Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Peripheral Urbanization: Autoconstruction, Transversal Logics, and Politics in Cities of the Global South

Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Peripheral Urbanization: Autoconstruction, Transversal Logics, and Politics in Cities of the Global South

Article excerpt

Abstract

Many cities around the world have been largely constructed by their residents, who build not only their own houses, but also frequently their neighborhoods. In this article, I use the notion of peripheral urbanization to analyze this way of producing cities that is quite pervasive in the global south. I argue that peripheral urbanization refers to modes of the production of space that (a) operate with a specific temporality and agency, (b) engage transversally with official logics, (c) generate new modes of politics, and (d) create highly unequal and heterogeneous cities. I also argue that peripheral urbanization not only produces heterogeneity within the city as it unfolds over time, but also varies considerably from one city to another. I build my arguments by juxtaposing dissimilar cases from a few cities in the global south. To focus on peripheral urbanization means simultaneously to de-center urban theory and to offer a bold characterization of modes of the production of space that are different from those that generated the cities of the North Atlantic.

Keywords

Autoconstruction, peripheries, transversal logics, urbanization in the global south

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Many cities around the world have been largely constructed by their residents, who build not only their own houses, but also frequently their neighborhoods. They do not necessarily do so in clandestine ways and certainly not in isolation. Throughout the process, they interact with the state and its institutions, but usually in transversal ways. While they have plans and prepare carefully each step, their actions typically escape the framing of official planning. They operate inside capitalist markets of land, credit, and consumption, but usually in special niches bypassed by the dominant logics of formal real estate, finance, and commodity circulation. In the process of house/city building, many make themselves into citizens and political agents, become fluent in rights talk, and claim the cities as their own. In this article, I refer to this mode of making cities as peripheral urbanization.

I use the notion of peripheral urbanization to create a problem-space that allows us to investigate logics of the production of the urban that differ from those of the North Atlantic. I use it as a means of exploring processes of both socio-spatial formation and theory making. My intention is to go beyond the deconstruction of Northern-originated accounts of urbanization articulated by a now long stream of critiques (1) and, in response to Mbembe and Nuttall (2004: 352), work with new archives to offer a bold characterization and theorization of a mode of the production of space that is prevalent in cities of the global south.

Many authors have worked with notions of peripheries and peripheral urbanization to analyze cities in the global south. I work in conversation with them and cite many of their works throughout this article. At the core of my contribution are two arguments. First, I argue that peripheral urbanization consists of a set of interrelated processes. It refers to modes of the production of urban space that (a) operate with a specific form of agency and temporality, (b) engage transversally with official logics, (c) generate new modes of politics through practices that produce new kinds of citizens, claims, circuits, and contestations, and (d) create highly unequal and heterogeneous cities. Second, I argue that peripheral urbanization not only produces heterogeneity within the city as it unfolds over time, but also varies considerably from one city to another. Thus, as a model, peripheral urbanization must remain open and provisional to account for variation and for the ways in which the production of the cities it characterizes is constantly being transformed.

It is important to stress that peripheral urbanization does not necessarily entail the growth of cities towards their hinterlands. …

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