Towards a Global Urban Geopolitics. Bringing Geopolitics into the Mainstream of Comparative Urban Studies

The session’s underling argument is that we need to re-think the contested and conflictive practices of the material and immaterial “planning/politics nexus” from a comparative perspective. In other words, on the surface different cities share and are developing growing similarities stemming from ethnic, racial and class conflicts revolving around issues of housing, infrastructure, participation and identity, amongst others (Rokem 2016). Our argument is founded on a joint critical reading of the growing literature on urban planning and politics from different urban settings with the aim of learning through elsewhere, rather than seeking out similarities (Robinson 2016) as part of a general call to bring geopolitics into the mainstream of comparative urban studies (Rokem and Boano forthcoming 2017).

The session main objective is to bring together a selected group of international scholars engaging with comparative urban geopolitics. We are interested to explore the relational and contrastive value of comparisons across ‘Northern’ and ‘Southern’ contexts and especially cities from ‘South-Eastern’ non-conventional regions normally excluded from academic debates moving beyond the ‘North-Western’ theory producing usual suspects. In doing so, this session seeks to argue that it is timely to start learning from, and compare across different urban geopolitical contexts to promote urban spatial and social justice. Offering instead multiple access points, from which to explore the ever-expanding range of conflicts, contestations and cultural formations shaping our global urban future.

 We invite papers that discuss and address (although not limited to) the following broad topics:

  • The role of urban geopolitics in different cities and neighbourhoods from a comparative perspective.
  • Comparing how urban conflicts and divisions shape spatial and social justice for urban residents.
  • Comparing planning and its (lack of) promotion of spatial and social justice under extreme urban geopolitical conditions.
  • The shifting roles of the neoliberal economy, ethnicity and race in shaping the futures of different contested cities.
  • Learning from comparing urban geopolitics across ‘Northern’ and ‘Southern’ cities.
  • Comparing urban geopolitics in cities from ‘South-Eastern’ non-conventional regions normally excluded from academic debates.


Dr. Jonathan Rokem, University College London

Dr. Camillo Boano, University College London