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


Lent Term 2019


Tuesday 15 January
Jamie Doucette (University of Manchester)
“The Postdevelopmental State: A Gramscian Interpretation”

The theory of the developmental state has long animated inquiry into East Asian development and continues to shape debates about alternatives to neoliberalism and austerity to this day.  And yet, the economies that once shared this label have been substantially transformed in the decades since the idea was first introduced. Moreover, geographers and other social scientists have provided a detailed critique of its understanding of the social, political and spatial determinants of East Asia’s rapid economic development. The presentation builds upon this work in order to advocate for reframing of the developmental state research program that moves its methodological foundations from Weber to Gramsci in order to better highlight the dilemmas raised by developmental state reform in South Korea. The postdevelopmental state is seen here not as an ideal type of state-society relation that valorizes forms of planning and rationality adjusted to the standpoint of the state or the market, but rather as a set of strategic challenges that are best grasped from the standpoints of a wide variety of progressive social forces that have sought to address the intersecting legacies of developmentalism and neoliberalism on the Korean peninsula. In this presentation, I focus on the nature of the economic imaginaries that have shaped domestic debates over economic democracy – and by extension the role of Korea’s large family-led conglomerates (chaebol) in the economy – as well as frustrations with fledging efforts to create a ‘labour respecting society’ through social partnership and income-led growth under the current Moon Jae-in Administration.

Tuesday 22 January
Dr Tatiana Thieme (University College London)
“When the day hustle goes down, the night hustle goes up’: Temporalities of the hustle economy in Mathare, Nairobi”

Based on ethnographic research in one of Nairobi’s oldest and largest informal settlements, this paper mobilises the notion of ‘hustle’ to ground the narratives of struggle, opportunity and place-making expressed by youth whose livelihood strategies have centred in part around informal waste labour. As everyday lives are mired by constant uncertainty, youth occupy a ‘precarious present’ (Millar 2018) caught in a state of suspension d but also versed in adapting to adversity and shaping local politics of provisioning in the absence of formal structures of support. The paper focuses on a set of ethnographic portraits and particular ‘bases’ in Mathare Valley, examining the non-linear and unpredictable vicissitudes of hustling as a survival, livelihood and political strategy to get by and get things done. The set of skills and knowledges that navigate ebbs and flows of makeshift urbanism include negotiating opportunity and set-back, hope and disappointment, waithood and rapid adjustments to emergencies, making work and loitering on the jobless corner. Finally, the paper examines the temporalities of the home-grown hustle economy of Mathare, as the younger youth seek to ‘redraw the maps’ of local informal economies such as garbage collection and older youth start getting involved in local politics alongside their multiple side hustles.

Tuesday 29 January
Dr James Ash (University of Newcastle)
Phase space: a geography of smart objects”

This paper theorises how smart objects, understood as internet-connected and sensor-enabled devices, generates phases. Phases can be defined as spaces-times that are disclosed through the perturbations between smart objects, which work to modulate the spatio-temporal intelligibility of both humans and non-humans. Examining a range of objects and services from the Apple Watch to Nest Cam I suggest that the modulation of spatio-temporal intelligibility is actively designed to increase the use of, and reliance upon, these devices and alter how people experience and use space.

Tuesday 5 February
Dr Andrea Gibbons (University of Salford and LSE Geography and Environment PhD alumna)
“The War against the Homeless and the Poor: The Racial Cleansing of LA’s Skid Row”

Book launch, City of Segregation: 100 Years of Struggle for Housing in Los Angeles (Verso Books)

This is the story of the struggle over space in central Los Angeles, where a fierce and fairly successful campaign to preserve the right to the city and its streets for all has driven business interests to carry out increasingly extreme campaigns to cleanse the poor and people of colour from the city centre. This presentation looks at the wider US context of housing, establishing how racial ideologies have been embedded into property value, and how this dynamic is part of what is driving the efforts to racially and socially cleanse the downtown area. It examines the use of Business Improvement Districts to privatise and secure downtown’s public spaces, efforts conducted in partnership with the city and district attorneys to criminalise and incarcerate residents over issues of quality of life and addiction, and partnership with the LA County Health Department in an attempt to use public health and hygiene interventions to displace those without homes. These efforts only highlight the power of the vibrant grassroots struggle in coalition against displacement, and how they have worked to build the existing community’s own vision of downtown’s transformation through art, rooftop gardens, and work to end violence.

Tuesday 12 February
Dr Nathaniel Lewis (University of Southampton)

Tuesday 26 February
Dr Mara Nogueira-Teixeira

Tuesday 5 March
Carwyn Morris (LSE)

Tuesday 12 March