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Offering the Public: The Geopolitical-Economy of Speculative Urbanism

Authors: Dimitar Anguelov*, UCLA
Topics: Urban Geography, Economic Geography, Asia
Keywords: speculative urbanism, urban geopolitics, infrastructure, finance, informality
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Since 2008, creditor states and financial institution advancing geopolitical and geoeconomic interests have driven a global rush to finance and develop infrastructure, presented as panacea for national economic development. City-regions are at the center of this infrastructure fix, as centers of economic growth and social reproduction, assuming geopolitical significance. Facing challenges posed by rapid urbanization, mega city-regions of the global South have turned to infrastructural solutions to unclog growth and achieve their 'global city' aspirations. These developmental visions for city and nation are steeped in speculative strategies and practices, aimed at reproducing economic and political power of financial institutions, State-Owned Enterprises and governments. In Jakarta, Indonesia, I show how political interest and developmental objectives of state and city governments are entangled with the speculative geopolitics and capital accumulation strategies of State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) in the production of urban space. With a number of new rail transit projects in the city-region driving a boom in Transit-Oriented Development (TOD), SOEs seek to transform their TODs into financial assets through public offerings, speculating on market conditions, and the ‘world-class city’ dreams of middle-class residents. In the case of the Light Rail Transit project in Jakarta, I show that this financial speculation is equally premised on political speculation around the planning and execution of the project, enabled by elite informality. While residents who lack the rights and resources to resist these speculative pressures face displacement, they similarly engage in informal tactics to stake their claim to an alternative urban future.

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