First Call for Papers

RGS-IBG 2011 Conference: The Geographical Imagination

31st August – 2nd September 2011 (London)

Gentrification in the Global South: Dilapidation, Obsolescence and Land Exploitation


Dr Hyun Bang Shin (Department of Geography and Environment, London School of Economics)

Dr Ernesto López-Morales (Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism, University of Chile)

Sponsors: Urban Geography Research Group


The proposed session aims to examine how gentrification as an urban phenomenon is played out outside the domain of the European and North Atlantic regions. In particular, we invite contributions that address the production of gentrifiable properties and areas through the interaction between obsolescence (fall of exchange value) and dilapidation (decrease in the use value), reinforced by the re-appreciation of landed value and rent gap exploitation. Dilapidation may occur as a result of physical deterioration caused by either deliberate actions/inactions by property-owners or state institutions (e.g. redlining or blockbusting). Obsolescence, on the other hand, may result from changes in the preference for a particular building style or aesthetic tastes, but increasingly, it is the deliberate acts of market agents that affect the artificial decline of the exchange value. As these processes of devaluation take place, they produce waves of displacement and eventually eviction, prompting potential urban segregation. However, although the public policy usually sees the construction of ‘trendy’ commercial buildings as a neighbourhood ‘saviour’, this form of urban production overshadows existing buildings and often leads to the obsolescence of the latter, prompting a further chain reaction of redevelopment that aims at higher rates of financial gains.

In the Global North, obsolescence is said to concentrate on areas with the highest return on investment in a market that has been increasingly entwined with the global financial capital. In the Global South, the question seems to centre on the extent to which the state and market agents (at local, regional or national level) interact with each other to boost property-led redevelopment and create a series of market incentives to attract (globalised) financial capital. These activities often rampantly bypass mechanisms of social participation and political accountability.

In this regard, we aim to explore these issues in relation to the cities in the Global South, with reference to (but not limited to) cities in Asia and Latin America. We expect to establish a platform for a dialogue among researchers in order to shed light on how gentrification can be understood and experienced against the backdrop of its very political, economic and social roots. This, we expect, would contribute to the restoration of a debate that has been ‘evicted’ from the global academia . We welcome papers that address issues like (but are not confined to):

  • Usefulness and applicability of ‘gentrification’ as a conceptual framework for the study of cities in the Global South;
  • Usefulness and applicability of ‘neoliberalism’ in the way it is established out of the North Atlantic realities, for the study of gentrification in cities in the Global South;
  • The role of state institutions and market agents in relation to neighbourhood changes;
  • The role of global (real estate and/or financial) capital in urban development and real estate projects in the Global South;
  • Socio-political issues arising from these processes, insofar as the state involvement becomes crucial for redevelopment
  • Examples of urban strategies that produce dilapidation and obsolescence;
  • Displacement and eviction;
  • Methodological and conceptual challenges pertinent to urban contexts in the Global South

Papers that tease out the differences between the gentrification processes in the North and South are particularly welcome. Interested participants are invited to submit abstracts of no more than 250 words to the session organizers (Hyun Shin, and Ernesto López Morales, by 11th February 2011.