Urbanization and International Development

This course brings together two fields of specialization that are central to planners keen on working in international contexts: i) the field of international development, and ii) the political economy of urbanization. The course interrogates the relationship between these fields by problematizing both development and urbanization. This is particularly important in the current context where challenges like climate change and the 2008/9 global financial crisis are forcing us to rethink both received definitions of development and the role of urbanization within these contested meanings of development. One of the main aims of the course is to cultivate a nuanced understanding of cities in the global south, so that we can go beyond stereotypical representations and practices that see these cities either as dystopic or exotic. Besides readings, the course includes a couple of films to analyze how cities in the global south are popularly represented and how representation impacts practice (or in other words, how framing the problem informs the solution). We will also rely on a number of cases drawn from diverse country contexts that will both ground our discussions in specific institutional arrangements, and alert us to the ways in which precise institutional combinations constrain or enable progressive planning practice.

The course is organized into three parts:
Part 1 is a (very) brief historical trajectory of the dominant currents and countercurrents within development theory, and the role of cities and urbanization within these development discourses and practices.
Part 2 focuses on prominent institutional actors – the public sector, market actors, civil society, international organizations – that have played a key role in shaping urbanization and development from the 1940s to the present.
Part 3 is structured around a series of key debates in development theory.  Each class will engage with a pair of seminal viewpoints – often oppositional – that frame the background context. Debates explored will include peri-urbanization, informality, infrastructural development, private property rights, technology and development, and environment and development (sustainability or political ecology?).

Course Audience and Format:
The course is geared towards graduate students from across disciplines who are interested in urbanization and international development. It has no prerequisites.
The course is an interactive seminar. I will start most classes with an overview introducing key themes, concepts and debates. For the debate sessions, the debate team will start the class by introducing the readings, after which the debate will commence.

Grading and Assignments:
Reading responses and class participation 40%
Reading responses 15%
Leading discussions and class participation 25%
Debate 20%