SP415      Half Unit
Urbanisation and Social Policy in the Global Souths

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Sunil Kumar


This course is available on the MSc in Development Management, MSc in Development Management (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in Development Studies, MSc in International Social and Public Policy, MSc in International Social and Public Policy (Development), MSc in International Social and Public Policy (Education), MSc in International Social and Public Policy (LSE and Fudan), MSc in International Social and Public Policy (Migration), MSc in International Social and Public Policy (Non-Governmental Organisations) and MSc in International Social and Public Policy (Research). This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

All Social Policy Courses are ‘Controlled Access’. Please see the link below for further details on the allocation process.


Some knowledge or experience of dealing with urban issues is desirable but not essential.  To apply for a place on this course, prospective students will have to write a 150-word statement (word count to be respected) as to: (i) why they would like to take this course and what particular topic interests them - 60 words; (ii) what they can bring to the course - 40 words, and (iii) how they intend to use the knowledge gained (for example, for their dissertation or future employment or research) - 50 words.


Some engagement (work/volunteering) with the urban in the Global South/North is desirable but not essential.

Course content

The course critically explores the challenges and opportunities that urbanisation and urbanism (urban transformations) pose in the social, cultural, spatial, economic, institutional and political realms in the urban Global South.  A plurality of theoretical and conceptual perspectives informing contemporary policies and planning practices are explored each week. 

Some of the themes explored in the course are, urbanisation, urbanism, citizenship and social change, theories of urbanisation and urban change, internal migration, the rural-urban interface and age, urban poverty, livelihoods and capabilities, urban labour markets and livelihoods, urban housing and tenure, urban basic services, urban governance, and urban social movements and collective action.  Gender and civil society are explored as cross-cutting themes. 

Prospective students must be willing to commit themselves to full participation in all aspects of the course, including an element of art. They will be required to read selected readings before the lecture, read and discuss the essential readings for the weekly seminars, and read more widely and actively participate in the seminars. This course seeks a weekly commitment from students to undertake a non-assessed activity entitled My_City, a short desk-based piece of research and writing that links key issues emerging from each lecture to a city of their choice with the view to meeting one of the pedagogical aims of this course, namely, the link between theory and policy/practice.


  1. All teaching will be in accordance with the LSE Academic Code (https://info.lse.ac.uk/current-students/lse-academic-code) which specifies a "minimum of two hours taught contact time per week when the course is running in the Autumn Term (AT) and/or Winter Term (WT)". Social Policy courses are predominantly taught through a combination of in-person Lectures and In person classes/seminars. Further information will be provided by the Course Convenor in the first lecture of the course

  2. Students are required to attend all lectures and seminars
  3. This course is taught in WT

Formative coursework

Students taking this course will have the opportunity to write and receive feedback on: (i) a formative 250-word outline for the My Just Neighbourhood project - MyJNp and; (ii) on a formative 750-word outline for the My Urban Essay.  The learning pedagogy and learning outcomes are designed to provide feedback on formatives so that students can improve upon them and submit improved versions as summatives.  Since the formatives are intended to lead to a summative essay, students will not receive a grade but will receive constructive written feedback. The formative essays will have to be submitted in the latter part of LT in which the course is taught so that timely feedback can be provided. In thinking of the subject matter for the their My Urban Essay, students are encouraged to read widely and will find undertaking the My_City weekly activities useful.

Indicative reading

A detailed reading list is provided for each lecture and seminar via the LSE library's electronic reading list. The following is an introductory list of texts in alphabetical order (a number of them are available as e-books via the LSE library).

  • Miraftab, F. and N. Kudva (2014) Cities of the Global South Reader. New York: Routledge.
  • Parnell, S and S. Oldfield (2014) The Routledge Handbook on cities of the Global South. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
  • Samara, T. R., S. He and G. Chen (2013) Locating Right to the City in the Global South, Abingdon, Oxon; New York, NY; London: Routledge.
  • Holston, J. (2009). "Insurgent citizenship in an era of global urban peripheries." City & Society, 21(2), 245-267.
  • IOM (2015) Migrants and Cities (https://www.iom.int/sites/default/files/our_work/ICP/IDM/RB-25-CMC-Report_web-final.pdf).
  • Satterthwaite, D. and D. Mitlin (2014). Reducing Urban Poverty in the Global South. London: Routledge.
  • Kumar, S and M. Fernandez (2016) The Urbanisation-Construction-Migration Nexus in Five Cities in South Asia: Kabul, Dhaka, Chennai, Kathmandu and Lahore (Research commissioned by the UK Department for International Development’s South Asia Research Hub (SARH), New Delhi, India. Six-page briefing Note - http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/64169/ - Full report (30 MB) available at http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/65861/
  • Bayat, A. (2000). "FromDangerous Classes' toQuiet Rebels' Politics of the Urban Subaltern in the Global South." International Sociology, 15(3), 533-557.
  • Miraftab, F. (2009). "Insurgent planning: Situating radical planning in the global south." Planning Theory, 8(1), 32-50.
  • UN-DESA (2014) World Urbanization Prospects: The 2018 Revision. (https://population.un.org/wup/Publications/Files/WUP2018-Report.pdf).

Additional Reading:

  • Goonewardena, K. (2018). "Planetary urbanization and totality." Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 36(3), 456-473.
  • Robinson, J. (2016). "Starting from anywhere, making connections: globalizing urban theory." Eurasian Geography and Economics, 57(4-5): 643-657.
  • Parnell, S., & Robinson, J. (2012). "(Re) theorizing cities from the Global South: Looking beyond neoliberalism." Urban Geography, 33(4), 593-617.
  • Simone, A. (2012). "No longer the subaltern: Refiguring cities of the global south." In Urban Theory Beyond the West (pp. 46-61). Routledge.
  • Fischer, B. M., B. McCann and J. Auyero (Eds.) (2014) Cities from Scratch: Poverty and Informality in Urban Latin America. Durham, Duke University Press.
  • Marcuse, P. (2009) Searching for the Just City: Debates in Urban Theory and Practice. London; New York: Routledge.
  • Mercedes González de la, R. (2006) "Vanishing Assets: Cumulative Disadvantage among the Urban Poor." Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 606: 68-94.
  • Kumar, S. (1996). "Landlordism in Third World urban low-income settlements: A case for further research." Urban Studies, 33(4-5), 753-782.
  • Roy, A. (2005) "Urban Informality: Toward an Epistemology of Planning." Journal of the American Planning Association, 71(2): 147-158.
  • UN-HABITAT (2022). World Cities Report 2022: Envisaging the Future of Cities  (https://unhabitat.org/sites/default/files/2022/06/wcr_2022.pdf).


Project (20%, 1250 words) in the WT.
Essay (80%, 4000 words) in the ST.

There are two summative assignments for the course; (i) a "My Just Neighbourhood project (JNp)" - 20%; and (ii) a My Urban Essay - 80%.  The following is a short description of the two assignments.

My Just Neighbourhood (JNp) - 20% - in-course assessment submitted in the last week of WT

Students will be required to identify an urban injustice of their choice and write a 1000-words blog type format in which they set out the urban injustice, explore what (if anything) has been done to address it and suggest a blues-skies innovative solution to overcome existing limitations.  Students can also chose an urban injustice where a solution does not exist.  The MyJNp will be accompanied by a piece of artwork and a 250-word stand alone artwork narrative. Guidance notes for the My JNp and a dedicated marking frame is provided on Moodle.

My Urban Essay - 80% - submitted early in the ST.

This is a substantive summative essay of 4,000 words.  It must: (i) address an urban issue in the global South or apply a southern perspective to an urban issue in the Global North; and (ii) relate to marginalised groups.  The grading will reflect: (i) innovation of thought; (ii) application of cultural perspectives as appropriate; and (iii) the extent to which the essay dovetails theory, policy and practice.  

There are three potential entry points for identifying the subject matter for the essay: (1) an academic critique of an urban policy (existing or proposed); (2) the identification of an urban issue that does not have a policy but requires one; (3) a critique of a conceptual framework that has been used to address an urban challenge.  Students should note that entry points 1-3 are intended as prompts to help them approach the summative essay; thus, any number of starting points could be combined.  Those students approaching the essay from starting points 1 and 2 are required to propose broad policy solutions and address key barriers to the adoption of the proposed policy.  Those who would like to approach their essay from the perspective of point 3, will have to propose improvements to the conceptual framework being critiqued namely, how the critique changes the 'framing of the problem' and its associated policy implications.  Students can also critique urban policy and conceptual frameworks in the global North as long as they use concepts from the global South.  In doing so, they are required to suggest policy and conceptual improvements to urban challenges in the global North.  This is designed to overcome the North-South divide and foster the transfer of ideas.  Students who chose this option will have to demonstrate that the transfer of policy ideas or conceptual critiques, using literature from the urban South to the urban North, are feasible in terms of context, institutions and politics, for instance. Extensive guidance notes for the My Urban Essay is provided on Moodle.

Student performance results

(2019/20 - 2021/22 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 33.3
Merit 50
Pass 15.4
Fail 1.3

Key facts

Department: Social Policy

Total students 2022/23: 28

Average class size 2022/23: 14

Controlled access 2022/23: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

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.

Personal development skills

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