My research involves re-thinking of various concepts that are produced out of the development experience of post-industrial/Western cities, and aims at understanding how the experience of Asian urbanisation propelled by development-oriented strong states re-writes the socal and physical landscape in the context of global uneven development. Broadly, four strands as explained below have been at the centre of my past and on-going research.
(1) Property-based Urban Redevelopment and State Entrepreneurialism
I have carried out neighbourhood-level in-depth enquiries about the limits of property-based and profit-led urban renewal practices in East Asian cities, including those of mainland China. Politico-economic processes underlying rapid urban transformation and their socio-spatial manifestation are at the centre of my investigation. I pay attention to the importance of land ownership, property rights (re)distribution and socio-political relations in understanding how urban inhabitants differentially experience social justice and how they fight for it.
(2) Urban Development Politics
In this strand, I critically examine the politics of urban development by investigating developmental strategies initiated by local states either in collaboration with or independent of the central state. One main strategy that I observe is the use of mega-events, which refer to large-scale, discontinuous events such as the Olympic Games with substantial consequences on host-cities. My attention is to the ways in which mega-events act as a catalyst to establishing political legitimacy and as a means to facilitate fixed assets accumulation and spatial restructuring.
(3) Speculative Urbanisation
The third research strand involves a comparative study of socio-spatial impacts of speculative urbanisation in East Asia in particular. On the one hand, I examine the social consequences of economic restructuring as a result of economic reform (as in transitional economies such as mainland China) and in response to financial crisis (e.g. South Korea in late 1990s). Housing as assets, financialisation and ageing population are the sub-themes that guide this research. On the other, I examine the changing perception of how people exercise their property rights and accumulate real estate assets. The research is to help us gain a valuable insight into how societal inequalities emerging from unequal access to real estate assets are closely related to the broader structural issues of state legitimacy and social stability.
(4) Theorising Gentrification in the Global South
The fourth strand involves the examination of gentrification as a way of critically understanding urbanisation processes outside the Global North. Sub-themes further include: (a) the role of real estate development in facilitating urban growth; (b) the nature of the state that focuses on depopulation and forceful displacement of local poor residents. While the issue of gentrification has been largely discussed in the context of post-industrial cities in the Global North, my focus is to broaden the debates by critically comparing gentrification processes in the Global South and East with those in the Global North.