by topics

Topic: Comparative urbanism


Asian city

Asian cities are often categorized as an ‘exotic others’ in relation to their Western counterparts, by being elevated onto a mythical pedestal, yet Asian cities should not only be explored through their unique qualities, localisms and unique ‘cosmopolitan vernacular’ expressions, but also by looking at how they influence and are influenced by other cities (Ren & Luger, 2015).



Colonialism is a system of domination whereby an external, sovereign country willfully and forcefully occupies another, independent country/territory in order to exploit the latter’s human and natural resources. In the process, the colonizing country imposes its system of governance, laws, culture, religion, language, education, and economics on its colonial objects (Sackey, 2012).


Compact cities

‘Cities of a form and scale appropriate to walking, cycling and efficient public transport, and with a compactness that encourages social interaction’ (Jenks, Burton & Williams, 1996, p.3).


Comparative urbanism

The systematic study of interlinkages, similarities and differences between cities and urban processes (Mayhew, 2015a).



Developmentalism is a wide-ranging and complex philosophical position that sustains the idea of development – understood to be modernization as Westernization as a normative goal (Watts, 2009).



This concept is ‘often used to vaguely refer to spoken and written language while at other times it includes all forms of representation and refers quite specifically to theories derived from the work of post-structuralism in general and the work of Michel Foucault in particular. Foucault’s theory of discourse concerns how we know what we know, where knowledge comes from, who is authorized to profess it and how, ultimately, “truth” is established’ (Cresswell, 2009, p.211).


Disrupted city

Urban life suffers from the failure of urban infrastructures as the infrastructural disruption ‘tends to cascade between different networks and across geography and time in highly unpredictable and nonlinear ways’ (Graham, 2010, pp.25).


Garden city
A planned settlement, as conceived by Ebenezer Howard, with low housing density, and many parks, open spaces, and allotments; the maximum population size to be about 30 000 (Mayhew, 2015a). The land should be developed under ‘municipal ownership’ (Howard, 1989, pp.76-77).



‘A process of neighbourhood transformation in which working-class and poor residents are displaced by an influx of middle-class residents’ (Hammel, 2009, p.360).


Global cities

Cities that contain ‘large clusters of internationally orientated producer services firms’ (Derudder, 2009, p.262). Sassen's concept of the global city emphasises ‘the flow of information and capital. Cities are major nodes in the interconnected systems of information and money, and the wealth that they capture is intimately related to the specialized businesses that facilitate those flows—financial institutions, consulting firms, accounting firms, law firms, and media organizations. Sassen points out that these flows are no longer tightly bound to national boundaries and systems of regulation; so the dynamics of the global city are dramatically different than those of the great cities of the nineteenth century’ (Fainstein, 2005, pp.28-30).



Informality refers to ‘the collection of firms, workers, and activities that operate outside the legal and regulatory frameworks or outside the modern economy’ (Loayza, 2016, p.2).



Megacities are distinguished by their large population (usually over 10 million) and concentration of economic activity (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2015).



Projects ‘involving the politics of large-scale government investments in physical capital facilities’ … ‘to revitalize cities and stimulate their economic growth.’  (Altshuler & Luberoff, 2003, pp.1-2).



Modernity refers to a set of cultural, political, economic, and spatial transformations that have fundamentally influenced the nature of social life, the economy, and the use and experience of time and space. The general characteristics of these relationships include: an emphasis upon rationality and science over tradition and myth; a belief in progress and improvement; confidence in human mastery over nature; a focus on humanism, individuality, and self-consciousness; a close association to the birth and development of market capitalism; and a strong reliance upon the state and its legal and governmental institutions (Linehan, 2009).



Modernization is ‘the sum of the processes of large-scale change through which a certain society tends to acquire the economic, political, social and cultural characteristics considered typical of modernity’ (Martinelli, 2005, p.5).



Neoliberalism is a short-hand term for the economisation of social life. It is distinguished by the decline of the welfare states, deregulation, entrepreneurialism and the advent of the individual initiative as a means of ensuring economic and social well-being (Larner, 2009).



As Edward Said has pointed out, Orientalism as a discourse is productive, and what it produces are authorities’ statements that constitute a hegemonic description of its object: The Orientals. In the process, Oriental subject is rendered mute while the culture of the producers of such ideas ‘gains in strength and identity' by contrasting with the Other as a 'sort of surrogate and underground self’ (as cited in Schein, 2002)


Paradigm city

A city that sets benchmarks for other cities to emulate or appears as the site of emergent urban trends.


Post-socialist cities

Post-socialist cities have a defining relation to the socialist past, representing a project of catching up, of reducing the imagined distance in both time and space with the Western cities (Ferenčuhová & Gentile, 2016).


Postcolonial cities

Postcolonial cities refer to those cities that were previously colonized. Post-coloniality ‘may also imply a particular critique, one which not only emphasizes the distinctive impact which colonialism has had on the economy, society, culture, spatial form, and architecture of the city but also on the way the city itself is understood and represented’ (King, 2009, p.321).



A slum is ‘a residential area with substandard housing that is poorly serviced and/or overcrowded, and therefore unhealthy, unsafe, and socially undesirable’ (Harris, 2009, p.157).


Smart city

A smart city makes ‘use of software systems, server infrastructure, network infrastructure, and client devices’ … ‘to better connect seven critical city infrastructure components and services: city administration, education, healthcare, public safety, real estate, transportation, and utilities’ (Washburn and Sindhu, 2010).



Architects who have gained three forms of recognition (profession, global commercial and public), and whose individual celebrity status and marketability leads to many cities commissioning landmark projects designed by them (Knox, 2011; McNeill, 2005).


Urban worlding

Urban Worlding practice refers ‘projects (or practices) that attempt to establish or break established horizons of urban standards in and beyond a particular city.” They “instantiate some vision of the world in formation’ (Ong, 2011, pp. 4,11).


World Cities

World cities ‘function as the economic, geopolitical, and ideological-symbolical powerhouses of the capitalist world-system’ (Derudder, 2009, p.262).

Reference List

Altshuler, A. & Luberoff, D. (2003). Mega-projects: The changing politics of urban public investment. Washington, D.C. : Cambridge, Mass.: Brookings Institution Press; Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.

Cresswell, T. (2009). Discourse. In International Encyclopedia of Human Geography, 211-214.

Derudder, B. (2009). World/Global Cities. International Encyclopedia of Human Geography, p.262-268.

Fainstein, S.S. (2005). Cities and Diversity: Should We Want It? Can We Plan for It? Urban Affairs Review, Vol. 41(1), pp.3-19.

Ferenčuhová, S., & Gentile, M. (2016). Introduction: Post-socialist cities and urban theory. Eurasian Geography and Economics, 57(4-5), 483-496.

Graham, Stephen. (2010). Disrupted cities: When infrastructure fails. New York: Routledge. 9(1). 1-26. Retrieved from

Hammel, D.J. (2009). Gentrification. In International Encyclopedia of Human Geography, p.360-367.

Harris, R. (2009) Slums. International Encyclopedia of Human Geography, 157-162.

Howard, E. (1989) (Reprint). Garden Cities of Tomorrow. Attic Books.

Jenks, M., Burton, E., & Williams, K. (1996). ‘Introduction: Sustainable Urban Form in Developing Countries?’. In The Compact City: A Sustainable Urban Form?  London: E & FN Spon, 1-6

King, A.D. (2009). Postcolonial cities. International Encyclopedia of Human Geography, 321-326.

Knox, P. (2011). Starchitects, starchitecture and the symbolic capital of world cities. In B. Derudder, M. Hoyler, P.J. Taylor & F. Witnox (Eds.) International Handbook of Globalization and World Cities (pp. 275-283).

McNeill, D. (2005). In Search of the Global Architect: The Case of Norman Foster (and Partners). International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 29(3), 501-515.

Larner, W. (2009). Neoliberalism. International Encyclopedia of Human Geography, 374-378.

Linehan, D. (2009). Modernity. International Encyclopedia of Human Geography, 157-163.

Loayza, Norman V. (2016). Informality in the Process of Development and Growth [Electronic notes]. Development Research, the World Bank. Retrieved from

Martinelli, A. (2005). Global Modernization: Rethinking the Project of Modernity. London: SAGE

Mayhew, S. (2015a). Comparative urbanism. In A Dictionary of Geography: Oxford University Press. Retrieved from

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Ren, J., & Luger, J. (2015). Comparative Urbanism and the ‘Asian City’: Implications for Research and Theory. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 39(1), 145-156.

Roy, Ong, Roy, Ananya, Ong, Aihwa, Wiley InterScience, & Synergy. (2011). Introduction: Worlding Cities or the Art of Being Global. In Worlding cities: Asian experiments and the art of being global (Studies in urban and social change). Chichester, West Sussex; Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. 1-26. Retrieved from

Sackey, B. M. (2012). Colonialism. In The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Religion and Social Justice (pp. 456-468). John Wiley and Sons.

Schein, L. (2002). Gender and internal Orientalism in China. In Chinese femininities / Chinese masculinities: A reader, 385-412. Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press.

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. (2015). World Urbanization Prospects, The 2014 Revision. Retrieved from

Washburn, D. and Sindhu, U. (2010). Helping CIOs understand ‘smart city’ initiative, Forrester Research. Retrieved from:

Watts, M. (2009). Developmentalism. In International Encyclopedia of Human Geography, 123-130.