My first memory of David Harvey – How he shared his working draft with MSc students


David Harvey, 2000, Towards a Theory of Uneven Geographical Development

I met David Harvey in person for the first time while auditing his course during my MSc study at the LSE in 1999/2000 academic year. I think the course was simply called “Historical Geographical Materialism” or something similar. It was one of the few courses that sounded anything like Marx at the LSE, and I was drawn towards it. After having had my several years in the private sector after my first degree, I was in thirst of input by progressive scholarship. I did not know David at the time, as I knew few geographers by then. It was a small seminar course, having only about 12-13 students, with discussions for two hours or so each week. Readings included his own work and the works of Gramsci, Lefebvre and more that I cannot remember. If my memory is correct, he used to occupy a small office where he held his office hours. Now that I think of it, it was too small a room for such a figure like David, equipped with fairly empty bookshelves, a desktop and a printer. It wasn’t filled with books, as I presume he was at the LSE at the time on a three-year stint and did not relocate completely. The office is what is numbered as S509 at present, and coincidentally, it happened to be my office during my first year or so as professor at LSE.

One day during the term, he came in with copies of handouts, and he told us it was a working draft of his new paper. I think he was inviting any comments from his students. The draft paper was entitled “Towards a Theory of Uneven Geographical Development”. Another week or two later, he brought a thicker version of the same paper, revsied substantially but still a working version, and this time, its title read “Working Notes Towards a Theory of Uneven Geographical Development”. While clearing an old ring binder from my MSc/PhD period, I came across with the paper copy again, and realised this draft actually was the basis for his 2006 Verso book Spaces of Global Capitalism: Towards a Theory of Uneven Geographical Development”, first published as Spaces of Neo-liberalization by Franz Steiner Verlag in 2005. As the course took place in the spring of 2000, it must have taken another 4-5 years for the paper to be substantially revised, perhaps presented at several academic occasions, before it came out as a book. The memory of him sharing his paper is still vividly within me, and I appreciated a distinguished professor like David willing to share unpolished version of his drafts and inviting postgraduate students to comment on them.

“Speculative Urbanisation in Asia”, an LSE-PKU Summer School course

The London School of Economics runs a summer school programme annually in Beijing in collaboration with Peking University. There will be altogether 15 courses provided for the 2015 session, including Speculative Urbanisation in Asia (course code GY201). This is an urban geography course of mine, an updated version of Urban Asia and China taught in the 2014 session.

Applications for the 2015 LSE-PKU Summer School in Beijing, China, will open in early January 2015. Early applications are recommended. For more details on application procedure and details of fees, accommodations and entry requirements, please visit the official web page of the LSE-PKU Summer School here.

Please feel free to e-mail me if you have any enquiries about the course itself. Below is the summary of the course descriptions and a list of topics covered.

Course Outline

The course explores the contemporary dynamics of urbanisation in Asia, with special emphasis on cities in China and other East and Southeast Asian economies, which share theexperiences of rapid urban development with strong state intervention in speculative city- (re)making and economic development. The course will benefit from the geographical advantage of taking place in Beijing and make use a number of China case studies to examine the differences as well as similarities of urban development between Chinese and other Asian cities.

Applying interdisciplinary and comparative perspectives, the course encourages students to develop critical knowledge and comparative understanding of how urban space is transformed in different social, economic and political settings, and what socio-spatial implications are made in a differentiated way upon local populations. Throughout the course, we ask whether the concepts and theories born out of the (post-)industrial Western urban experiences can be applicable to the understanding of urban Asia. We also ask what are the challenges that cities in East and Southeast Asia face, given its current development trajectory. We do this by examining a set of carefully selected themes that address (a) the integration of Asian cities with the global economy, (2) the distinctive characteristics of Asia’s urban development, and (3) the place-specificities of state intervention in forming urban growth strategies.

Course Contents

Day 1. Introduction: Planetary Urbanisation and Asian Cities
Day 2. Speculative Urbanisation and the East Asian States
Day 3. Urban Change in (Post-)Socialist China: Dialectics of Decentralisation and the Path
Dependency of Economic and Social Reform
Day 4. (Re-)making Cities in East Asia: Speculative Urbanisation and Growth Politics
Day 5. Land and Housing Development in China: ‘Nation of Chai’ (Demolition), Sub-urban
Development and Informality
Day 6. Olympic Cities: Event-led Urban Development and Politics of Spectacles
Day 7. Heritage and Urban Development (inc. Field trip to central Beijing)
Day 8. Gentrifying Asia: Global Gentrifications and Politics of Displacement
Day 9. Contesting Cities: The Right to the City and the Critique of Property-rights Activism
Day 10. Indebted Citizens: Economic Crisis and Work/Social Inequalities

LPS-GY201-2014 (1)

Part of the university campus where Peking University students carry out their daily life

LPS-GY201-2014 (2)

Weiming Lake (or Unnamed Lake in English) in Peking University campus

LPS-GY201-2014 (3)

Field trip in central Beijing (Drum and Bell Tower area) as part of the course activities in 2014

LPS-GY201-2014 (4)

One of many university canteens in Peking University

LPS-GY201-2014 (5)

Group photo session for the 2014 LSE-PKU Summer School students