USF International Workshop: States, markets and variegated urban growth machines

Location: Online
States, markets and variegated urban growth machines

This USF International Workshop will feature four paper presentations on states, markets and variegated urban growth machines in the Global South. The neo-liberalisation and financialization of urban spaces have still predominantly been framed around the conceptual and empirical perspective of the Global North. While the number of case studies from the Global South has undeniably been growing, there is less work that moves on to show that how these obviously different Southern trajectories might contribute to the development of a more global perspective on urban studies. The objective of this workshop is to make a first step into the direction of such a more ambitious agenda “with a Southern flavour” based on ongoing research supported by the USF. For that purpose, presentations will focus on case studies from Turkey, Mexico and Brazil.

The presentations will allow time for a panel discussion at the end, chaired by Professor Jeroen Klink (USF Trustee).

Date: Wednesday 17th November 20211
Time: 13:00 to 14:30 (Brasília time, GMT -4:00)
Format: online, hosted by the Universidade Federal do ABC, São Paulo, Brazil.

Watch this event on YouTube!

Statecraft on Cement: The Politics of Land-Based Accumulation in Erdoğan’s Turkey

Melih Yeşilbağ (Department of Sociology, University of Ankara, Turkey)

This article contributes to the literature on the role of the state in land-based accumulation by presenting an explanatory framework on the case of contemporary Turkey, a case marked by an unprecedented construction boom that carries the distinct mark of the ruling AKP (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi/ Justice and Development Party). Land-based accumulation has constituted a defining aspect of the political economic setting of the AKP era. An investigation of the motivations behind this strategy reveals that it has been instrumental for the ruling party’s political agendas. Through land-based accumulation, the AKP has been able to cultivate a new generation of firms in the construction industry with connections to the party, consolidate its power among domestic capital, and develop new mechanisms to finance party politics. Furthermore, symbolic and material manifestations of land-based accumulation has been abundantly used in the party’s propaganda machinery to provide ideological legitimation.

Overall, AKP’s authoritarian grip on power has been forged through the political-ideological resources provided by land-based accumulation. Contrary to the widespread narratives of weakening, passive or merely facilitating states, the case of Turkey comes to the fore an instance of boosting state agendas through land based accumulation. My findings underline the need to combine capital-switch arguments with a Gramscian political conjunctural analysis for a fuller understanding of the role of the state in land-based accumulation and point at the urban roots of neoliberal authoritarianism.

Speculative housing and the urban landscape. A case study of Tijuana, Mexico

Dinorah Gonzalez (Universidad Iberoamericana, Tijuana, Mexico)

From luxury high rises to low-income suburban settlements, financial reforms implemented late in the 20th century in Mexico sparked speculative housing production and changed how cities grow. From 2000 to 2020, private companies built around 72% of housing in a country where urban growth used to be predominantly informal. Different studies have found that the resulting land pattern increases segregation and reenforces socio-geographical disparities.

In this presentation, I explore how speculative housing production decisions contribute to this income-segregated urban form in Tijuana, the fifth largest housing market in Mexico. I use production costs and development statistics to assess scale economies that led to the suburbanization of low-income housing. I also explain how substituting land inputs for other construction inputs (materials, labor, and machinery) to achieve building height drives up housing prices in central areas. I discuss the results regarding housing accessibility, planning flexibility, and the challenges that speculative real estate places on municipal governance.

Double Monopoly: Labour and Space in the Financialisation of Brazilian Infrastructure

Beatriz Rufino (College of Architecture and Urbanism of the University of São Paulo, FAU-USP, Brazil)

The aim of this paper is to push the recent discussions of rentier capitalism and urban financialisation beyond geographic and disciplinary boundaries. To do so we provide a critical interrogation of the expansion of large infrastructure contractors in Brazil’s post 2008 response to economic crisis. In the context of capital inflows and revenues from primary commodity exports, The Brazilian Government underwrote the counter-cyclical policies to accelerate privatization of infrastructures through public investment and financing. Coupled with inflows of international capital looking for outlets outside anglophone markets, Brazilian large contractors took advantage of novel financing arrangements to consolidate highly lucrative projects. Much of the recent anglophone academic interest in the financialisation of infrastructure in particular (Allen and Pryke 2018) and of “rentier capitalism” in general (Christophers 2020) has played out across the productive and unproductive boundary, under the assumption that the creation and capture of value by financial actors has been geographically, if not structurally, disassociated from labour exploitation. To overcome this analytical binary, we mobilise the concept of “double monopoly” in order to locate how value production (infrastructure as a fixed capital) and rent extraction (infrastructure as urban property and financial asset) have been knitted together under subordinate financialisation in Brazil. Originally theorised by Lefebvre to grip agrarian capitalist transformation, we argue that the concept of “double monopoly” captures the dual class and landlord function of large infrastructure contractors in Brazil that have intensified labour exploitation and capitalisation of rents, while deepening the uneven development of metropolitan spaces.

Financial investors in Brazil’s commercial property markets: a comparative analysis of REITs, pension funds, and listed property companies

Dr Daniel Sanfelici (Universidade Federal Fluminense, Brazil)

Over the past decade, Brazil has witnessed a sharp growth in the creation of new real estate investment trusts (Sanfelici & Halbert, 2019). As of 2020, REITs own over BRL 120 billion (USD 25 billion) in (mostly commercial) property assets, and the number of shareholders in these vehicles has already exceeded one million (mostly domestic middle and upper-income individuals). However, the growth of REITs is part of a broader trend in Brazil’s commercial property market since the early 2000s: the decline in traditional forms of property ownership (small individual investors, family-owned developers, owner-occupiers, etc) and the rise of institutional ownership. This shift calls for a better understanding of how domestic investors, with large sums of money under management, conduct investments in real estate, how they understand that category of investment, and the channels they use to invest. This paper looks into the investment practices of three groups of property investors in Brazil’s commercial property market: real estate investment trusts; listed property firms; and pension funds. We analyze key variables that explain differences in investment practices, such as liability structure, governance models, and stakeholder participation in decision-making. Our results show that, while these actors are indeed increasingly financialized, there remain key differences in risk-taking behavior and investment priorities that deserve to be taken into account, with key implications for urban development and policy-making.

About USF International Workshops

USF International Workshops are a running series of events bringing together urban scholars from around the world. Focused on research funded by the Urban Studies Foundation, each workshop features work pertinent to better understandings of urban realities across the Global South. Moreover, the workshops are not only expected to generate insights regarding these different urban trajectories, but to contribute to the development of truly global urban studies.

"With an International Fellowship I was able to receive the mentorship, time and resources that I needed to help me sit in my ideas. As a result, I am now more confident that the ideas I endeavour to put forward, informed, predominantly, by African and Southern experiences and theories, have value beyond my immediate geographies."

Dr Wangui Kimari, International Fellowship

Urban Studies Foundation is a registered Scottish charity. Registration number SC039937.

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