Intersections on the periphery: the Good City in a Time of Crisis

Andrew Tucker, Shriya Anand, and Colin McFarlane

Funding period: 1 November 2023 – 31 July 2024
Type of funding: Seminar Series

Host institutions: African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town (South Africa), Indian Institute for Human Settlements (India), and Durham University (United Kingdom)
Dates: November 2023 (Cape Town), January 2024 (Bangalore), and June-July 2024 (Durham).
Lead organisers: Dr Andrew Tucker (African Centre for Cities), Shriya Anand (Indian Institute for Human Settlements), and Prof Colin McFarlane (Durham University)
Contact: Dr Andrew Tucker

Abstract: The intersection of rapid peripheral urbanisation, profound climate impacts, and sharply growing inequalities has placed our existing conceptual frameworks and approaches in disarray. While we have a rich body of research examining each of these domains independently, we lack two vital understandings. First, how do we make sense of the intersection between these processes, particularly at the rapidly growing urban periphery? Second, what does understanding this intersection mean for working towards ‘the good city’?

Peripheral expansion has emerged as a dominant mode of urbanization today, reshaping urban lives, economies, socialities, and ecologies. Urbanization, and the associated challenges of poverty, inequality and environmental transformation, have in recent decades taken place mainly through peripheral expansion. However, going beyond spatial peripheral expansion, we identify four key forms of peripheralisation for the purpose of this work: one, as a result of deliberate intervention by state or private actors including corridors, magnet cities, new towns, or programmes of massive suburbanization; two, off-shoot growth from larger urban centres which might include expansionary real estate speculation on the urban edge; three, the formation of peripheries through often gradual settlement of and autoconstruction by new and typically lower-income migrants, and the diversity of activities that emerge in unplanned and underserved areas such as urban villages; four, the marginalization and lack of research on certain types of urban residents who exist at physical urban peripheries and whose subjectivities have made them all but invisible to contemporary scholarship and/or policy support (Brenner and Schmid, 2011; Guney et al, 2019; Caldeira, 2017; Holston, 2009; Holston and Caldeira, 2008; Pati, 2022; Tucker and Hassan 2021; Tucker 2023).

Across much of the existing literature, there is a deepening sense that understanding the current urban moment demands interrogating the intersection between peripheralization, climate change, and a plurality of growing inequalities. While we might understand elements of each of these processes well, it is the intersection which eludes clear comprehension. And yet this is the vital challenge of our time. This seminar series offers us a way to create a series of open-ended conversations that will enable participants to ‘step back’ and reflect, in an open-ended, dialogic way, to make sense of this intersection and what do about it.