UCL Department of Geography
URBNG004 Asian Cities in a Globalising South: Comparative Lessons from India and China
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URBNG004 Asian Cities in a Globalising South: Comparative Lessons from India and China

URBNG004 Asian Cities in a Globalising South: Comparative Lessons from India and China

Course Convenor: Dr Pushpa Arabindoo                                           Credits: 15

Course Introduction

The World Urbanization Report published by the UN observes that at the turn of the twentieth century, even though Asia is one of the least urbanised region in the world (48 percent), it accounts for the maximum number of urban dwellers, 1.4 billion, more than the combined number in Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, Northern America and Oceania (1.2 billion). As the world takes an increasingly urban turn, nearly 60 percent of this growth will take place in Asia, mostly in India and China. More importantly, 22 of the 39 mega-cities (5 million plus) will be in Asia. Given the context of these significant statistics, it is imperative to examine the context of Asian urbanisation in qualitative detail extending beyond these quantitative preoccupations. In order to establish the complexity of its urbanisation process and the specificity of its urbanism, this course will draw on the interdisciplinary aspects of knowledge related to cities of the global South from the field of geography, architecture and planning, anthropology, sociology, economics, history, political science, and cultural studies, developing a unique and richly informed theoretical as well as empirical understanding of a significant twenty-first century phenomenon.

Course description

This course by adopting a comparative examination of Indian and Chinese cities traces the evolution of the Asian city in the context of a globalising South, amidst conditions that are unique to urbanisation in Asia. Following Dick and Rimmer’s (1998) recent arguments challenging the applicability of the Third World city model to the Southeast Asian city, this course extends this question to Asian cities in general. While acknowledging that these cities are far from becoming global cities and at best are globalising cities, this course uses the contemporary condition of globalisation and neoliberalisation to outline the emerging urban morphology of the Asian city overlapping with the persistent problems of a developing city (slums, unemployment, unsustainable environment, etc.).

Course aims

The aim of this course is to introduce the students to a theoretically and empirically informed understanding of Asian cities. Given the diversity of the Asian region, this course recognises that it is impossible to develop a discourse of a paradigmatic Asian city. Instead, what it aims for is a comparative approach to understand emerging urbanisation issues in two of Asia’s largest countries, India and China.

Course content:

The course is structured in two parts. The first part will essentially explore the conceptual model that can be used to understanding emerging aspects of urbanisation in Asian cities asking whether paradigms such as Third World cities, global cities, globalising cities or even ordinary cities are useful ways of understanding their transformation. The second part will focus more on general portrayals of Asian urbanisation as being essentially unsustainable. In this context, it will seek to go beyond the general environmental concerns associated with urbanisation trends in Asia, asking whether contemporary social, economic, political and cultural changes play a role as well. This will include the rise of the new middle class, urban infrastructure policies, local governance, natural disasters, and climate change discourses.

Recommended key readings:

Campanella, T. J. (2008). The concrete dragon: China's urban revolution and what it means for the world. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.

Mahadevia, D. (Ed.). (2008). Inside the transforming urban Asia: Processes, policies, and public actions. New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company.

Roy, A., & Ong, A. (Eds.). (2011). Worlding cities: Asian experiments and the art of being global. Malden, USA: Blackwell

In addition, every lecture will identify a set of essential and recommended readings relevant to its particular theme.