Speculative Urbanism 1

Type: Virtual Paper
Sponsor Groups:
Poster #:
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM (PST)
Room: Virtual 35
Organizers: Eric Sheppard, Helga Leitner
Chairs: Eric Sheppard


Speculative Urbanism and the Everyday in Asian Cities

Speculative urbanism has emerged in recent years as a mid-range concept for making sense of urban change in this era of neoliberal global urbanism, finance-dominated accumulation, and the increasing importance of rentierism more generally in capitalist economies (Goldman, 2011; Stockhammer, 2008; Christophers, 2020). Speculative urbanism is about how city-making, the dynamics of urban change, and urban futures are being shaped by speculative markets in land, real estate,
finance, infrastructure and digital data, in turn primarily driven by estimated future returns on these different asset classes.
While speculation conventionally is defined in these terms, as investment in financial assets in the hope of gains at the risk of loss, generally having a negative resonance, these session advance a more expansive conception by examining processes of everyday speculation in Jakarta and Bangalore. This brings into view the speculative actions of individuals and communities negotiating uncertainty and instability in such rapidly transforming urban environments (Humphrey, 2020).

The papers presented examine how the speculative practices highlighted by Goldman intersect with those of ordinary residents undertaking actions in order to survive, advance livelihood possibilities, accumulate wealth, and realize their desires and imaginaries (Simone, 2013). Extending the meaning of speculation to ordinary residents and practices of everyday speculation creates space also to advance more positive connotations of speculation. Yet those engaging in speculation do not simply seek to come to terms with uncertainty and instability; they also anticipate a future imaginary that they aspire to realize. Speculative urbanism thus also involves anticipating, envisioning, and experimenting with alternative futures —including those that may exceed the reach of capital and neoliberal democracy. Finally, the capacity of speculators to realize their anticipated futures is highly unequal, reflecting their socio-spatial positionality. Some are already positioned to take advantage of uncertainty:
Private equity investors with the capacity to hedge their bets, or venture capitalists able to support multiple ventures with the confidence that at least some will pay off. Such speculators are commonly vilified for their ability to get richer no matter what. Yet everyday speculators also are unequally positioned, socially and geographically, with some better able to realize their dreams and others barely surviving. Thus, speculative urbanism also means interrogating these inequalities and their implications.

The second panel session will reflect more generally on the possibilities and limits of speculative urbanism.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Helga Leitner*, University of California, Los Angeles, Eric S Sheppard, University of California, Los Angeles, Samuel Nowak, University of California, Los Angeles, Everyday Speculation and the Remaking of Peri-Urban Jakarta 15 8:00 AM
Presenter CAROL UPADHYA*, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ADVANCED STUDIES, VINAY GIDWANI, University of Minnesota, Department of Geography, Linking Value Chains: Land Assembly and Real Estate Development on a Peri-Urban Frontier 15 8:15 AM
Presenter Samuel Nowak*, University of California, Los Angeles, The social lives of network effects: Platform urbanism, speculation, and collective risk management amongst gig workers in Jakarta, Indonesia 15 8:30 AM
Presenter Emma Colven*, University of Oklahoma, Speculation for Profit and Survival: A Political Ecology of Jakarta’s Water Crisis 15 8:45 AM
Presenter Dimitar Anguelov*, UCLA, Financializing (Post-)Developmental Urbanism (?): Speculative State-Spaces of Transit-Oriented Development in Jakarta 15 9:00 AM

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