With, without and/or against the state? Exploring the (re)production of space in the Global South

Hosted by the Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre


Dr. Jie Shen

Dr. Jie Shen

Associate Professor, School of Social Development and Public Policy, Fudan University

Dr. Ofita Purwani

Dr. Ofita Purwani

Associate Professor, School of Architecture, Universitas Sebelas Maret, Indonesia

Dr. Wangui Kimari

Dr. Wangui Kimari

Junior Research Fellow, Institute for Humanities in Africa, University of Cape Town

Dr. Lina Martinez

Dr. Lina Martinez

Assistant Professor, POLIS, Universidad Icesi, Colombia

Dr. Gilbert Siame

Dr. Gilbert Siame

Lecturer, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of Zambia


Prof. Hyun Bang Shin

Prof. Hyun Bang Shin

Professor of Geography and Urban Studies and Director of Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre, LSE

This Urban Studies Foundation International Workshop featured five presentations on the production of urban space in the Global South, which involves a web of complex relationships between state and non-state actors.


Hosted by the LSE Southeast Asia Centre (SEAC), in collaboration with the LSE Latin America and Caribbean Centre (LACC) and the LSE Firoz Lalji Institute for Africa (FLIA), presenters introduced case studies from Southeast Asia, Africa, and Latin America, allowing audience an opportunity to reflect upon the ways in which the (re-)structuring of urbanising space involves the selective use of state power or lack thereof. Presenters discussed how the state continues to have its presence felt in urban development processes in Asia (China and Indonesia) and how important it is to shed light on the contextual experiences of informal workers (Colombia) and communities and civil society (Uganda), while acknowledging the significance of countering dominant narratives that criminalise marginalised populations (Kenya).


Talk Abstracts

Assembling mega-urban projects through state-guided governance innovation: the development of Lingang in Shanghai (Dr. Jie Shen)

In contrast to the perception that mega-urban projects are the epitome of neoliberal governance, in China they are initiated by the state as a state development strategy, which represents a new governance mode of ‘state entrepreneurialism’. The market is used as a new governance mechanism to mobilize the resources of multiple actors. Consequently, the delivery of mega-urban projects is neither driven by market actors nor controlled by the state alone. Mega-urban projects are the sites where governance innovation is experimented upon. Focusing on Lingang in Shanghai, the paper reveals that a horizontal networked mode of governance has emerged.


Southeast Asian Monarchy and the development of royal cities (Dr. Ofita Purwani)

This presentation focuses on how the existing monarchs in Southeast Asia influence urban development in royal cities. Monarchy which used to be the main polity in Southeast Asia still exists nowadays in various levels. Some monarchs can benefit from their old property and sometime can have privilege from their status or their access to education and network. Many existing monarchs nowadays can still have economic significance. They have companies in many aspects such as property, hospitality, media, mining, finance, and parking. The businesses that they have can only have support from the strategic positions of members of the royal family both in government and in public institutions. This has made the monarch to still be powerful and influential in determining the trajectory of development of royal cities.


Outlaw Science vs Colonial Nairobi (Dr. Wangui Kimari)

Close to 70% of Nairobi’s population lives on only 6% of its residential land, and on areas devoid of critical basic services. Their marginality is reproduced not just through spatial neglect and confinement, but, as well, via the circulation of narratives that concomitantly work to criminalize them and omit their agency in the shaping of this city. This paper reflects on some of the praxis labours that Nairobi’s marginalized employ to counter the enduring colonial city practices that spatially and ideologically fix them. It refers to these labours as outlaw science, since they emerge from a populace that is pushed outside of the law, is not allowed legal recourse to solve their spatial conditions, and is criminalized. Ultimately, I argue that this outlaw science, an ethico-political spatial project, while often misrecognized, remains an important counterpoint to the prevailing colonial practices that govern Nairobi.


Negotiating Cities of Violence: Street Vendors in Cali, Colombia (Dr. Lina Martinez)

In Colombia, like many other countries in the global South, informality is one of the main characteristics of the economic sector. About half of the working-age population earn their income through economic activity in the informal sector in the country. The pandemic generated by COVID-19 may increase the size of this sector. Cali is the third-largest city in Colombia, with 2.4 million inhabitants. The city grows in the middle of many complexities, a long history of violence and crime inherited by drug trafficking, the permanent influx of victims and displaced from the armed conflict, and large waves of migration from Venezuela. Urban poverty and segregation are distinctive characteristics of the city. The informal sector in Cali is ubiquitous and employs a large population. Street vending is one of the economic activities of the informal sector. This research focuses on the diversity and complexity of informal sales in Cali. Based on data from previous studies, the current research explores governance and legal frameworks to regulate and control the informal economy, presents detailed information on the vulnerabilities of informal workers in three settlements: downtown, Santa Helena, and the mass transit system. The research also studies financial exclusion and the penetration of illegal payday lenders as the only resort for credit to informal workers.


Splintered visions in community-led urban interventions: civic movements and the co-production approach in Kampala (Dr. Gilbert Siame)

For many decades now, civil society organisations have been instrumental in driving the development agenda in many parts of the world. The civic movements have been recognised and praised for their strengths as innovative and grassroots-driven organisations with the desire and capacity to pursue participatory forms of development practice and to fill gaps left by failure of global South states. In the urban sector of the global South, the role and prominence of civil society, such as the Slum Dwellers International (SDI), the Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centers (SPRAC), and the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR) have championed alternative, transformational and people-led urban development practice. This new approach has been termed co-production. However, while literature on co-production is rapidly growing and the efficacy of the approach has been applauded, there is little interrogation of how the clearly visible divides and divisions within communities and civil society impact the co-production approach. How, therefore, can co-production succeed within the context of frequently divided civil society in the urban environments of the global South?

This paper argues the co-production approach to settlement upgrading is implemented within the context of a divided civil society and that success depends to a large extent on how co- production actors address conflicts and divisions that ensue within non-state actors. The paper challenges the assumptions in much of the coproduction literature that communities are cohesive and have a single developmental agenda, to improve living conditions through community-led slum upgrading processes.


Speakers and Chair Biographies

Dr. Jie Shen lectures in urban studies at School of Social Development and Public Policy, Fudan University, Shanghai. Her research interests focus on China’s urban and regional development, especially suburbanization and suburban development, migration, urbanization and housing studies.

Dr. Ofita Purwani is an associate professor at the School of Architecture Universitas Sebelas Maret, Indonesia. She got her PhD from the University of Edinburgh in 2014, and was recently a fellow at Yale-NUS College, Singapore. Her interests range across the Javanese built environment, Southeast Asian urbanism, traditionalism, heritage issues, tourism, urban studies, spatial politics, invented traditions and sociology.

Dr. Wangui Kimari is a Junior Research Fellow at the Institute for Humanities in Africa (HUMA) at the University of Cape Town. Her research interests include urban political ecology for African cities, anthropology and urban governance.

Dr. Lina Martinez is Assistant Professor of public policy and the Director of POLIS (observatory of public policies) at Universidad Icesi, Colombia. Their current research is focused on informal workers in Colombia, urban policies and provision of public goods, social mobility and life satisfaction.

Dr. Gilbert Siame (@curp_unza) is a lecturer and researcher in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of Zambia (UNZA). He holds both a masters and PhD in city and regional planning from the University of Cape Town in South Africa. Dr Siame investigates the complex state-society relations in co-production engagements in the cities of the global South and has published widely on various aspects of urban co-production, urban informality, urban integrity, and climate and cities.

Prof. Hyun Bang Shin (@urbancommune) is Professor of Geography and Urban Studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science and directs the LSE Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre. His research centres on the critical analysis of the political economy of speculative urbanisation, gentrification and displacement, urban spectacles, and urbanism with particular attention to Asian cities. His books include Planetary Gentrification (Polity, 2016), Neoliberal Urbanism, Contested Cities and Housing in Asia (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), Exporting Urban Korea? Reconsidering the Korean Urban Development Experience (Routledge, 2021), and The Political Economy of Mega Projects in Asia: Globalization and Urban Transformation (Routledge, forthcoming). He is Editor of the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, and is also a trustee of the Urban Studies Foundation.


A video recording of this event can be found here.


More about this event

The Urban Studies Foundation is a charitable organisation whose aims and objectives include advancing academic research and education in the field of urban studies. The foundation realises these outcomes primarily through the provision of grant funding for individuals and institutions engaged in groundbreaking urban research and knowledge mobilisation around the world. 

The Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre (@LSESEAC) is a multidisciplinary Research Centre of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). It develops and fosters academic and policy-oriented research, drawing on a rich network of experts across disciplines at LSE and beyond, while serving as a globally recognised hub for promoting dialogue and engagement with Southeast Asia and the world.

Opened in January 2016 to serve as a focal point for LSE’s research and public engagement with Latin America and the Caribbean, LSE's Latin America and Caribbean Centre builds upon the School’s long and important relationship with the region. The Centre supports the research of faculty from nearly every department across the School whose research is principally focussed on or relevant to the region.

The Firoz Lalji Institute for Africa (FLIA) focuses on engagement with Africa through cutting-edge research, teaching and public events, strengthening LSE’s long-term commitment to placing Africa at the heart of understandings and debates on global issues.

Banner Image Credit: Photo by Sven Scheuermeier on Unsplash