The politics of city strategies, undertaken by cities across the world, allows a more global approach to the politics of urban development. Jennifer Robinson (University College London) will give a lecture about her research on Comparative Urbanism.
Jennifer is Professor of Human Geography at University College London and Visiting Professor at the African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town. She has also worked at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, the LSE (London) and the Open University. Her book, Ordinary Cities (Routledge, 2006) developed a post-colonial critique of urban studies, arguing for urban theorising which draws on the experiences of a wider range of cities around the globe. This project has been taken forward in her call to reinvent comparative urbanism for global urban studies in her recent, Cities in a world of cities article in IJURR and Thinking Cities through Elsewhere, in Progress in Human Geography. Current projects include exploring transnational aspects of Johannesburg and London’s policy making processes and collaborative and community-based research comparing governance of large scale urban developments in London, Johannesburg and Shanghai (with Phil Harrison and Fulong Wu). She has also published extensively on the history and contemporary politics of South African cities, including The Power of Apartheid (Butterworth-Heinemann, 1996).
Whereas urban regimes and growth coalitions, focused on the US and the EU, have formed the staple subject matter of comparative urbanism, the comparative analysis of city strategies will demonstrate how existing analyses might be effectively internationalised to attend to a much wider range urban outcomes. How are urban political interests articulated in conditions of the strong transnationalisation of economy, state and civil society, the role of international agencies, the centrality of informalised political processes, and challenges of extreme inequality? These issues are as important in London, as in Johannesburg, and in a more highly informalised and exteriorised local government context like Lilongwe.
City strategies as a technology have circulated widely and are often associated with neoliberal policy circuits and innovations. Certainly, processes of urban neo liberalisation bring into view the potential for comparative analysis to proceed through tracing the extensive policy interconnections amongst cities. By tracing its travels, we can identify that urban neoliberalism varies considerably in its form and effects across contexts, that apparent outcomes of circulating neoliberal policies might be the result of quite different (local or circulating) processes, and that the influences of circulating neoliberal practice can even lead to very non-neoliberal outcomes. In this lecture, Jennifer Robinson offers reflections across the three cases of city strategies. In doing so, she will show how the analysis of a similar policy practice in three very different cities illuminate our analysis of urban politics in general.