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Research on South(east) Asian Cities: Infrastructures, Livelihoods and Risks


The 21st century has been called the ‘Urban Century’. With rapid economic growth, many mega cities in the Global South have become global hubs of finance, production and consumption, attracting the rich and the emerging middle classes. At the same time informal economic activities as well as informal housing areas continuously expand. Under such circumstances cities are experiencing ‘compressed changes’ of economy and society resulting in multi-layered stratification. As a result, municipal governments as well as urban dwellers face multiple challenges they have to deal with on an everyday basis.

Despite the empirical and policy relevance of this topic, urban studies in Asia are still weak compared to rural studies. In Europe and Northern America, urban studies have been actively developed with the result that so far most of the urban theories available are based on research in Western cities, thence establishing a bias towards these cities (McFarlane 2010; Robinson 2006). Metropolises like New York or Paris are considered icons and manifestations of modernity (King 2004). In contrast, mega-cities in the Global South are most often approached and conceptualized via development theory (Parnell and Robinson 2012; Patel 2014).

Currently, we face the challenge that many developments in cities of the Global South cannot be explained simply by adopting Western urban theories. For example, the emerging middle classes in the cities of Global South display a strong performance as political actors and consumers. In the history of 19/20th century Europe, urbanization and the expansion of the middle class or ‘citoyen’ lead to the development of democracy and the formation of consciences for social welfare regimes and redistributive schemes. However, the new emerging middle classes in Asia and other parts of the Global South do not necessarily support democratic development and social redistribution, but on the contrary frequently accelerate conflicts with the urban lower classes over scarce resources in the city (e.g. land, water, food etc.).

The workshop is a follow up of the Japanese German Frontiers of Science Symposium’s Social Sciences Panel on Mega Cities held in Kyoto in 2015. The aim of the workshop is to connect German and Japanese scholars working on Southern, in particular Asian, cities.


15.11. Public Lecture (-17:45)

Urbanization and Food Security in Nairobi, Kenya

Samuel Owuor (Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of Nairobi)

(Institute of Geography, Südbau, Room Ü3, ground floor)

16.11. Workshop

8:30 Coffee/Welcome

8:45 Introduction by conveners (content, format)

Session 1: Socio-economic transformations and land use changes

9:00 Milap Punia (Delhi): Synthesizing socio-ecological transformations in peri-urban parts of National Capital Region

9:45 Sucharita Sen (Hyderabad): Urban-centric Growth and Implications for Gendered Livelihoods in Peri-urban areas of Large Metropolitan Cities in India'

10:30 coffee break

10:45 Aye Aye Myint (Nay Pyi Taw): Urban fringe developments in Myanmar.

11:30 Frauke Kraas & Carsten Butsch (Cologne): Transformations in Pune’s urban fringe

12:00 Wrap up: driving processes of socio-economic transformations and land use changes. Discussant: Xue Desheng (Guangzhou)

12:30 Lunch

Session 2: Peri-urban – urban entanglements

13:30 Judith Bopp (Cologne): Catering for the urban organic food scenes: sustainable farming projects in Bangkok and the surrounding areas

14:15 Gilbert Nduru (Karatina): Kitchen Gardens in Peri Urban Areas in Kenya

15:00 coffee break

15:15 Maximilian Willkomm (Cologne): Changes of urban and peri-urban agriculture in the context of land use pressure and value chain dynamics in central Kenya

16:00 Alexander Follmann & Peter Dannenberg (Cologne): Environmental impacts of urban and peri-urban agro-food systems in transition: integrating metabolisms into agro-food value chain analysis

Wrap up: driving processes of agricultural transformations. Discussant: Samuel Owuor (Nairobi)

17:15 Synthesis (roundtable discussion): identifying the challenges of the fringe transforming. Discussant: Ranjit Mitra (Delhi)

19:30 dinner