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Politics and the Urban Frontier

Hosted by LSE Cities and the Department of International Development

NAB 2.04, New Academic Building, 54 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London WC2A 3LJ, United Kingdom


Tom Goodfellow

Tom Goodfellow

Claire Mercer

Claire Mercer

James Putzel

James Putzel


Jo Beall

Jo Beall

Tom Goodfellow will present the key themes and arguments of his new book Politics and the Urban Frontier and discuss it with LSE Professors Claire Mercer and James Putzel.

The past decade has seen a surge of interest in comparative urban analysis, partly in recognition of the scale of global urbanisation and its implications for economic development, aid and investment, and social justice. Governments and city populations are responding to the urban challenge in very diverse ways, even within particular world regions.

Tom Goodfellow argues that these differences are primarily rooted in politics, and if we continue to view cities as economic and technological projects to be managed rather than terrains of political bargaining and contestation, the quest for better urban futures is doomed to fail.

In order to unpack the politics that shapes differential urban development, the book focuses on East Africa as the global urban frontier: the least urbanised but fastest urbanising region in the world. Drawing on a decade of research spanning three case study countries (Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Uganda), Politics and the Urban Frontier provides the first sustained, comparative analysis of urban development trajectories in Eastern Africa and the political dynamics that underpin them.

Through a focus on infrastructure investment, urban propertyscapes, street-level trading economies, and urban political protest, it offers a multi-scalar, historically-grounded, and interdisciplinary analysis of the urban transformations unfolding in the world's most dynamic crucible of urban change.


Tom Goodfellow is a Professor of Urban Studies and International Development at the University of Sheffield. His research focuses on the comparative political economy of urban development and change in Africa, particularly the politics of urban land and transportation, infrastructure and housing, property relations and taxation. Through these issues he explores the conflicts, bargaining and negotiation associated with urban physical transformation and institutional change.

Claire Mercer is Professor of Human Geography in the Department of Geography and Environment at the LSE. Her current research examines the relationship between property and socio-spatial change in urban Africa. She is completing a book project exploring the significance of property to middle class reproduction in suburban Dar es Salaam. She is also working on a new three-year ESRC-funded project examining how self-build housing generates the urban economy and drives neighbourhood change in Ghana and Tanzania.

James Putzel is Professor of Development Studies at LSE. Between 2000 and 2011 he was Director of the Crisis States Research Centre at LSE. He is well-known for his work on agrarian reform including his book A Captive Land: The Politics of Agrarian Reform in the Philippines, as well as his research on social capital, democratisation and the political economy of development. His recent research has focused on politics, governance and economic development in crisis states


Jo Beall is an Emeritus Professor and Distinguished Research Fellow at LSE Cities and has conducted research in Africa and Asia on urban development and governance as well as cities in situations of conflict and state fragility.

LSE Cities is an international centre that investigates the complexities of the contemporary city. It carries out research, graduate and executive education, advisory and engagement activities in London and abroad.

The Department of International Development promotes interdisciplinary postgraduate teaching and research on processes of social, political and economic development and change.

Twitter hashtag: #LSEUrban


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