I’m organising a session on mega-events and urban spectacles, focusing on case studies from the Global South. Please feel free to contact me if you have any queries or send me an abstract by 1st February 2013 for consideration if you’d like to participate.

CFP copy and pasted below…

RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2013:  New Geographical Frontiers

28 – 30 August 2013 (London)

Mega-events and Cities of Spectacle in the Global South

Sponsored by Urban Geography Research Group (UGRG) and Developing Areas Research Group (DARG)

Session Convenor: Dr Hyun Bang Shin, Department of Geography and Environment, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). E-mail h.b.shin@lse.ac.uk

Discussant (to be confirmed): Professor Andy Thornley, Department of Geography and Environment, LSE

Session Format: Paper session


For many decades, mega-events such as the Olympic Games have been largely in the exclusive domain of cities from the developed Western world. In line with the post-Fordist transition of major Western economies and the concentration of mega-events in post-industrial cities, mega-events have been regarded as playing an instrumental role of spurring the consumption-based economic development (Burbank et al, 2001). In recent years, emerging economies in the Global South have come to be strong competitive bidders for mega-event hosting. For these economies, mega-events take on a multiplicity of meanings and roles in the midst of their pursuit for economic expansion, rapid urbanisation and nation-building.

The proposed session aims to examine the extent to which mega-events have contributed to the rewriting of socio-spatial landscapes in the Global South. In particular, while pertaining to a critical political economic perspective, this session attempts to build upon the emerging literature of viewing mega-events as societal spectacles (Broudehoux, 2007, 2010; Gotham 2005, 2011; Shin, 2012), and aims to examine the proposition that these mega-events in the Global South are promoted as a means to create a ‘unified space’ (Debord, 1967) for the purpose of both capital accumulation and socio-political stability to meet further accumulation needs. Here, the creation of ‘unified space’ could be understood as an attempt to pacify social and political discontents rising out of economic inequalities, religious and ethnic tensions, and urban-rural divide. To take mega-events in China as recent examples, the rhetoric of ‘Harmonious Society’ and the ‘Glory of the Motherland’, as put forward by the country’s top leadership, would be some of the examples that represent the key languages of spectacles. While mega-events in China have been carried out to facilitate the channelling of surplus capital into the built environment, the creation of a ‘unified’, ‘harmonious’ society of spectacle is also promoted by the state to displace societal problems rather than solving them, thus setting the ground for enabling the capital switching.

In order to build upon the existing scholarship of discussing the role of mega-events as societal spectacles, the proposed session aims to collate the experiences of the emerging economic in the Global South including Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, which have been selected as hosts of a series of mega-events in recent years. Experiences of other cities and states in the developing and less-developed world with an (often unrealised) aspiration of hosting mega-events are also welcome. Topics to be covered include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Languages of spectacles;
  • Mega-events and accumulation needs;
  • Mega-events as catalysts to investment in the built environment;
  • Socio-political discontents and mega-events;
  • Shifts in urban and regional governance in managing mega-events;
  • Mega-events as a process of nation building

Interested participants are invited to submit abstracts of no more than 250 words to the session organiser, Hyun Shin (e-mail: h.b.shin@lse.ac.uk) by 1st February 2013.


Broudehoux, A-M. (2010) ‘Images of power: Architectures of the integrated spectacle at the Beijing Olympics’, Journal of Architectural Education 63(2), pp.52-62

Broudehoux, A-M. (2007) ‘Spectacular Beijing: The conspicuous construction of an Olympic metropolis’, Journal of Urban Affairs 29(4), pp.383-399

Burbank, M.J., Andranovich, G.D. and Heying, C.H. (2001) Olympic dreams: The impact of mega-events on local politics. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers

Debord, G. (1967) Society of the spectacle (Translated by Ken Knabb) (2009 edition). Eastbourne: Soul Bay Press

Gotham, K.F. (2011) ‘Resisting urban spectacle: The 1984 Louisiana World Exposition and the contradictions of mega events’, Urban Studies 48(1), pp.197-214

Gotham, K.F. (2005) ‘Theorizing urban spectacles’, City 9(2), pp.225-246

Shin, H.B. (2012) Unequal cities of spectacle and mega-events in China. City:  analysis of urban trends, culture, theory, policy, action 16(6): 728-744 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13604813.2012.734076

Shin, H.B. (2012) “Unequal cities of spectacle and mega-events in China”, CITY 16(6): 728-744 www.tandfonline.c…