The alternatives here and gone, as is the Global South. The everyday life of urban majorities

Publication date:
AbdouMaliq Simone, Senior Professorial Fellow, the Urban Institute, University of Sheffield

When we consider the Global South, to what do we refer?

None of the formerly normative conceptions seems sufficient. Those urban areas to which we usually attribute this designation have largely gone their own way, or the ways their particular articulations to the larger world – their dependencies and opportunities – have steered them. Different degrees of colonial imposition, different functions of global engagement, and different geographies of valuation have pushed certain processes of urbanisation to the fore in some regions and not others. Mobilisations of popular sentiment and political commitment have both opened and foreclosed the elaboration of connectivities through which urban life takes shape. Varying state commitments to the economic and social transformations urbanisation sets in motion also speed things up and slow things down. Certainly, the viral capacity of a limited set of formats of inhabitation to replicate themselves at great speed, regardless of singular local textures and histories, demonstrates a totalising force sweeping long-honed practices of city-making off their feet. One can witness in the most impoverished countries significant swathes of upscale real estate investment. The creative energies, synergies and intersections of city life, collectively made, become increasingly abstracted: as formulae, locational advantage, buzz, and land rent. The urban now is converted into a value of financial speculation, something to be consumed at escalating prices.