Urban planning and migrants in the city: glocal and transnational perspectives

Migration is a major factor of urbanisation, both in the developed and developing world, and its transformational effects have led to calls for new approaches to ‘multicultural’, ‘cosmopolitan’, and ‘just’ cities. Nonetheless, despite a long-standing attention towards migrants in urban areas, there exists a gap between research on migration and the resulting diversification of cities and research on urban planning, as well as between international, national and local level policy-making in these areas and the situation on the ground. The World Migration Report (IOM 2015) identified some of the key challenges that migration poses on cities, and considered urban planning and governance as a major factor in these regards. Yet, little is known about the impact of urban planning on migrants’ settlement, their spatial (im)mobility in the city, social (im)mobility of different migrant generations, patterns of everyday encounters in a diverse city and vice versa.

Migrants as well as host populations have mobilised to claim their ‘right to the city’ and have formed urban social movements. At the same time, citizen involvement, local ‘partnerships’ and the activation of local residents have become an important trend in urban planning. Limited evidence exists on how urban planning may engender practices of co-optation and exclude some residents, thus deepening existing structures of inequality and injustice. Are native locals perceived as more legitimate social and political actors than migrants that inhabit the same areas, despite the role of migrants in urban development? Is there selectivity and lack of representation of the lesser agentic migrants, and those with lower intellectual and material capital, or unstable legal status?

Furthermore, the limited research on urban planning and migration focuses almost exclusively on cities in developed countries, overlooking the developing world and migration and urbanisation patterns there. Even though urban studies are increasingly looking at cities’ relationality with regional and global processes, and migration studies on transnational migrants and immigration-based urban diversification are burgeoning, research on spatial scale, urban policy and migration and mobility have developed separately from each other. As a result, attention to glocal and transnational links and their local implications has been missing in the study of urban planning, and migration research has often overlooked the implications of migration for urban planning and the governance of urban development.

 This session aims to bring together contributions focusing on the developed and developing world that look at the following or related topics:

  • transformation of urban space as a result of migration and its impact on planning and governance of urban development
  • migrants’ relationship with city infrastructures and amenities
  • the impact of agency and structure on migrants’ (lack of) involvement in planning processes
  • migrants’ formal and informal strategies to counter negative effects of urban planning and governance
  • impact of urban planning and infrastructures on migrants’ spatial and social mobility
  • the link between policies and practices of urban planning and governance and migrant integration
  • policy makers’ and urban planners’ perception of migrants’ appreciation of and relationship with urban space and new socialities in the urban space
  • intersectional perspectives on the impact of age, gender, race, ethnicity and legal status of migrants and urban planning and governance
  • multi- and inter-scalar relationships or discontinuities of migration, urban planning policies and service provision
  • glocal and transnational perspectives on urban planning and governance and migration in the developed and developing world
  • comparative papers on the impact of urban planning and governance on migrants’ relationship with urban space and vice versa
  • the (lack of) impact of collaborations and partnerships of the state with immigrant actors on urban inequality and injustice


Dr. Zana Vathi, Edge Hill University zana.vathi@edgehill.ac.uk

Dr. Maria Schiller, Max Planck Society schiller@mmg.mpg.de