GY438      Half Unit
Cities and Social Change in East Asia

This information is for the 2016/17 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Hyun Shin STC. S601f


This course is available on the CEMS Exchange, IMEX Exchange, MSc in China in Comparative Perspective, MSc in City Design and Social Science, MSc in Development Studies, MSc in Environment and Development, MSc in Human Geography and Urban Studies (Research), MSc in Local Economic Development, MSc in Real Estate Economics and Finance, MSc in Regional And Urban Planning Studies, MSc in Social Policy and Development, MSc in Social Policy and Development: Non-Governmental Organisations, MSc in Urban Policy (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in Urbanisation and Development and MiM Exchange. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.



Course content

This is an interdisciplinary urban course that encourages students to develop a critical understanding of how urban space is transformed in diverse social, economic and political settings, and what social implications are made upon the powerless and the poor. Examining the process of socio-spatal transformation in times of condensed urbanisation and economic development, this course makes use of Asia as an empirical site to unsettle Western notions of urban development. Various examples of urban policies and practices will be drawn from cities across East and Southeast Asia, with emphasis on newly industrialised capitalist economies as well as transitional economies such as mainland China.

Focusing on urban questions in particular, the course comprises of lectures and seminars on the following themes:

  • speculative urbanisation;
  • the role of the state in urban development;
  • urban growth politics;
  • land politics and real estate;
  • mega-projects and mega-events;
  • gentrification and displacement;
  • urban contestation; 
  • economic crisis and inequalities.

Students will also have opportunities to view and discuss various sources of audiovisual materials and documentaries related to these themes.

Course Facebook page:


15 hours of lectures and 9 hours of seminars in the MT.

Formative coursework

One formative essay (1,500 words) on which individual feedbacks will be provided.

Indicative reading

Harvey, D. (1989) The Urban Experience, Johns Hopkins University Press;

Hsing, Y-t. (2010) The Great Urban Transformation, Oxford University Press;

Lees, L., Shin, H.B. and Lopez-Morales, E. (2016) Planetary Gentrification, Polity Press;

Logan, J.R. and Molotch, H.L. (1987) Urban Fortunes: The Political Economy of Place, University of California Press;

Park, B-G. et al (Eds) (2012) Locating Neoliberalism in East Asia: Neoliberalizing Spaces in Developmental States, Wiley-Blackwell;

Wu, F. (2015) Planning for Growth: Urban and Regional Planning in China, Routledge

Andrusz, G. et al. (Eds.) (1996) Cities after Socialism, Blackwell;

Forrest, R. and Lee, J. (Eds.) (2003) Housing and Social Change: East-West Perspectives, Routledge;

Harvey, D. (2016) The Ways of the World, Profile Books;

Lees, L., Shin, H.B. and Lopez-Morales, E. (Eds.) (2015) Global Gentrifications: Uneven Development and Displacement, Policy Press;

Mathews, G. (2011) Ghetto at hte Center of the World: Chungking Mansions, Hong Kong, The University of Chicago Press

Seng, L.K. (2013) Squatters into Citizens: The 1961 Bukit Ho Swee Fire and the Making of Modern Singapore, NUS Press

Smart, A. (2006) The Shek Kip Mei Myth: Squatters, Fires and Colonial Rule in Hong Kong, 1950-1963;

Sorensen, A. (2002) The Making of Urban Japan: Cities and Planning from Edo to the Twenty-first Century, Routledge/Curzon


Exam (75%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.
Essay (25%, 3000 words).

Student performance results

(2012/13 - 2014/15 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 14.3
Merit 57.1
Pass 19.6
Fail 8.9

Key facts

Department: Geography & Environment

Total students 2015/16: Unavailable

Average class size 2015/16: Unavailable

Controlled access 2015/16: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills

Course survey results

(2012/13 - 2013/14 combined)

1 = "best" score, 5 = "worst" score

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 98%



Reading list (Q2.1)


Materials (Q2.3)


Course satisfied (Q2.4)


Lectures (Q2.5)


Integration (Q2.6)


Contact (Q2.7)


Feedback (Q2.8)


Recommend (Q2.9)