array(2) { [0]=> string(4) "toto" [1]=> string(4) "titi"} Cities and Regions in a Globalizing World

Ateliers thématiques | Les ateliers du quinquennal 2014-2018

Cities and Regions in a Globalizing World

Cities and Regions in a Globalizing World

Coordinator: Loraine Kennedy


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This team will continue the reflection process begun by the STAKES team (2010-13) on socio-economic and territorial dynamics in India, but with a greater emphasis on the comparative dimension, both from within the countries we study and between different Asian countries. The idea is to begin by taking a look at the processes of regional and urban economic restructuring, which have been largely spurred on by the gradual liberalization of the economy over the past twenty years or so, as well as by the ever increasing presence of transnational exchanges within Indian society. These dynamics, which have points of contact with many of the major issues confronting contemporary India, will be approached through three main areas of study:

Urban studies

Cities have become the privileged sites of economic growth in India, similar to what has been observed in many industrialized and emergent countries, and it is in cities that globalization processes tend to be the most intensive. Because of this, the city plays a very important role as an interface with the broader world, be it in the area of economics, culture or technology. Metropolitan regions, in particular, are under a great deal of pressure to restructure both their economic fabric and urban environments, which includes the built-up area as well as to address problems engendered by the growth of city peripheries and phenomena of gentrification/pauperization. These pressures to restructure are driven as much by local and national agents as by transnational ones. For instance, the improvement of the economic position of the middle classes explains the boom in the real estate market and the construction of new residential neighborhoods, for which real estate developers make use of capital from all the main financial centers of the world. As for government authorities, we can note that they use urban spaces as a basis for policies aimed at enhancing the competitive capability of cities, which may go against an ideal of “spatial justice.” Mobilizing new regulatory tools, they seek to develop strategic urban infrastructure (transportation, production platforms), most often through public-private partnerships. Nonetheless, urban spaces have not been transformed without violence, as many recent incidents involving eviction and the various forms of contestation that crystalize around mega-projects have shown. In the context of “urban studies,” it would be useful to establish connections between the planning processes, the institutions and the tools—not just regulatory but also operational—that are currently being used to “produce” urban spaces. Such an approach might fruitfully foster reflexivity: how do urban studies and development initiatives influence each other?

Regional and local dynamics

Globalization is often conceptualized as a shift in scale; various research trends emphasize the increasing importance of comparing the supranational and sub-national scales with that of the nation-state, as is the case in state rescaling. This second major area of study brings together work focused on social processes operating at sub-national scales, with the aim of clarifying their origins or examining their implications. The study of regional economic policies, for instance, yields insights that aid in understanding why some regions are able to adapt as territories open up to market forces, while others suffer from this process. Here, the paths that research can take are numerous and vary according to the disciplinary focus: the forms of territorial insertion of economic activities; the modalities according to which economic and political elites interact, and the economic governance that results; comparisons between the policies developed by different Indian States; labor-capital relationships and the modes of interaction between companies and local businesses, to name only a few. Another important thematic is the regionalization of politics, i.e. the increasing importance of political parties that are operative only in one or a few States, which is a manifestation of the intensification of political competition across the entire range of spatial scales. This is a major political development, with important consequences for federal governance, as the proliferation of coalition governments at both national and State levels reveals. Without necessarily going through a process of institutionalization, and becoming political parties per se, various forms of social mobilization have been observed, such as territorial control by radical movements, secessionist movements in several regions or various other forms of localized contestation. The lines along which research can be conducted with reference to mobilization are numerous: the modes and repertoires of action, as well as their circulation—which would make it possible to include a comparative dimension, with regard to China especially, the emergence of transnational forms of political struggle, especially as they make use of social media—, and the study of the economy of militant practices (e.g., resources—cultural, social, political—and the interests mobilized; the militant career paths of leaders; the links and articulations with local politics and institutions).

Theoretical reflection on the State

Processes of globalization, in conjunction with the expansion of neoliberal economic management principles, contribute to the redefinition of modes of political action and of the relationship states maintain with their territories. These developments have given rise to attempts at interpretation, and our aim here will be to see how our work on India compares with various theoretical orientations, keeping in mind international comparison as well. Incidentally, we may consider that, given their size and dynamics for the past several decades, countries like India and China might provide us with tools to develop new models for economy and political economy, as well as inspire new theoretical perspectives.

This line of inquiry could be extended, for instance, by examining non-state actors, and the relationship they are building with territory. At a local scale, particularly at the municipal level, the redefinition of the state / territory relationship is in part mediated by new actors (or institutions): one might mention, for example, residents’ associations and CBOs (community-based organizations), which organize themselves in reference to a given territory. To study modes of political action and the state/territory relationship, it is pertinent to take into account these local-level actors, either because the state is perceived as incapable of action or because public action is more and more often funneled through partnerships between the state and these local-level actors (for example, the role played by NGOs in rehabilitation and relocation plans).


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