Theorizing through Jakarta and Bangalore: Speculative urbanism and the multi-scalar rental economy

Authors: Helga Leitner*, University of California, Los Angeles, Eric Sheppard*, UCLA
Topics: Urban Geography, Economic Geography, Asia
Keywords: Southern urban theory, provincialization, speculative urbanism, rental economy, Jakarta
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Balcony A, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Since 2000 urban scholars have sought to provincialize the field’s knowledge claims, challenging Euro-American-centric theorization by proposing a new comparative analytic. This analytic decenters the universalism of dominant Western theories as the implied norm for comparison. Building on Robinson’s interventions, there has been a move to delineate components of ‘southern’ urban theory, advancing a variety of mid-level concepts based on a close study of southern cities. These concepts are not presented as different theories for different places, but as a mode of theorizing that takes the field seriously, while attending to the broader spatio-temporal conjuncture. We engage in this mode of theorizing from the vantage-point of collaborative research on speculative urbanism across Jakarta and Bengaluru on the drivers and dynamics of urban land transformations and associated displacements. From field research in Jakarta during the past 6 years, in conversation with our colleagues working in Bengaluru, we are developing a series of mid-range concepts to understand these changes. In this paper we focus on the notion of a multi-scalar rental economy, placing this in conversation with the ways in which rent has been conceptualized in Euro-American contexts. From large developers, to middle class residents, to those dwelling in and evicted from informal settlements, rents have become a major financial means through which they speculate on urban change. We show how this emergent rental economy is highly differentiated in terms of the gains across different groups and across different locations, and reflect on how our findings challenge theoretical conventions of rent theory.

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