Political economy of urban (re-)development; Comparative urbanism; Politics of displacement and gentrification; Housing, homeownership and social change; Urban spectacles and mega-events; Speculative urbanisation in Asia; Urbanisation in China; Global East; Global South
My research involves re-thinking of various concepts that are produced out of the development experience of post-industrial/Western cities, and aims at understanding how the experience of East Asian urbanisation propelled by strong states re-writes the social and physical landscape in the context of global uneven development. Broadly, four themes have been at the centre of my past and on-going research: (1) property-based urban redevelopment and State Entrepreneurialism; (2) urban development politics; (3) East Asian urbanisation; and (4) theorising gentrification in the Global South. All these themes will have a comparative perspective in order to critically examine how the East Asian urbanisation under development-oriented strong states differs from or share similarities with the experience of Western cities as well as that of other cities in the Global South.
(1) Property-based Urban Redevelopment and State Entrepreneurialism
I have carried out neighbourhood-level in-depth enquiries about the limits of property-based and profit-led urban renewal practices in East Asian cities, including those of mainland China. The key aspects under investigation have been the political-economic processes underlying rapid urban transformation, and the resulting socio-spatial consequences. By scrutinising residential redevelopment experiences through in-depth case studies, these studies have highlighted the importance of land ownership, property rights (re)distribution and socio-political relations in property-based (re)development projects.
(2) Urban Development Politics
On this theme, I critically examine the politics of urban development by investigating development strategies initiated by local states either in collaboration with or independent of the central state. One main strategy that I pay attention to is the promotion of mega-events, which refer to large-scale, discontinuous events with substantial consequences on host-cities. The Olympic Games and World Expo are some of the best-known examples. As well as paying attention to the social impacts of mega-events on host-cities, my research further investigates local states which view mega-event preparation as a catalyst to greater urban spatial restructuring. The research is largely based on case studies from East Asia, while the experiences of the West provide a useful template for comparison.
(3) East Asian Speculative Urbanisation
The third research theme involves a comparative study of socio-spatial impacts of speculative urbanisation in East Asia. On the one hand, I examine the social consequences of economic restructuring as a result of economic reform (as in transitional economies such as mainland China) and in response to financial crisis (e.g. South Korea in late 1990s). Housing as assets, financialisation and ageing population are the sub-themes that guide this research.
(4) Theorising Gentrification in the Global South
In relation to the above, I also examine the issue of gentrification as a neighbourhood-scale process of replacing poor residents with more affluent groups of population. Sub-themes further include: (a) the role of real estate development in facilitating urban growth; (b) the nature of the state that focuses on depopulation and forceful displacement of local poor residents. While the issue of gentrification has been largely discussed in the context of post-industrial cities in the Global North, I work with colleagues to broaden the debates by critically comparing gentrification processes in East Asia with those in Latin America.