GY438      Half Unit
Urban Asia: Cities and Social Change

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Hyun Shin


This course is available on the CEMS Exchange, MA in Asian and International History (LSE and NUS), MBA 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 Environmental Policy, Technology and Health (Environment and Development) (LSE and Peking University), MSc in Human Geography and Urban Studies (Research), MSc in International and Asian History, MSc in Local Economic Development, MSc in Regional And Urban Planning Studies, MSc in Urban Policy (LSE and Sciences Po) and MSc in Urbanisation and Development. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

The number of students able to be accommodated is limited. If the course is over-subscribed, places will be allocated at the Department’s discretion and a waiting list may be created. For further details, please contact your relevant Programme Coordinator

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-spatial 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:

  • the political economy of urbanisation;
  • the politics of land;
  • global gentrifications;
  • displacement and dispossession;
  • cities of spectacle and mega-events;
  • urban social movements

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


In the Department of Geography and Environment, teaching will be delivered through a combination of classes/seminars, pre-recorded lectures, live online lectures, in-person lectures and other supplementary interactive live activities.


This course is delivered through a combination of seminars, workshops and lectures across Lent Term.


This course includes a reading week in Week 6 of Lent Term.

Formative coursework

Students are expected to complete one essay plan for their assessed essay and blog.

Indicative reading

Chen, Y.-L. and Shin, H.B. (eds.) Neoliberal Urbanism, Contested Cities and Housing in Asia. Palgrave Macmillan;

Chua, B.H. (2017) Liberalism Disavowed: Communitarianism and State Capitalism in Singapore. Cornell University Press;

Doucette, J., and Park, B.-G. (2019) Developmentalist Cities? Interrogating Urban Developmentalism in East Asia. Brill;

Haila, A. (2016) Urban Land Rents: Singapore as a Property State. Wiley Blackwell;

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

Roy, A. and Ong, A. (eds.) (2011) Worlding Cities: Asian Experiments and the Art of Being Global. Blackwell;

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

Abbas, A. (1997) Hong Kong: Culture and the Politics of Disappearance, University of Minnesota Press;

Allen, J.R. 2012) Taipei: City of Displacements, University of Washington Press;

Forrest, R., Koh, S.Y. and Wissink, B. (eds.) (2017) Cities and the Super-rich: Real Estate, Elie Practices and Urban Political Economies. Palgrave Macmillan;

Glassman, J. (2018) Drums of War, Drums of Development: the Formation of a Pacific Ruling Class and Industrial Transformation in East and Southeast Asia, 1945-1980. Brill Press;

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

Labbé, D. (2014) Land Politics and Livelihoods on the Margins of Hanoi, 1920-2010. UBC Press;

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;

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

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

Simone, A. (2014) Jakarta: Drawing the City Near. University of Minnesota Press;

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

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


Coursework (30%, 1500 words) and essay (60%, 3000 words) in the ST.
Class participation (10%) in the LT.

Coursework (30%) refers to a blog piece. Students are to submit regular reading responses via Moodle as part of class participation. Further details will be included in the course guide.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Student performance results

(2017/18 - 2019/20 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 34
Merit 60.8
Pass 3.1
Fail 2.1

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Geography & Environment

Total students 2020/21: 36

Average class size 2020/21: 19

Controlled access 2020/21: Yes

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