Urbanisation, Planning and Development

Seminar Series

These research seminars are a series of expert-led discussions. Unless otherwise noted, the seminars take place at LSE on Tuesdays, 4:30pm-6pm in Clement House, room CLM 3.04. The seminars are open to all.

  • Please note that the talk by Dr Lynette Ong on 14 February is on Wednesday rather than the usual Tuesday.


Lent Term 2018

Tuesday 16 January

Dr Doyoung Oh (London School of Economics)
“Conceptualising the university in East Asian cities: Is it a state agency, social reformer, or real estate developer?”

The university is a multifaceted institution playing diverse economic, social, and political roles, and such roles have evolved. How can we conceptualise the university to understand such roles? This talk firstly offers a framework to conceptualise the university of the city. Then it investigates two East Asian universities’ recent urban development projects using the proposed framework. By doing so, this talk will highlight the process that East Asian universities are becoming financialised as an active urban development agent.

Tuesday 23 January

Dr Kasia Paprocki (London School of Economics)
“Threatening dystopias: Development politics and the anticipation of climate crisis in Bangladesh”

In the global imaginary of climate change, Bangladesh holds a prominent position. Frequently described as the ‘world’s most vulnerable country to climate change’, the specter of Bangladesh underwater, wiped off the map by rising sea levels, has given birth to a crisis narrative that obscures the ways in which interventions in the environment and social life of the country have already transformed the landscape many times over. Today, development in Bangladesh is increasingly defined by and through an adaptation regime, a socially and historically specific configuration of power that governs the landscape of possible intervention in anticipation of climate change. It includes institutions of development, research, media, and science, as well as various state actors both nationally and internationally. The adaptation regime operates through the material and epistemic processes of imagination, experimentation, and dispossession. It is built on a vision of development in which urbanization and export-led growth are both desirable and inevitable. For the rural poor, this entails dispossession from agrarian livelihoods and outmigration. As this shift contributes to the expansion of production of export commodities such as garments and frozen shrimp, the threat of climate change and its associated migrations is reframed as an opportunity for development and growth.

Tuesday 30 January

Yimin Zhao (London School of Economics)
“Modernity and the genealogy of Beijing’s green belts”

UPD posterAs an idea generated by the Western planning canon, “green belt” was inserted in Beijing’s master plan through critical interconnections of modernity, urban space and the Chinese national ethos. While its form was laid down by the Western (modernist) planning canon, its contents have been subordinated to concrete and dynamic politico-economic needs of the Party-state. The green belt, I hence argue, is best defined as a pure urban form. It marks a critical spatial configuration, which, on the one hand, re-contextualises modernity locally and, on the other, articulates modernism with modernisation firmly in line with the dynamic (urban) political economy.

Tuesday 6 February

Dr Ruth Craggs (King’s College London)
“Decolonisation, national development and the discipline of geography in Nigeria”

This paper, part of a wider project exploring the entanglements of the discipline of geography with decolonisation, focuses on a two key preoccupations of the decolonising era: post-colonial national development and the Cold War. It explores how the discipline of geography was taken up and utilised in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s in newly independent countries grappling with their post-colonial national and regional development, and how this trend was also influenced by Cold War geopolitics. The paper takes as a case study Nigerian geography, and in particular that practised by Akin Mabogunje – the first Nigerian professor of geography – and his colleagues at the University of Ibadan (the first Nigerian university). It argues that geography’s quantitative turn fed into broader debates about national development in the post-colonial state, highlighting how intellectual and theoretical developments in the discipline manifested themselves – and were also practiced – differently in locations outside of Anglo-American contexts. Alongside teaching and publishing, Nigerian geographers carried out applied geography, working on census and land reforms, and with the Federal Government on the location and development of the country’s new capital Abuja. Geographers were thus central to the practice of urban and regional planning, which itself was an important part of the project of post-colonial ‘national development’. Debates about the decolonisation of geography, its ‘real world’ applications, and its quantification, we suggest, look different when viewed from Nigeria.

Special session, Wednesday 14 February

Speaker: Lynette Ong (University of Toronto)
“Thugs-for-hire” and state repression in China

Chair: Hyun Bang Shin (LSE Geography and Environment)

Discussion: Timothy Hildebrandt (LSE Social Policy), Yimin Zhao (LSE Geography and Environment)

Please note that this event takes place on Wednesday and in Graham Wallace Room. For attending this special session, booking is required via Eventbrite. Please visit here for more information. 

This paper examines “thugs-for-hire” as a form of state repression, particularly through the use of third-party violent agents. Local governments regularly deploy third-party violence to evict homeowners, expropriate land from farmers, manage illegal street vendors and deal with petitioners and protestors in China. This study contributes to the state repression literature by elaborating the role of thugs and gangsters as a repressive measure. Violence is effective and efficient in implementing unpopular and illegal policies. Third-party violence as a form of privatized repression also allows the state to evade responsibility for using violence and to maintain a veneer of legitimacy. However, it may encounter agency problem, run the risk of backfiring from the society and impose cost on state legitimacy.

Tuesday 20 February

Jordana Ramalho (London School of Economics)
“Governing through disaster risk management: Contradictions and contestations in Metro Cebu, Philippines”

Tuesday 27 February

Meredith Whitten (London School of Economics)
“Reconceptualising green space: Planning for urban green space in 21st-century London”

Tuesday 6 March

Ingrid Oviedo (UCL)
“A humanitarian crisis after Hurricane María in Puerto Rico: How to stop history from repeating itself? Lessons from Hurricanes San Ciriaco (1899), San Felipe (1928) and Santa Clara (1956)”

Post-Hurricane María (September 2017), an unforeseen humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Puerto Rico, which is a paradigmatic example of underdevelopment in a multi-risk prone region, and laboratory and showcase of United States policy-making. Yet, a historical analysis reveals this crisis is only a new iteration. What could the recent past teach us to achieve resilience? Framed by political ecology and an interpretivist approach, the presentation zooms on two key aspects of the disaster cycle, pre-existing conditions and immediate responses corresponding to the worst contemporary hurricanes. Archival research and visual sociology helped to juxtapose a shifting array of sources, corresponding to pivotal institutional and societal changes. The conclusion is that we must: overcome conventional dichotomous choices between the technical and the social; critically grasp knowledge systems to inform decisions about interventions; address pre-existing factors that enabled storms to become disasters, including entrenched injustices; change disaster management beyond relief decisions to encompass citizenship rights and obligations.


This series is organised by Dr Ryan Centner. Contact r.o.centner@lse.ac.uk with any questions.