Urban Transformation in 21st Century Metropolises
Many metropolises in developing countries currently have an abundance of capital and labour. However, instead of being imbricated in production the former is invested in real estate and infrastructure while labourers struggle to earn livelihoods in the informal sector. I am interested in understanding how this persistent disconnect between capital and labour has engendered urban transformation and given rise to particular cityscapes and subjectivities.
Contesting Urban Metabolisms
Given the intractable disconnect between capital and labour, many workers in metropolises in the global South are unable to find wage-labour jobs in the formal sector. Thus, the epic struggles that characterized urban contestation in many cities in the 19th and 20th centuries between capital and organized labor (i.e. over access to and control over means of production) are notably absent in 21st century metropolises. Instead, there tends to be conflict over urban services and resources, such as water, electricity and waste. I am interested in these types of conflicts, and how they affect people’s understanding of their ‘place’ in the city. Finally, I focus on the political ecology produced by contested metabolic configurations characterised by discontinuity.
African Urbanism with Chinese Characteristics?
Many African cities are attracting investors eager to capitalize on growing demand for infrastructure and housing. I am particularly interested in large-scale Chinese investment. While many investors simply construct luxury residential complexes that benefit a small elite, Chinese investment tends to be at a much more grandiose scale and aims to transform cities comprehensively. I seek to determine whether Chinese planning norms have the potential to foster more sustainable and equitable outcomes in African cities than EuroAmerican planning norms which have largely failed.