is considered normative or spectacular in city life has to get rid of the messy labor and politics that brought it about?