Paradigmatic urbanism in the global South

In this talk I argue that cities in the global South constitute a distinctive ‘type’ of human settlement and I propose a paradigm of Southern urbanism. I begin by critiquing Brenner and Schmid’s concept of planetary urbanism, because of the way it erases difference among cities and locates the essence of urbanity in the global North. I echo their criticism of postcolonial urbanism, however, which has struggled to articulate precisely how Southern cities differ from their Northern counterparts. I then assert that cities in the South tend to exhibit a persistent disconnect between capital and labour. Second, I demonstrate that their metabolic configurations are discontinuous, dynamic, and contested. Finally I argue that political economy is not the overriding context within which urban processes unfold, but rather it is always already co-constituted with the materiality of Southern cities. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of characteristics exhibited uniformly by all cities in the global South. Instead, I hope that it serves as a starting point for city-centric scholarship that can account for very real differences between/among cities without constructing cities in the South as pathological and in need of development interventions.