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DCUN Research Note No.1

Periurban Farming In An Asian Context: Metropolitan Processes Affecting Agriculture In The Shanghai And Hanoi Countryside

Etienne Monin (Geographer, postdoctoral researcher) ESO (Espaces & SOciétés) UMR 6590 CNRS laboratory, University of Angers.
Contact: etiennemonin@yahoo.fr 

Abstract

Periurban farming, considered to be part of the urban diffusion process, results from the intertwining of local agricultural processes with widening urban interactions that affect rural areas in the vicinity of cities and city regions. Different types of periurban farming have developed in different areas depending on the local context of urban diffusion. The desakota, named after the Indonesian terms for city and countryside, refers to the periurban landscape created in recent decades by rapid urban growth in East and Southeast Asia. Metropolitan development influenced by globalization is, however, the predominant mode of urbanization today, triggering the intensification and rescaling of periurban dynamics. In such context, what farming systems can be found today in desakota spaces in urbanizing Asia?

This article compares periurban farming in Shanghai and Hanoi to shed light on how city-countryside linkages affect farming dynamics along three dimensions: spatial change, economic restructuring and political planning. It raises questions about the suitability of desakota as a geographic model for contemporary rural-to-urban regional transition in Asia, and offers a new conceptualization of city-countryside linkages in an urbanizing world.

Keywords: Hanoi, Shanghai, desakota, periurban farming, metropolitan development

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Periurban farming, considered to be part of the urban diffusion process, results from the intertwining of local agricultural processes with widening urban interactions that affect rural areas in the vicinity of cities and city regions. The study of periurban farming entails investigation of the changing landscapes of rural settlements due to major transformations in land use, agricultural production, job structure, and livelihood, as affected by market interactions (Bryant and Johnston, 1992). Such investigation raises questions about the trajectory of rural spaces in the context of city-countryside interactions, and, more generally, challenges the prevailing rural-urban dichotomy.

Different geographical contexts display stark contrasts with respect to the pace of urban change brought about by globalization and its impact on periurban farming. Specifically, metropolitan development, as the driving mechanism connecting globalization with urban systems, is causing selective economic transformation and differentiated socio-spatial division both within and between city regions (Dollfus, 2001). This gives rise to the question of how periurban farming is influenced by the regional rescaling of metropolitan dynamics. To this end, a comparison between geographical regions can help to clarify how metropolitan processes intersect with local circumstances to produce distinctive spatial patterns.

In the early 1990s, the geographer T.G. McGee coined the oxymoronic term desa-kota, based on the Indonesian terms for village-city, to describe the countryside in the Jabotabek region around Jakarta, which since the 1980s has been undergoing a process of diffuse urbanization (Ginsburg et al., 1991). The desakota framework has since expanded to refer to the spatial processes of mega-urbanization and industrialization across Asian countries: in the Pearl River Delta and the Yangzi Delta in China (Sanjuan, 1999; Marton, 2000), in Indonesia (Franck, 1993), and, more recently, in the Philippines (Ortega, 2012) and in Vietnam (Fanchette, 2015).

All these places share certain geographical features: firstly, rapid urban expansion, mainly of major coastal cities; secondly, a vibrant economy boosted by globalization; and thirdly, the outcomes of dynamics affecting the surrounding rural hinterlands, which are densely inhabited by peasants primarily dependent on rice-crop cultivation. In McGee’s view, transformation manifests itself not only physically but also functionally, revealing the shift in activities performed in peasant households and village communities boosted by intense social and economic mobility. In other words, the desakota conceptual framework, in dealing with regional urbanization in tropical Asia, relies on a specific set of historical and geographical factors to explain the rural-to-urban transition of spaces as well as the transformation of systems of activity and livelihood.

To date, it is unclear whether desakota, and its underlying process desakotasasi, refers to a particular and delimited stage of urban transformation or whether it will remain relevant in the coming decades, describing a lasting reality of the landscape of urban diffusion and a shared trajectory of urbanization in Asia. In recent years, metropolitan development has further deepened the impact of global processes on emerging Asian economies. Research in China (McGee et al., 2007) and Southeast Asia (Webster, 2011; Franck et al., 2012; Chaléard, 2014) has investigated the effects of unprecedented economic concentration on the spatial rescaling and socioeconomic restructuring of metropolitan areas. This focus has come to overshadow earlier discourses on desakota territories, which were primarily concerned with peasant settlements in transition and the realities of farming.

Desakota, the “space-economy nexus”, has rather been reconceptualised to describe the conflicting dimensions of spatial transition, raising normative issues of modern governance and environmental sustainability, and opposing external forces with local, culturally variable sociopolitical organizations (McGee, 2008). As periurban fringes have been spatially integrated and consolidated into fully built-up suburbs, even more far-flung spaces have gradually come under the influence of metropolitan dynamics.

One way to examine the role of periurban farming is by way of its link with urban food consumption and food supply, which are now firmly on the agenda of urban policymakers in both the Norths and the Souths (Mougeot, 2005; Poulot, 2012). The term urban agriculture has been used to emphasize the links between food production and consumption in developing countries, pointing out the economic struggle and social inequality of producers and the need for efficient market organization, praising the benefits of food securitization for the urban poor, or calling for the resolution of food safety and environmental issues (Moustier, 2005; Pulliat, 2015). In Northern countries, the debate has come to focus on environmental management, land planning, and leisure amenities or community building, which is seen as a resource for urban sustainability (Soulard et al., 2017). I intent to build on a geographical approach investigating the regional scale and dynamics of farming systems linked to rural settlements in metropolitan areas.

What farming systems can be found today in desakota spaces in urbanizing Asia? The comparison of farming dynamics in the rural outskirts of Shanghai, China, and Hanoi, Vietnam, presented in this article interrogates the suitability of desakota as a geographic model for contemporary rural-to-urban regional transition in Asia, and offers a relevant conceptualization of city-countryside linkages in an urbanizing world.

This study builds on the primary idea behind the geographies of development of the 1990s, which saw desakota as a landscape in tropical Asia created by globalization, where rural settlements and a peasant economy met a booming urban economy on the cusp of the modern industrial stage. From the 2000s, metropolitan development has accelerated urban growth and furthered the spatial integration of desakota areas. This comparison of periurban farming dynamics in Shanghai and Hanoi hence supports the notion of parallel trajectories of integration, as revealed by city-agriculture linkages and social changes among peasant societies in desakota areas.

In the next section, I firstly depict the rural settlements in Shanghai and Hanoi, in relation to the urban restructuring of regional space, territorial organization and demography. The paper then turns to the respective farming systems, their economic role in the cities’ food supply, and the strategies adopted by farmers and village communities in adapting their activities. Finally, the industrialization of agriculture and metropolitan policies are analysed in order to shed light on the changing farming landscape of the desakota.

Desakota countrysides in Shanghai and Hanoi

Urban development in Shanghai and Hanoi reflects, to different degrees and in different sociopolitical contexts, the metropolitan transformation of the regional environments of these two cities. Shanghai has developed into a prime city hub for China and a global metropolis (Sanjuan, 2009). It lies at the heart of the Yangzi Delta megalopolitan region, which extends across the coastal plain bordered to the north by the Yangzi estuary and to the south by Hangzhou Bay, and connects in the west with the central Lake Tai delta (Map 1). By contrast, Hanoi, the political capital of Vietnam, is of secondary importance for the economic rise of the country, lagging behind Ho Chi Minh City. It is located in the centre of the Red River lower basin, upstream of its delta. Compared to Shanghai, the urban expansion of Hanoi has so far been comparatively modest (Map 2).

Map 1. Shanghai Municipality deltaic space and built-up area, 2015

Urban diffusion in Shanghai has rapidly accelerated since the 2000s. The outskirts of the city have expanded to encompass satellite towns, resulting in a scattering of rural areas inside the municipality. Urban densification is less pronounced around Hangzhou Bay and on Chongming Island than to the north, where Shanghai forms an urban corridor with the cities of Kunshan and Taicang in Jiangsu province. Source: Landsat 8, 2015.

Map 2. Hanoi at the centre of the Red River lower basin, northern Vietnam, 2015

Hanoi is located on the downstream plain of the Red River, which flows into the Gulf of Tonkin. Besides the port city of Hai Phong, other urban centres have experienced minimal development and the basin area remains predominantly rural. Source: Landsat 8, 2015.

The Shanghai and Hanoi municipal territories extend far beyond their urban core. The rural hinterlands range from 10-30 to 40-60 kilometers away, respectively (maps 1 and 2), each bearing the typical characteristics of Asian deltaic plains and river basins. For centuries, two of the densest peasant populations in the agrarian world engaged here in intensive rice cultivation, fostered by land levelling and water control. The farmland also supported cash crops, such as mulberry trees, which were used to feed silkworms, and cotton crops in the Yangzi Delta, which were traded in local market towns, contributing to the rise of eminent urban centres (Elvin, 1977; Fei, 2010). This rural legacy was transformed under communist collectivization, national reforms and opening-up policies, rural industrialization and, finally, globalization, leading to stark contrasts in development.

Around 2010, approximately one third of Shanghai municipality was made up of rural areas, down from two thirds in the 1980s (Table 1). Half of this decline occurred between 2000 and 2010, a period of deliberate urban expansion.[1] Hanoi’s expansion, by contrast, has been concentrated, such that rural spaces still account for 60% of the territory of Hanoi municipality. Moreover, the merging of Hanoi with the neighbouring province of Ha Tay in 2008 increased the proportion of rural spaces in Hanoi (Labbé and Musil, 2011).

Rural areas are also home to village populations. The intensity of rural-to-urban transition has been considerably higher in Shanghai compared with Hanoi due to the sheer number of people involved and their relative proportion in the city’s overall population. The registered rural population of Hanoi is 4.5 million, accounting for two thirds of the total population (General Statistics Office of Viet Nam, 2015), compared to 3 million inhabitants in Shanghai, which accounts for only 12% of the population (Municipal Bureau of Statistics of Shanghai, 2016). The rural population of Shanghai has halved since the 1980s, whereas its urban population more than tripled. Nonetheless, rural density remains remarkably high, as is typical of Asian cities.

Urban diffusion around the two cities reflects the differences between them in the hierarchy of metropolitan development.[2] However, similar differences can also be seen between rural and urban areas within the two metropolises in terms of economic production or revenue per capita. Rural income is usually half of urban income. Locally, the transformation of the rural layout depends on the location of the rural area: its interface with the urban system and its proximity to the heart of the city and nearby towns.

Table 1. The importance of rural settlements in Hanoi and Shanghai around 2015
Hanoi Shanghai
Total municipal population (millions) 7.7 24.1
GDP per capita (US$) 4,030 17,500
Total area of municipality (km2) 3,330 6,340
Farmland (km2) 1,970 1,890
Farmworkers (millions)

Rural residents (millions)

Proportion of rural residents in municipality (%)

3.7

51

0.39

3

12

Source: Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Statistics, 2016, www.stats-sh.gov.cn/ ; General Statistics Office of Viet Nam, 2015, https://gso.gov.vn/.

Rural landscapes around the two cities bear the traditional layout of villages and farmland in agricultural plains (figures 1 and 2, identical scale). The flat farmlands are divided by waterways and delimited by levees and dykes, used for irrigation control as much as for protection against flooding. Village settlements tend to be either split into parts or spread out, as in Shanghai, where small hamlets are stretched along waterways (Figure 1), or more compact, as in Hanoi (Figure 2). In Shanghai, until the 1980s, waterways served as the main mode of transport, connecting villages to market towns. Also, the road networks were gradually extended and today form a comprehensive system connecting the peripheries (Monin, 2012).

The urban restructuring of Shanghai’s rural outskirts reveals a spatial pattern of decreasing urban density, radiating concentrically from the city centre, and expanding around neighbouring cities and along built-up corridors. In the urban fringes, villages and fields are encircled and scattered, whereas in the municipal margins farmland predominates, especially around Hangzhou Bay, in the central deltaic area, and on Chongming Island, 60 kilometers from the city centre, in the middle of Yangzi estuary. By contrast, Hanoi’s urban restructuring is not on the same scale: the edges of the urban area meet the rural countryside just 10 to 20 kilometers from the historical urban core.

Figure 1. Aerial view of Chongming countryside, Shanghai, with a dense network of village settlements on an ancient, reclaimed plain

Hamlets on Chongming Island stretching along the waterways, with tiny plots of farmland. Source: GoogleEarth, 2017.

Figure 2. Aerial view of Hanoi countryside, with dense farmlands shaped by the water network

Hanoi’s village settlements show two different spatial patterns – either clustered or stretched along a main waterway – and are denser than those in Shanghai. Source: GoogleEarth, 2017.

Desakota areas are composed of different spaces shaped by different degrees of urban density, connected by means of road and town networks to rural settlements on the plains. These general observations, which do not take into account local changes in land use and activities, invite different interpretations of the metropolitan space. Urban development in Hanoi is mainly clustered around the city, with little diffusion into the rural basin. It is characterized by the development of “new urban areas” (Labbé and Musil, 2017) and by the urban growth of villages located on Hanoi’s fringes (Fanchette, 2016). By contrast, around Shanghai and within the delta region, the degree of density depends of the urban network.[3]

As demonstrated by the two cases, city-countryside linkages are shaped by dynamics at both a local and a wider scale, as well as their interplay with territorial settlements. Farming in desakota areas is anchored in villages and peasant societies, which are subject to urban and economic changes.

“Rice-bowl” countryside, “flying geese” desakota

From the 1950s both countrysides around Shanghai and Hanoi – were subject to the state economy and collectivism under Communist rule.[4] The transition from State control to market liberalization irrevocably changed the peasants’ relationship with farmland and agricultural production.[5]

Shanghai, which has developed into China’s main industrial centre, is particularly significant for the country’s Communist regime. The rural territories have long been responsible for ensuring the city’s food supply and grain security, which by the 1950s had some 6.5 million inhabitants (Howe, 1981). For this purpose the municipal territory was extended by nine rural districts, which were taken from Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces and which today form its suburbs.

Grain production took advantage of the natural fertility of the land and abundant supply of workers, but also benefited from the introduction of new technologies, marking the advent of the Green revolution in the delta. From the 1960s, local industry and village workshops provided production teams with fertilizers, small engines and electric machinery (Huang, 1990). Collective manpower was mobilized to dig waterways, rebuild the water network and equalize land plots. From the 1970s, modern agricultural techniques were introduced, including new cultivars and cropping mechanization. Attempts were also made to diversify agricultural production to keep pace with urban demand.

Vietnam did not reach the same level of systematic political collectivization, but, following the country’s independence, land reform, grain procurements and peasants’ cooperatives were present in the north from the early 1950s, influenced by the example set by the Chinese.[6] However, the conditions for modern agricultural development were barely met before the country regained a productive economic system in the 1980s and opened up to foreign capital. Since then, the massive rural population has relied on traditional subsistence farming.

In China, the reforms of 1978 were quickly followed by village decollectivization. Farmland was returned to individual peasants, who were authorized to grow their own crops. From 1985, market liberalization stimulated the production of vegetables, meat and other non-staple food products, resulting in a dense food belt on the fringes of the city, separated from the rice-bowl area.

Figure 3. Peasant houses lining a paddy field in the Shanghai countryside

The open field in the foreground, planted here with winter wheat, consists of several fields grouped into one larger one to support irrigation and crop mechanization. The peasant houses in the background date from the 1990s, when villagers’ rising incomes were used to improve rural livelihoods. Source: Monin É., 2011.

In the geography of globalization, the term “flying geese” refers to the path of Asian-Pacific countries in successive industrial take-off, led by Japan from the 1950s, followed by the four “Dragons” and the five “Tigers”.[7] Following this industrial growth, which has mainly taken place in major metropolises, desakota areas might be said to be undergoing an economic take-off of their own.

In Shanghai, township and village enterprises managed by rural collectives[8] multiplied in the 1980s, subcontracting with State companies to produce urban goods (Oi, 1999). Rural bases evolved in the 1990s, when State planning promoted the establishment of economic and technological development zones and other industrial parks, making use of available land and cheap labour and accelerating the economic integration of periurban areas (Marton, 2000).

Rural industry in Yangzi delta, which forms the backdrop for the desakota landscape, can be said to have brought the peasant “off the land, but still in the countryside”. By 1990, the vast majority of peasants, including women, had transitioned to industrial work. Agricultural tasks became supplementary, relying on collective organization to provide surpluses and grain procurement (Huang, 1990). Peasants quickly moved out of the villages, starting businesses or seeking employment in nearby towns or in the city. This fostered individual careers and social mobility, and monetarized the peasant economy, creating a new social stratification that rapidly deepened as economic growth accelerated.

Around Hanoi, the desakota landscape formed instead around local clusters of villages specializing in craft industries which developed from the 1980s onwards (Fanchette, 2014). Factories and small shops linked one village to another in the production of domestic goods made of raw materials, such as traditional arts and crafts, furniture, textiles, and agro-food products. Other clusters focused on intermediary goods, construction or recycling activities, employing 17% of the rural workforce in the 2000s and testifying to the multifarious nature of village economic activity.

Rural industry in China slowed from the 1990s, impacted by economic restructuring and market competition. At the same time, foreign investment and joint-venture models took off, focused on technology-intensive industrial sectors. Around Hanoi, likewise, craft clusters have been adversely affected by international market competition and take a back seat locally to foreign investment companies, which as of 2010 employ some 50% of private non-agricultural workers in Hanoi province. Manufacturing zones are expanding, supported by the authorities, competing directly with village-based clusters for land and resources and at the same time increasing environmental pressure (Moustier, 2015). They also rely on migrant workers from outer provinces, producing a more concentrated population and accelerating urbanization.

With the clustering of craftwork in Hanoi and rural industries in Shanghai, desakota has drawn peasants off their land. At the same time, it has kept the population in villages and, from the 1980s onwards, yielded economic rents for rural collectives. Urban restructuring in the 2000s destabilized these local activities, accelerating the transformation of village societies. Farming activities, once the basis of the peasant economy in the villages, have also had to adapt to the mechanisms of the urban market.

Desakota food belt: peasant farming geared to the urban market

One main driver of periurban farming is the demand for food products in the nearby city. Periurban farmers gear production towards this urban market, making the outskirts of cities function as a food production belt in a way not seen in the more remote countryside.

Von Thünen’s (1863) spatial model provides several explanations for this type of farming differentiation, including land rents, transportation costs, and the manoeuvrability of farm products (Huriot, 1994). Farmers in the food belt specialize in fresh products, providing the city with vegetables or cows’ milk on a daily basis, which yield higher returns than grain and other staple crops that need to be stored and transported across longer distances. At the same time, the higher the land rent, the more intensive the production and the smaller the farms. Farms in more remote areas tend to be larger and support more extensive farming. Farm productivity is dependent on economies of scale, resulting in farmland concentration.

In Hanoi, an illustration of the fresh food supply can be seen at Long Biên market in the city centre, near the river and the railway bridge, where producers’ trucks and trolleys converge by night from all over the basin to meet with retailers. Shanghai’s major produce markets in the inner city were replaced from 2000 onwards by larger suburban facilities, some of them specialized, selling local or imported food products. Vegetable self-sufficiency is as high as 50%, with 2.7 million tons of vegetables produced in 2011, compared to 20% for grain (1.3 million tons). Municipal peripheries also produced over 200,000 tons of meat and aquatic products, contributing significantly to the market supply (Sun, 2012).

Indeed, the food belt capacities of the Shanghai countryside provide a textbook case of market effects on the structure of periurban farming. Before 1980, the vegetable belt was located 10 km from the city centre. It later expanded to a range of 20 km, covering vegetable farms, pig farms and cattle. In the 1990s poultry farms and peach orchards spread further to the south and the west, 40 to 50 km from the city, while the lake area and shores of the islands developed aquatic husbandry and fishing fleets. In the 2000s, crop production was reshuffled yet again when urban expansion resulted in the dismantling of the inner food belt (Xue, 2011). Meanwhile, new trends in consumption have prompted farmers to invest in new crops, from strawberries and watermelons to dessert grapes and cut flowers.

In the outer food belt two different trajectories can be seen: farming areas specialized early on and remain concentrated in local production clusters, or they recently diversified away from grain and embarked on intensive production of scattered crops of different types. These two patterns demonstrate not only the facilitating role of proximity and access to different pools of production, but also the local factors, such as community leadership, technical diffusion, and collective innovation, that influence the market adaptation of peasant farming.

Figure 4. A migrant farmer grows dessert grape in Minhang district, Shanghai

Introducing labour-intensive crops, such as dessert grape, is one way that smallholders adapt to the consumption market. The low revenue from land cultivation means that migrant peasants, as pictured here, are increasingly replacing local farmers. Source: É. Monin, 2011.

The shift from rice cultivation and the commodification of peasant production bring about changes to farming systems and peasant units. In Hanoi, rice crops remain dominant among village households, who rely on them for self-subsistence and sell the surplus to supplement their main source of income. Local farmers, however, run intensive and specialized economic plantations, usually with few resources.[9] As more peasants leave the land, productive land can be informally rented to farms or grouped by collectives into larger units. Increasingly, farming companies, backed by external private capital, are replacing peasant farming in villages.

Land rent is exacerbating the economic divide created between labour market and farm wages. Over the last two decades, a growing number of migrant peasants have taken up farm work in Shanghai. They represent half of all vegetable producers and one fifth of grain cultivators, either as smallholders operating on half to one hectare, as tenants in fruit orchards, or as commercial farm workers. Various fruit and vegetable crops, such as watermelon, are supported by itinerant labour systems whereby groups of producers move their shelters from one field and village to another depending on the season. Migrant farming also contributes to demographic issues in villages, where the original local populations have been abandoning their homes. In more remote areas, villages empty out entirely and are left inhabited only by elderly people and ageing farmers (already three quarters of Shanghai’s farmers are older than 50 years of age), ultimately developing into pockets of poverty.

Peasant farming rooted in villages, with products traded in wholesale markets, is only one face of the urban food supply. Agro-industry is rapidly transforming the food system, supported by the public authorities, which are keen to promote agricultural modernization geared towards the urban economy.

Planning for an agro-industrial desakota

The food belt in decollectivized economies has succeeded in meeting massive consumer demand despite the loss of farmland and decline of the labour force. Industrial dynamics, however, bring about new interactions between farmland and the food system.

Company farms on leased farmland in villages close to the consumption centre and benefiting from its communication systems are one illustration of the impact of the food industry and investment of capital in periurban farming. In Shanghai, company farms can cover up to 100 hectares and employ hundreds of people, supplying supermarkets and brand-name stores. Another example is the flower industry, with large plants equipped with advanced technology, supported by international partnerships and joint ventures, and supplying standard products to high-end customers (Figure 5). The vast majority of the food industry, however, relies on local companies that emerged from the 1990s onwards and are supplied by local producers.

Despite the loss of administrative control over the agricultural supply, public assets are actively involved in the food production system. In Shanghai the Guangming group, a State company, runs several large grain and vegetable farms as well as milk factories. It also has interests in key sectors (food processing, distribution and biotechnology) and, as such, is considered a strategic partner in Shanghai’s metropolitan agricultural future. Having become a leading brand in China’s food industry, the Guangming group is now aiming at international expansion (Monin, 2016).

In supporting the food industry, the Shanghai authorities have two aims. The first is to boost growth by means of policies such as the “rice bag” and “vegetable basket” programmes, which provide subsidies for farms and investments in infrastructure. These have simply switched to market regulation and administrative supervision, now striving for international food and safety standards and quality control. The second aim, in the context of industrial modernization, is to improve farm efficiency and environmental labelling. In this way, the municipal government aims to build a competitive sector, with leading companies capable of modernizing food production in the metropolitan environment.

Figure 5. Flower greenhouse systems are at the forefront of agricultural modernization in Shanghai

Consumers walk through a modern greenhouse with decorative plants, Shanghai Flower Port. Source: É. Monin, 2011

Capitalist development in China and Vietnam takes place under the control of the Communist governments. Farming modernization is thus a political matter, organized by means of central planning and implemented in a top-down fashion, from the province and municipality to districts and counties. Indeed, the “development of modern agriculture” has been an official slogan in Shanghai since the 2000s. In many cases, governmental authorities intervene directly to develop land and pilot large projects. Modern agricultural parks host experimental farms, greenhouses and food processing plants. Local governments finance their own industrial facilities and promote local agricultural specialties as commercial brands.

Village collectives have little power within this overarching system, but as land holders and intermediaries who can organize land use and mobilize farmers, they are necessary middlemen. They occasionally serve as a buffer against the municipal authorities, representing the villagers’ interests. Villages are indeed the main level at which the peasantry is transitioning towards modern agriculture. For instance, the Chinese national policies in the 2000s encouraged fellow villagers to merge plots into larger farms. Similarly, in Hanoi, farming collectives are acquiring the equipment and technical skills needed to motorize rice cultivation. These collectives are a key-target for policy makers and development agencies (Moustier, 2015).

Today, environmental policies are adding new constraints to farming activities, industrial pollution and urbanization having gone ignored for decades. In some cases, conflicts with villagers have arisen from land requisition or environmental pollution, leading to intervention from higher levels of government (Fanchette, 2015). Environmental protection has become a planning priority in Shanghai’s suburbs since the 2000s. Ecological zones now encompass water resources, leading to the closure of workshops and husbandries. Forest reservations have displaced villagers to nearby towns, with authorities compensating them for the loss of their land. In recent amendments to the Land Law, farmland preservation has become mandatory, subject to a quota system and included in the master plan of the city.

Adding to environmental concerns is the emergence of rural tourism and leisure activities as a service industry in desakota areas. As farming areas are integrated into metropolitan tourism, new links are forged between the periphery and the city centre: visitors consume rural resources, engage in fruit picking and gardening, visit rural retreats, and so forth. Country inns and guest houses have multiplied, reflecting their increasing economic importance for many villages, especially in remote areas where the agricultural landscape is largely intact. In this way, rural tourism becomes a useful planning tool for the multifunctional character of rural resources.

Finally, the many agro-ecological and industrial opportunities of metropolitan space – imagined and planned as an urban garden – are also contributing to the rapid remodelling of the desakota landscape.

Conclusion

This study of periurban farming in Shanghai and Hanoi has explored the spatial trajectories of desakota areas from the late XXth century to agricultural diffusion shaped by metropolitan forces in the early XXIth century, illustrated by farming dynamics and peasants’ interactions. It has led to two interpretations of desakota: firstly, as a transitional space (McGee, 2008), a canvas on which the factors of change interact with people and resources; and secondly, as a regional space with differentiated local processes, influenced by their proximity to the city centre. Metropolitan interactions were analysed along three dimensions – spatial change, economic restructuring and political planning – to address the cumulative effects of globalization on urbanizing Asian territories, thereby challenging prevailing discourses on “rice civilization” peasantry.

Rural settlements surrounding the two cities encompass thousands of hectares and hundreds of villages, where peasants grow crops and raise animals for themselves and the city. Rural industries and craft activities, which emerged during the period of reform, have driven the excess supply of peasant labour off the land, allowing for more productive growth and farm specialization. In this way, desakota areas have come to play the role of food belt for city consumption. Contemporary urbanization has pushed farming even further to the fringes (indeed, farmland declined by 100,000 hectares over a ten-year period in Shanghai), surrounded by urban corridors and connected towns. The mixed desakota landscape has shifted from 20 to 30 km from the city centre towards the remote countryside, part of a pattern of decreasing density that affects agricultural dynamics.

Periurban farming, performed by peasant smallholders, has been characterized by a switch from rice cultivation to diversified commercial crops and the supply of the mass market, facilitated by proximity to the city and dense trading networks. However, the low financial yields of smallholding as compared to urban incomes threaten agricultural development in the villages, as in Shanghai, where ageing farmers are increasingly being replaced by migrant workers. Land transfer by rural collectives also accelerates the reorganization of farming by providing rents to villagers endowed with land rights, overturning the peasant system inherited from decollectivization in the 1980s and opening the door to industrial farming.

The restructuring of the urban food supply thanks to industrial and retail capital has triggered economic competition among local producers, who are now expected to meet international food standards. Agro-food businesses catering to middle class consumers cooperate with international partners, national brands, and local industries. The rise of food sector in Shanghai has encouraged specialization in the form of large production clusters, encompassing several townships in each district. Private farms and greenhouses, supported by domestic and foreign investment and making use of modern technologies, sell high-quality products. The upgrading of farms, the introduction of modern equipment and increasing levels of mechanization are all changing the landscape of production as initially shaped by peasants.

Meanwhile, the role of the authorities has evolved, moving away from production quotas and the goal of self-sufficiency towards market regulation and food standardization and supervision. The respective governments are pursuing the political goals of rural reform and agricultural modernization. At the same time, territorial planning systems provide for land transfers, industry subsidies and investment in tourism. This has enabled the State food company in Shanghai, for instance, to retain a central position in the municipal food system. Confronted with degradation and pollution of the deltaic plain, metropolitan policies seek to protect rural resources, introducing ecological zoning and farmland reservations. Although these do little to limit land conversion and rapid urban extension, they can become landmarks of the metropolitan gardens envisioned by planners.

The aim of this comparison of the desakota of Hanoi and Shanghai was twofold. First, the discussion situated the trajectories of the desakota in the historic process of globalisation in Asia, which has brought about structural changes in peasant society. Second, it considered the spatial dynamics of the desakota in their function as a food belt serving the metropolitan market. Meeting the food demands of millions of urban consumers is the main driver of both intensive crop cultivation by peasants and the agro-industry in villages and towns. The spatial diffusion of periurban farming has been gradual and concentrated around the urban fringes. Meanwhile, metropolitan development has accelerated the economic integration of the more remote outskirts of the cities, triggering the development of agricultural specializations and, more recently, tourism. The different adaptive strategies of local farmers and collectives are shaped by their geographic location and steered by political planning.

Finally, the comparison invites us to consider the differences between Shanghai and Hanoi in terms of the scale of the metropolitan processes at work and the resulting territorial power.[10] The transformation of rural society and the development of towns around Shanghai is not only more advanced than in Hanoi, but also benefits from the greater financial and technological means of local governments and stakeholders, such that farmers can be provided with subsidies, villagers compensated and modern structures financed. This illustrates the hierarchy in metropolitan development, while also illuminating the regional intensity of the restructuring of the desakota. Shanghai’s agricultural belt surrounds a megapolis and shares its space with an immense megalopolitan area, whereas Hanoi has no such regional system, with urban growth predominantly centred within the city limits. Lastly, issues revolving around political ambition and government leadership are exacerbated in Shanghai and magnified by the international status of the city. The Shanghai agro-food complex is held up to other Chinese cities as a showcase not only of agricultural modernization but also of industrial might.

Looking beyond individual cases and national idiosyncrasies, this investigation of the desakota model in Hanoi and Shanghai has highlighted the importance of the transformation of peasants’ settlements in Asian countries. Also, it has identified and described the differentiated spaces of production emerging from diffuse urbanization, capitalist development and metropolization in Asian countries.

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Bryant C. and Johnston T., 1992, Agriculture in the City’s Countryside, London, Belhaven Press, 233 p.

Chaléard J.-L. (ed.), 2014, Métropoles aux Suds. Le défi des périphéries ? [Metropolises of the Souths. The challenge of peripheries?], Paris, Éditions Karthala, 441 p.

Dollfus O., 2001, La mondialisation [Globalization], Paris, Presses de Science Po, 2nd ed., 167 p.

Elvin M., 1977, « Market Towns and Waterways: The County of Shanghai from 1480 to 1910 », in Skinner W. (ed.), The city in late imperial China, Stanford, Stanford University Press, p. 441-473.

Fanchette S. (ed.), 2016, Hà Nôi, a Metropolis in the Making. The Breakdown in Urban Integration of Villages, Marseille/IRD, Hanoi/Thê Gioi Publishers.

Fanchette S., 2014, « Quand l’industrie mondialisée rencontre l’industrie rurale: Hanoï et ses périphéries, Vietnam », Autrepart, no. 69, p. 93-110.

Fei X., 2010 [1935], Jiangcun jingji – Zhongguo nongcun de shenghuo [Peasant life in China – A field study of country life in the Yangtze valley], Pékin, Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press, 440 p.

Franck M., 1993, Quand la rizière rencontre l’asphalte… Semis urbain et processus d’urbanisation à Java-Est [When paddy field meets asphalt … urban patterns and the urbanization process in East Java], Paris, Éditions de l’EHESS, 282 p.

Franck M., Taillard C. and Goldblum C. (ed.), 2012, Territoires de l’urbain en Asie du Sud-Est. Métropolisations en mode mineur [Urban territories in South-East Asia. Metropolization in minor], Paris, CNRS Éditions, 310 p.

General Statistics Office of Viet Nam, 2015, URL: http://www.gso.gov.vn/Default_en.aspx?tabid=766.

Ginsburg N., Koppell B. and McGee T., 1991, The Extended Metropolis. Settlement Transition in Asia, Honolulu, University of Hawaii Press, 339 p.

Howe C. (ed.), 1981, Shanghai. Revolution and development in an Asian metropolis, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 444 p.

Huang P., 1990, The Peasant Family and Rural Development in the Yangzi Delta, 1350-1988, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 421 p.

Huriot J.-M., 1994, Von Thünen, économie et espace, Paris, Economica, 352 p.

Jeffries I., 2006, Vietnam, A Guide to Economic and Political Developments, New York, Routledge, 160 p.

Labbé D. and Musil C., 2017. « «Les nouvelles zones urbaines» de Hanoi (Vietnam): dynamiques spatiales et enjeux territoriaux », Mappemonde. URL: http://mappemonde.mgm.fr/122as1/

Labbé D. and Musil C., 2011. « L’extension des limites administratives de Hanoi: Un exercice de recomposition territoriale en tension » [The extension of the administrative limits of Hanoi: Territorial reframing under tension], Cybergeo: European Journal of Geography, URL: http://cybergeo.revues.org/24179.

Marton A., 2000, China’s Spatial Economic Development. Restless Landscapes in the Lower Yangzi, New York, Routledge, 233 p.

McGee T., 2008, “Managing the rural-urban transformation in East Asia in the 21st century”, Sustainability Sciences, no. 3, p. 155-167.

McGee T., Lin C., Marton A., Wang M. and Wu J., 2007, China’s urban space. Development under socialism market, New York, Routledge, 260 p.

Milhaud S., 2014, « Les petites villes, de nouveaux centres pour le développement territorial chinois » [Small cities, new centres for Chinese territorial development], EchoGéo, no. 27.

Monin E., 2012, « Trames du delta du Yangzi : recompositions métropolitaines et aménagement des périphéries agricoles de Shanghai, Chine » [Frames of the Yangzi Delta: metropolitan recompositions and planning in farming areas of Shanghai, China], Projets de paysage, URL: https://www.projetsdepaysage.fr/editpdf.php?texte=789.

Monin E., 2016, « Les autorités publiques et la modernisation agro-industrielle : l’exemple du groupe alimentaire Guangming » [Public authorities and agro-industrial modernization in China: the case of the Guangming food company], Géoconfluences, URL: http://geoconfluences.ens-lyon.fr/informations-scientifiques/dossiers-regionaux/la-chine/corpus-documentaire/groupe-alimentaire-guangming.

Monin E., 2017, « Des rizicultures métropolitaines chinoises: recompositions spatiales et logiques productives à la périphérie de Shanghai » [Chinese metropolitan rice-cropping: spatial changes and production logics in the outskirts of Shanghai], Cahiers d’Outre-Mer, no. 275, 2017/1, P. 21-61.

Mougeot L. (ed.), 2005, Agropolis: The Social, Political and Environmental dimensions of Urban Agriculture, London, Earthscan, 308 p.

Moustier P. and Dao T. A., 2015, « Périls sur la ceinture verte de Hanoi » [Threats to the green belt in Hanoi], in Fanchette S. (ed.), Hanoi, future métropole. Rupture de l’intégration urbaine des villages, Marseille, Paris, IRD Editions, p. 157-189.

Municipal Bureau of Statistics of Shanghai, 2016, URL: http://www.shanghai.gov.cn/nw2/nw2314/nw24651/nw42131/index.html.

OI J., 1999, Rural China takes off. Institutional fundations of economic reform, Oakland, University of California Press, 253 p.

Ortega A., 2012, “Desakota and beyond: neoliberal production of suburban space in Manila’s Fringe”, Urban Geography, vol. 33, 8, p. 1118-1143.

Poulot M., 2008, « Les territoires périurbains : “fin de partie” pour la géographie rurale ou nouvelles perspectives ? » [Periurban areas: “end of the game” or new perspectives in rural geography?], Géocarrefour, vol. 83, no. 2008/4.

Poulot M., 2012, « Le développement rural au Nord et au Sud : enjeu d’une géographie rurale “indifférenciée” » [Rural development in North and South: challenging an “undifferentiated” rural geography], Études rurales, no. 14.

Pulliat G., 2015, “Food securitization and urban agriculture in Hanoi (Vietnam)”, Articulo, Special issue no. 7.

Sanjuan T., 1999, « Mutation des rapports ville-campagne et mégalopolis asiatique : le delta de la Rivière des Perles » [City-countryside linkages mutations and Asian megalopolis: The Pearl River Delta], in Chaléard J.-L. and Dubressons A. (eds.), Villes et campagnes dans les pays du Sud. Géographie des relations [Cities and countrysides in Southern countries: geography of relationships], Paris, Karthala, p. 239-258.

Sanjuan T., 2009, Atlas de Shanghai [Atlas of Shanghai], Paris, Autrement.

Soulard, C.-T., Perrin C., Valette E., 2017, Toward Sustainable Relations Between Agriculture and the City, Cham, Springer, 239 p.

Sun L. (ed.), 2012, Shanghai dushi xiandai nongye shijian [Experiencing modern metropolitan agriculture in Shanghai], Shanghai, Shanghai kexue jishu chubanshe, 282 p.

Webster D., 2011, “An Overdue Agenda: Systematizing East Asian Peri-Urban Research – Review Essay”, Pacific Affairs, vol. 84, no. 4, p. 631-642.

Xue Y., 2011, Cong xiangcun nongye dao dushi nongye. Shanghai nongye de fazhan yu yanbian [From rural agriculture to metropolitan agriculture. The development and evolution of agriculture in Shanghai], Shanghai, Shanghai shehui kexue chubanshe, 174 p.

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Footnotes

[1] Rural areas can be defined spatially by the relative dominance of farmland cover and prints of village settlements, observed with satellite imagery or aerial photography. They are also identified by their administrative layout, and recorded in statistics. However, social mobility and changes of residence mean population statistics can be inaccurate.

[2] Shanghai’s gross domestic product (GDP) was US$400 billion in 2015, 14 times that of Hanoi and twice the national GDP of Vietnam. The average individual revenue was US$7,700 in Shanghai and US$3600 in Hanoi, higher than the national averages (in Shanghai, 2.5 times the Chinese national average of US$2,800, and in Hanoi 1.5 times the Vietnamese average of US$2000). There are also differences in the distribution of wealth within the two cities. In Shanghai, for example, the rural revenue of US$3,570 is less than half of urban revenue (Municipal Bureau of Statistics of Shanghai, 2016; General Statistics Office of Viet Nam, 2015).

[3] In this interpretation, desakota refers to the spatial designation of a megalopolitan area (Milhaud, 2014).

[4] Vietnam proclaimed independence from France in 1945 and was subsequently separated into two parts until 1975. During the Vietnam War (1955–75) the southern part was allied with the USA while the northern part was backed by (among others) China.

[5] Under the Communist government the Chinese countryside underwent profound political and socioeconomic reorganization, starting from the agrarian reform of 1951, followed by State monopoly over the purchase and sale of agricultural products in 1955. During the Great Leap Forward (1958-1961), collective farming was organized on communes to ensure food supplies for the urban sector through State procurements and economic planning (Aubert, 1990).

[6] In the 1960s and 1970s Vietnam, under the banner of communism, adopted a similar domestic policy to that of China, with some years’ delay and despite the conflict between the countries. The two regimes imposed planned control over their respective economies before converting to a market economy and reopening to the world under China’s Reform and Opening policy (gaige kaifang) of 1978 and Vietnam’s Doi Moi a decade later.

[7] The four “Dragons” that emerged in the 1970s were Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan. From the 1990s, the term “Asian Tigers” referred to Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines (Franck et al., 2012).

[8] Rural collectives, established at village and township level following decollectivization, have control over collective land and capital, and provide for the economic organization of local resources (Oi, 1999).

[9] Field observations from Hanoi were contributed by Professor Nguyen Tuan Anh, sociologist at Vietnam National University, in November 2017.

[10] Though the comparison is somewhat unbalanced: this case study of Shanghai rests on the findings of PhD research, while the Hanoi case is based on existing academic literature combined with data provided by Professor Nguyen Tuan Anh.

To cite this article:

Etienne Monin, « Periurban farming in an Asian context: metropolitan processes affecting agriculture in the Shanghai and Hanoi countryside », DCUN (Diffuse Cities & Urbanization Network) Research Note No.1, June 2019. URL: https://dcun.hypotheses.org/1520

Document Status:

This research note is based on the oral presentation given at the international conference “Emergent forms of Urban densification in Asia – Shared perspectives”, organized by the Institute of Research for Development (IRD), the Center of Population and Development (CEPED – IRD/University Paris Descartes) and the Hanoi Architecture University (HAU) (Hanoi, 13-16 November 2017). The author would like to thank Nguyen Tuan Anh (sociologist, Vietnam National University) for providing evidences on the case of Hanoi. The production of this research note was funded by the DCUN.

 

 

 

 

Research Note Series

Among the activities undertaken by the DCUN members, the network encourages the development of comparative research that questions the processes of urban diffusion, in different fields and urban contexts.

The outcome of this research is now featured in form of Research Notes.

The DCUN Research Notes are available below:

  • Research Note No.1: « Periurban farming in an Asian context: metropolitan processes affecting agriculture in the Shanghai and Hanoi countryside » by Etienne Monin (To access to the DCUN Research Note click here).

 

DCUN Methodological Note

Should We Compare the Processes of Urbanization in Paris, London, and Shanghai, or Paris, Marseille, and Vesoul?

Strategies of Comparison in Urban Research

Joël Idt (Assistant Professor, University Paris Est Marne la Vallée, Lab’Urba)
Contact: joel.idt@u-pem.fr

Abstract

People who do research on cities and urbanism spend their time making comparisons, just like their colleagues in other social science fields. Depending on the specific subjects of their research, they compare towns and cities, urban mobility and consumption, and urban projects. The question as to what is or is not comparable regularly comes up.

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People who do research on cities and urbanism spend their time making comparisons,[1] just like their colleagues in other social science fields (Vigour 2015). Depending on the specific subjects of their research, they compare towns and cities, urban mobility and consumption, and urban projects. The question as to what is or is not comparable regularly comes up. Paris and Marseille are often cited as cities that are so unique, each in their own way, that they cannot be compared to any other. The size of the Paris conurbation means that its only parallel in Europe is London; for some people this immediately rules out any comparison with smaller municipalities in France, whether other large conurbations or small and medium-sized towns. Marseille is said to be characterized by its highly unusual forms of local governance, a situation which impedes any attempt to compare the processes of urban production taking place there even with those of cities similar in size.

Criticisms made by those who are sceptical of a comparative approach consist, for example, in pointing to differences in situation, or to specific local conditions which are too individualized to make any one case comparable to others. However, simply because two cities or two urban phenomena are radically different does not mean that they should not be compared. To the contrary, comparing such cases can sometimes be even more rewarding. What we see creeping in here is a misinterpretation of the verb ‘to compare’, which is sometimes used to express a similarity (‘The two cities are comparable in terms of size’; ‘The social composition of the two neighbourhoods is comparable’; etc.). But in a research context, this term refers first and foremost to the action of comparing, not the result of the comparison. Comparison must be understood here as a research method or analytical tool, or a scientific project (Bourdin 2015).

By sticking to this definition, we would like to argue for a radical position: everything can be compared to everything else (which does not mean that everything is similar), even the ‘incomparable’.[2] What matters is to know why and how, and of course to show the limits of comparison and to carry it out in accordance with the rules of the discipline (that is to say, methodological considerations, which we will address here only in passing). Now that urban allotment cultivation has become such a success, we may permit ourselves a vegetable metaphor: it is possible to compare cabbages and carrots – we see that they are certainly different in colour and taste but they can be grown on the same farm, and by mixing them together we end up with tasty coleslaw. If we replace our ingredients with urban projects or urban agglomerations, the argument still holds.

In this article, we propose to approach comparison in terms of the research strategy it underpins and the reasoning behind it. We describe several strategies for constructing a comparison, that is to say several ways to compare things: comparing areas which are similar but not entirely so, comparing areas which are different but not too different, and comparing in order to export or import research topics and questions. Our typology is by no means exhaustive; however, it is extensive enough to demonstrate that when it comes to comparison everything can be envisioned but not everything leads in the same intellectual directions or to the same results.

For our demonstration, we will rely on previous and current research which analyses processes of scattered urbanization, taking place outside urban centres on more or less distant peripheries. This research focuses on what happens outside major urban development projects, in the everyday dynamics of the kind of urbanization with a low media and political profile that Dominique Lorrain has called ‘urbanisme 1.0’ (Lorrain 2018): individuals who divide up their plots of land in order to build at the far end of the plot, farmers who sell land for subdivision, developers who combine two residential plots to build a small block of flats, and so on. An initial study has addressed the response of public authorities faced with ‘spontaneous’ densification, through a comparison between Paris and Rome.[3] Another study concerns the transformation of farmland at the interface between urban and rural areas, through a comparison of several sites in the Ile-de-France and another region nearby.[4] A third investigates illegal urbanization, through a comparison between Paris, Rome, and Hanoi.[5] We will refer only in passing to the results of this research, just enough to assess the comparative strategies at work and their potential contributions.

Taking what seem to be rather similar areas

– to confirm that the dynamics of urbanization are similar

This is probably the most common strategy used in comparative research. In the case of our research topic, it consists of choosing fairly similar areas in order to verify whether the processes of urbanization are similar. What we seek is to increase the level of generality: comparison shows that the description of the processes applies to more than one singular case, and confirms that there are correspondences between a particular type of area and the processes of urbanization taking place there. This type of argument can be used to strengthen existing categories of analysis (by refining or slightly modifying them) or to develop new ones. We are close to a Durkheimian form of reasoning,[6] establishing correspondences between several variables (in this case an area and processes of urbanization).

Our research on spontaneous densification provides an illustration of this. Specifically, we compared municipalities in the first and second ring of suburbs in the Ile-de-France in order to understand where ‘spontaneous’ densification of building stock was taking place, unconnected with public construction projects. Comparing the different cases we studied enabled us to increase the level of generality in our assessment of the sites and forms of these phenomena. For example, the largest operations are carried out by major developers, and are mainly located along major highways, close to public transport infrastructure, or in town centres. Smaller developers or individuals who want to make a property deal will undertake operations in other, more outlying neighbourhoods. This observation has been confirmed in towns such as Montreuil, Bagnolet, Vitry, and Sucy-en-Brie, among others. Such a level of increased generality can only be reached by comparing a fairly large number of cases.

– or to bring out differences

A situation in which the urban areas being compared are relatively similar but radically different processes of urbanization are observable can also be of interest heuristically. Here the strategy consists rather in disconfirming correspondences between urban situations and the processes of urbanization that go on in them, and/or in showing that extremely diverse processes can produce fairly similar outcomes. On occasion it is possible to identify a contextual variable which had not initially been thought of, and which would help to explain the variations. As in the previous case, the results obtained are general in scope, but reached through different reasoning.

Still on the subject of ‘spontaneous’ densification, in our research we have observed that communities whose geographical situation and social composition are fairly similar (briefly: formerly communist-majority towns in the inner ring of the Paris suburbs, now undergoing partial gentrification) can have sharply divided views on densification. Some are fiercely against it, while others look on it more favourably and even encourage it. Some have acquired the effective capacity to negotiate with developers, while others are relatively lacking in this respect, and so on. Without going into more detail, we see here that the forms that official public action takes are not over-determined by the social geography of these towns. Other variables must be brought in to explain these differences, such as the history of local institutions, the mayor’s interest in intervention or development, and so on.

Research on the transformation of farmland at the urban/rural interface provides another illustration of this type of reasoning. We have studied several peri-urban municipalities located within the boundaries of a regional nature park (PNR). One might have thought that they would be quite restrictive and ‘Malthusian’ (Charmes 2011) when it came to permitting further urbanization, since peri-urban PNRs have the reputation of encouraging such a strategy. In fact, our research shows diversity in the positions taken by elected representatives in this regard, including representatives from the same municipality: they are sometimes torn between restricting urbanization to preserve the rural way of life, and permitting it in order to attract a new, younger population or to diversify the residential opportunities available within the municipality.

Taking what seem to be rather different areas

– to show the common features of processes of urbanization

On the other hand, it can sometimes be appropriate to choose areas which are rather different from each other in order to show that the processes of urbanization observed in them have features in common. This may be a necessary stage before the development of more detailed classifications of the observed phenomenon, putting the emphasis on secondary differentiations. Such an approach makes it possible to broaden the scope of the phenomenon we observe, by showing that it can occur in very different kinds of area. Here again, comparison makes it possible to increase the level of generality: what might have been viewed as local peculiarities turn out to be common features. It is thus in our interest to take cases that seem in principle to be quite dissimilar if we want to be able to generalize.

The two urban agglomerations we chose for our research on the spontaneous densification of building stock (Rome and Paris) are structured administratively in significantly different ways. The city of Rome is very extensive, covering an area almost twelve times that of Paris proper (‘intra muros’). In contrast, around Paris the Ile-de-France is fragmented into a large number of municipalities. One might expect, looking at this situation from a strictly institutionalist perspective, that Rome would be better than the Ile-de-France at planning its urban development over a wide geographical area. Our research largely disproves this hypothesis. In Rome, the procedure for drawing up and approving planning documents alone takes so long that they are out of date even before they are ready to be executed. In the Ile-de-France, the fragmentation of the municipalities masks the extremely active development of plans at the local level, as new projects are constantly being implemented. In both cases, that is, planning mechanisms have shortcomings which get in the way of managing the plans. Another result of our research relates to a similar argument. Even though the two urban agglomerations we studied are very different (in their geographical, political, sociological, and other characteristics), they share observable features: the parties concerned play around with the regulations governing land use, and the local authorities and would-be developers negotiate building permits. The variety of situations enables us to classify the forms that these games can take (Idt and Pellegrino 2018).

A somewhat similar approach has been adopted for research on the transformation of farmland. In our comparisons of the peri-urban municipalities of the Ile-de-France, we have used the typology of the 2013 SDRIF (Schéma Directeur de la Région Île-de-France / Master Plan for the Île-de-France Region), which differentiates the approach to urbanization in the municipalities located on the ‘urban interface’, the ‘population hubs to be strengthened’, and the other ‘small towns, villages, and hamlets’, which are to be allowed ‘moderate expansion’: the rules designed to govern new urban development are significantly different in these cases. However, our research shows that very similar types of negotiation with the rules occur in all these areas, meaning that their degree of individuality is only relative. An interesting secondary result of our research is that the SDRIF’s capacity to manage urbanization should be called into question, since the actual processes of urbanization are indifferent to the distinctions it has established.

– or to accentuate differences

The situation in which very different areas undergo very different processes of urbanization is not without interest, contrary to what one might think at first glance. International comparisons very often address such configurations: there are too many contextual variables to make one-to-one comparisons, so other strategies have to be developed to take account of this situation. The approach may focus on emphasizing the most significant differences, possibly by accentuating or even caricaturing them, in order to construct broad analytical categories. This approach is along the lines of the Weberian method of constructing ideal types,[7] which is based on an examination of cases that are sufficiently different, and which can be modelled through comparison.

In our research projects on the densification and transformation of farmland, we analysed municipalities of very different sizes, ranging from a few hundred residents to tens of thousands. In both research projects, the size of the municipalities proved to be a significant variable determining their ability to negotiate with private developers who file permits for building on farmland. Size in effect determines the engineering resources available in the relevant municipal offices for analysing the permits and going over them with the permit filers. This finding is in line with a similar analysis by Olivier Morlet (1997), which demonstrates the extent to which the size of the municipality can affect the ability of elected officials and technicians to negotiate, either with private developers or with the state.

In a different register, our comparative research on illegal urbanization in Rome, Paris, and Hanoi leads us to emphasize to the point of caricature the differences linked to the existence of extremely strong growth in Asia and relative stagnation in Europe. Illegal urbanization obviously does not have the same meaning in the two cases; the thinking which leads to it and the games which underlie it are radically different. In the first case, illegality can be extensively practised and central to new processes of urbanization. In the second case, it is often more marginal and less overt, but its role as an adjustment variable can be crucial in regulating urban transformation (allowing a few illegal activities on the margins, for example, may be inevitable during a very serious housing crisis).

Applying research questions and topics to other areas

A final strategy for comparative research is the import and export of questions and topics, analytical frameworks, and research methodologies. For example, a question developed and tested in one area can be applied to other areas, in order to refine the analysis or query the initial results; alternatively, categories of analysis developed elsewhere can be imported for application to an area that we want to study in a different way, in order to make us look at it from another angle. In all these cases we are seeking to produce a different interpretation of the phenomena or to open up new avenues of analysis.

Research on the spontaneous densification of building stock is one example of the transfer of questions, topics, and categories of analysis. The urbanization of greater Rome is characterized by very extensive abusivismo edilizio, that is to say illegal construction, outside the areas authorized in the official plan or without a construction permit. Almost a third of the volume of construction in the city of Rome seems to have been done illegally (Nessi 2010). Abusivismo has been a public problem for a long time, and is addressed by specific action plans on the part of the authorities as well as being analysed by urbanists. This particularly Roman phenomenon led our research group to treat illegality as a particular category of analysis for understanding spontaneous densification in Rome. We have now applied this to the Ile-de-France region. While the phenomenon is far from being as extensive as in Rome, we have found that it does exist. In most of the municipalities we studied, violations of plans or building permits were reported to us, though generally on a small scale. The local authorities say they are aware of the problem but have few resources to deal with it.

Our current research on illegal urbanization in Rome, Paris, and Hanoi confirms our observation that in this case a North/South comparison is worthwhile even though the three sites may seem at first sight to be too dissimilar. In fact, illegal and informal urbanization has been extensively researched in the countries of the South, far more than in the North. Analytical frameworks have been developed and hypotheses tested. From this point of view, comparison opens up the possibility of applying existing research to other situations, as long as the limits of its transferability are clearly defined. For example, although the scale of the phenomenon is very different in the two cases, as we think more generally about the boundary between legality and illegality we may recognize very clear echoes from one to the other.

Conclusion

In each of the comparative research strategies described here, the usefulness of the comparison is that it enables us to increase the level of generality with respect to a single case, and to build, test, and modify categories of analysis. But the level of generality can be increased in several ways. In the first strategy, the aim is to construct correspondences between types of area and the processes of urbanization which take place there. In the second, in contrast, we seek to disconfirm these correspondences by showing that very different processes can take place in areas that we had thought were parallel. In the third strategy, we show that very different areas can give rise to very similar processes of urbanization. The fourth is that of the construction of ideal types, which are naturally different from one another. This strategy is based on the import/export of analytical frameworks constructed elsewhere and tested for validity on a new case.

But although in principle it is possible to compare everything, this does not exempt researchers from doing a substantial amount of work to avoid the methodological pitfalls inherent in comparison. We will not restate the rules governing this kind of work, which have already been largely set out elsewhere (in particular Vigour 2005). Differences in socio-geographical and cultural conditions should be taken into account. Access to data is not always parallel for the different areas studied. The categories of analysis and pre-defined terms (town or city, the urban, density, public interest, etc.) do not necessarily have the same meaning in all the situations studied; and so on. Everything can therefore be compared as long as the limitations of the exercise are clearly spelled out and the comparison is properly ‘constructed’. Otherwise, our scientific coleslaw will probably taste very strange.

Bibliography

Blanc M. and Chadouin O. (2015), ‘Editorial’, Espaces et sociétés, 2015/4, No. 163.

Bourdin A. (2015), ‘La comparaison telle qu’elle s’écrit’, Espaces et sociétés, 2015/4, No. 163.

Charmes E. (2011), La ville émiettée. Essai sur la clubbisation de la vie urbaine. Paris: Presses universitaires de France.

Detienne M. (2000), Comparer l’incomparable. Paris: Seuil.

Idt J. and Pellegrino M. (2018), ‘Les acteurs publics face aux phénomènes de densification spontanée. Une comparaison franco-italienne’, in Leger J.M. and Mariolle B. eds, Densifier/Dédensifier les campagnes urbaines. Marseille: Parenthèses.

Lorrain D. (2018), L’urbanisme 1.0. Enquête sur une commune du Grand Paris. Paris: Raisons d’agir.

Morlet O. (1997), ‘Les pratiques locales de la préemption’, Etudes Foncières No. 86, ADEF.

Nessi H. (2010), ‘Action publique et étalement urbain à Rome: une lecture par les services en réseau’, Flux, 2010/1, Nos. 79-80.

Vigour C. (2005), La comparaison dans les sciences sociales. Paris: La Découverte.

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Footnotes

[1] See for example the issue of the journal Espaces et Sociétés on international comparisons in urban studies (Blanc and Chadouin 2015).

[2] Borrowing Marcel Destienne’s formula (2000) which argues for a similar approach from a different perspective, by showing the usefulness of a radical comparative approach to historical analysis.

[3] Research undertaken for the PUCA: ‘Les acteurs publics face à la densification spontanée du bâti: une comparaison franco-italienne’ (http://www.urbanisme-puca.gouv.fr/IMG/pdf/rapport_final_puca.pdf), by Joel Idt and Margot Pellegrino, carried out between 2014 and 2016 (Idt and Pellegrino 2018), with the assistance of Sarah Baudry.

[4] Research in progress, carried on within the framework of the PSDR CapIDF programme, segment 3 of the research project (with Roxane de Flore).

[5] Research in progress, carried on within the framework of the Réseau International sur l’urbanisation diffuse du Labex Futurs Urbains de l’Université Paris Est: https://dcun.hypotheses.org/ (research network coordinators: Adèle Esposito, Joel Idt, Clément Musil).

[6] For a more extensive analysis of the links between classical sociological theory and the comparative approach, see Vigour (2005).

[7] For a more extensive analysis of the links between classical sociological theory and the comparative approach, see Vigour (2005).

To cite this article:

Joël Idt, « Should We Compare the Processes of Urbanization in Paris, London, and Shanghai, or Paris, Marseille, and Vesoul? Strategies of Comparison in Urban Research », DCUN (Diffuse Cities & Urbanization Network) Methodological Note, April 2019. URL: https://dcun.hypotheses.org/1492

Comparison As a Method

Like in the other fields of social sciences, scholars who are working on urbanization processes and urban planning are often tempted by comparing. According to scientific production, they compare cities, urban practices of mobility, urban policies, consumption behaviors, or even urban projects. Then the question as to what is or is not comparable regularly comes up.

DCUN network aims to discuss the question of comparative approach and proposes the following note entitled « Should We Compare the Processes of Urbanization in Paris, London, and Shanghai, or Paris, Marseille, and Vesoul? Strategies of Comparison in Urban Research » (By Joël Idt).

Access to the DCUN Methodological Note (click here)

 

Methodological Note No.1

Should We Compare the Processes of Urbanization in Paris, London, and Shanghai, or Paris, Marseille, and Vesoul?

Strategies of Comparison in Urban Research

Joël Idt (Assistant Professor, University Paris Est Marne la Vallée, Lab’Urba)
Contact: joel.idt@u-pem.fr

Abstract

People who do research on cities and urbanism spend their time making comparisons, just like their colleagues in other social science fields. Depending on the specific subjects of their research, they compare towns and cities, urban mobility and consumption, and urban projects. The question as to what is or is not comparable regularly comes up.

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People who do research on cities and urbanism spend their time making comparisons,[1] just like their colleagues in other social science fields (Vigour 2015). Depending on the specific subjects of their research, they compare towns and cities, urban mobility and consumption, and urban projects. The question as to what is or is not comparable regularly comes up. Paris and Marseille are often cited as cities that are so unique, each in their own way, that they cannot be compared to any other. The size of the Paris conurbation means that its only parallel in Europe is London; for some people this immediately rules out any comparison with smaller municipalities in France, whether other large conurbations or small and medium-sized towns. Marseille is said to be characterized by its highly unusual forms of local governance, a situation which impedes any attempt to compare the processes of urban production taking place there even with those of cities similar in size.

Criticisms made by those who are sceptical of a comparative approach consist, for example, in pointing to differences in situation, or to specific local conditions which are too individualized to make any one case comparable to others. However, simply because two cities or two urban phenomena are radically different does not mean that they should not be compared. To the contrary, comparing such cases can sometimes be even more rewarding. What we see creeping in here is a misinterpretation of the verb ‘to compare’, which is sometimes used to express a similarity (‘The two cities are comparable in terms of size’; ‘The social composition of the two neighbourhoods is comparable’; etc.). But in a research context, this term refers first and foremost to the action of comparing, not the result of the comparison. Comparison must be understood here as a research method or analytical tool, or a scientific project (Bourdin 2015).

By sticking to this definition, we would like to argue for a radical position: everything can be compared to everything else (which does not mean that everything is similar), even the ‘incomparable’.[2] What matters is to know why and how, and of course to show the limits of comparison and to carry it out in accordance with the rules of the discipline (that is to say, methodological considerations, which we will address here only in passing). Now that urban allotment cultivation has become such a success, we may permit ourselves a vegetable metaphor: it is possible to compare cabbages and carrots – we see that they are certainly different in colour and taste but they can be grown on the same farm, and by mixing them together we end up with tasty coleslaw. If we replace our ingredients with urban projects or urban agglomerations, the argument still holds.

In this article, we propose to approach comparison in terms of the research strategy it underpins and the reasoning behind it. We describe several strategies for constructing a comparison, that is to say several ways to compare things: comparing areas which are similar but not entirely so, comparing areas which are different but not too different, and comparing in order to export or import research topics and questions. Our typology is by no means exhaustive; however, it is extensive enough to demonstrate that when it comes to comparison everything can be envisioned but not everything leads in the same intellectual directions or to the same results.

For our demonstration, we will rely on previous and current research which analyses processes of scattered urbanization, taking place outside urban centres on more or less distant peripheries. This research focuses on what happens outside major urban development projects, in the everyday dynamics of the kind of urbanization with a low media and political profile that Dominique Lorrain has called ‘urbanisme 1.0’ (Lorrain 2018): individuals who divide up their plots of land in order to build at the far end of the plot, farmers who sell land for subdivision, developers who combine two residential plots to build a small block of flats, and so on. An initial study has addressed the response of public authorities faced with ‘spontaneous’ densification, through a comparison between Paris and Rome.[3] Another study concerns the transformation of farmland at the interface between urban and rural areas, through a comparison of several sites in the Ile-de-France and another region nearby.[4] A third investigates illegal urbanization, through a comparison between Paris, Rome, and Hanoi.[5] We will refer only in passing to the results of this research, just enough to assess the comparative strategies at work and their potential contributions.

Taking what seem to be rather similar areas

– to confirm that the dynamics of urbanization are similar

This is probably the most common strategy used in comparative research. In the case of our research topic, it consists of choosing fairly similar areas in order to verify whether the processes of urbanization are similar. What we seek is to increase the level of generality: comparison shows that the description of the processes applies to more than one singular case, and confirms that there are correspondences between a particular type of area and the processes of urbanization taking place there. This type of argument can be used to strengthen existing categories of analysis (by refining or slightly modifying them) or to develop new ones. We are close to a Durkheimian form of reasoning,[6] establishing correspondences between several variables (in this case an area and processes of urbanization).

Our research on spontaneous densification provides an illustration of this. Specifically, we compared municipalities in the first and second ring of suburbs in the Ile-de-France in order to understand where ‘spontaneous’ densification of building stock was taking place, unconnected with public construction projects. Comparing the different cases we studied enabled us to increase the level of generality in our assessment of the sites and forms of these phenomena. For example, the largest operations are carried out by major developers, and are mainly located along major highways, close to public transport infrastructure, or in town centres. Smaller developers or individuals who want to make a property deal will undertake operations in other, more outlying neighbourhoods. This observation has been confirmed in towns such as Montreuil, Bagnolet, Vitry, and Sucy-en-Brie, among others. Such a level of increased generality can only be reached by comparing a fairly large number of cases.

– or to bring out differences

A situation in which the urban areas being compared are relatively similar but radically different processes of urbanization are observable can also be of interest heuristically. Here the strategy consists rather in disconfirming correspondences between urban situations and the processes of urbanization that go on in them, and/or in showing that extremely diverse processes can produce fairly similar outcomes. On occasion it is possible to identify a contextual variable which had not initially been thought of, and which would help to explain the variations. As in the previous case, the results obtained are general in scope, but reached through different reasoning.

Still on the subject of ‘spontaneous’ densification, in our research we have observed that communities whose geographical situation and social composition are fairly similar (briefly: formerly communist-majority towns in the inner ring of the Paris suburbs, now undergoing partial gentrification) can have sharply divided views on densification. Some are fiercely against it, while others look on it more favourably and even encourage it. Some have acquired the effective capacity to negotiate with developers, while others are relatively lacking in this respect, and so on. Without going into more detail, we see here that the forms that official public action takes are not over-determined by the social geography of these towns. Other variables must be brought in to explain these differences, such as the history of local institutions, the mayor’s interest in intervention or development, and so on.

Research on the transformation of farmland at the urban/rural interface provides another illustration of this type of reasoning. We have studied several peri-urban municipalities located within the boundaries of a regional nature park (PNR). One might have thought that they would be quite restrictive and ‘Malthusian’ (Charmes 2011) when it came to permitting further urbanization, since peri-urban PNRs have the reputation of encouraging such a strategy. In fact, our research shows diversity in the positions taken by elected representatives in this regard, including representatives from the same municipality: they are sometimes torn between restricting urbanization to preserve the rural way of life, and permitting it in order to attract a new, younger population or to diversify the residential opportunities available within the municipality.

Taking what seem to be rather different areas

– to show the common features of processes of urbanization

On the other hand, it can sometimes be appropriate to choose areas which are rather different from each other in order to show that the processes of urbanization observed in them have features in common. This may be a necessary stage before the development of more detailed classifications of the observed phenomenon, putting the emphasis on secondary differentiations. Such an approach makes it possible to broaden the scope of the phenomenon we observe, by showing that it can occur in very different kinds of area. Here again, comparison makes it possible to increase the level of generality: what might have been viewed as local peculiarities turn out to be common features. It is thus in our interest to take cases that seem in principle to be quite dissimilar if we want to be able to generalize.

The two urban agglomerations we chose for our research on the spontaneous densification of building stock (Rome and Paris) are structured administratively in significantly different ways. The city of Rome is very extensive, covering an area almost twelve times that of Paris proper (‘intra muros’). In contrast, around Paris the Ile-de-France is fragmented into a large number of municipalities. One might expect, looking at this situation from a strictly institutionalist perspective, that Rome would be better than the Ile-de-France at planning its urban development over a wide geographical area. Our research largely disproves this hypothesis. In Rome, the procedure for drawing up and approving planning documents alone takes so long that they are out of date even before they are ready to be executed. In the Ile-de-France, the fragmentation of the municipalities masks the extremely active development of plans at the local level, as new projects are constantly being implemented. In both cases, that is, planning mechanisms have shortcomings which get in the way of managing the plans. Another result of our research relates to a similar argument. Even though the two urban agglomerations we studied are very different (in their geographical, political, sociological, and other characteristics), they share observable features: the parties concerned play around with the regulations governing land use, and the local authorities and would-be developers negotiate building permits. The variety of situations enables us to classify the forms that these games can take (Idt and Pellegrino 2018).

A somewhat similar approach has been adopted for research on the transformation of farmland. In our comparisons of the peri-urban municipalities of the Ile-de-France, we have used the typology of the 2013 SDRIF (Schéma Directeur de la Région Île-de-France / Master Plan for the Île-de-France Region), which differentiates the approach to urbanization in the municipalities located on the ‘urban interface’, the ‘population hubs to be strengthened’, and the other ‘small towns, villages, and hamlets’, which are to be allowed ‘moderate expansion’: the rules designed to govern new urban development are significantly different in these cases. However, our research shows that very similar types of negotiation with the rules occur in all these areas, meaning that their degree of individuality is only relative. An interesting secondary result of our research is that the SDRIF’s capacity to manage urbanization should be called into question, since the actual processes of urbanization are indifferent to the distinctions it has established.

– or to accentuate differences

The situation in which very different areas undergo very different processes of urbanization is not without interest, contrary to what one might think at first glance. International comparisons very often address such configurations: there are too many contextual variables to make one-to-one comparisons, so other strategies have to be developed to take account of this situation. The approach may focus on emphasizing the most significant differences, possibly by accentuating or even caricaturing them, in order to construct broad analytical categories. This approach is along the lines of the Weberian method of constructing ideal types,[7] which is based on an examination of cases that are sufficiently different, and which can be modelled through comparison.

In our research projects on the densification and transformation of farmland, we analysed municipalities of very different sizes, ranging from a few hundred residents to tens of thousands. In both research projects, the size of the municipalities proved to be a significant variable determining their ability to negotiate with private developers who file permits for building on farmland. Size in effect determines the engineering resources available in the relevant municipal offices for analysing the permits and going over them with the permit filers. This finding is in line with a similar analysis by Olivier Morlet (1997), which demonstrates the extent to which the size of the municipality can affect the ability of elected officials and technicians to negotiate, either with private developers or with the state.

In a different register, our comparative research on illegal urbanization in Rome, Paris, and Hanoi leads us to emphasize to the point of caricature the differences linked to the existence of extremely strong growth in Asia and relative stagnation in Europe. Illegal urbanization obviously does not have the same meaning in the two cases; the thinking which leads to it and the games which underlie it are radically different. In the first case, illegality can be extensively practised and central to new processes of urbanization. In the second case, it is often more marginal and less overt, but its role as an adjustment variable can be crucial in regulating urban transformation (allowing a few illegal activities on the margins, for example, may be inevitable during a very serious housing crisis).

Applying research questions and topics to other areas

A final strategy for comparative research is the import and export of questions and topics, analytical frameworks, and research methodologies. For example, a question developed and tested in one area can be applied to other areas, in order to refine the analysis or query the initial results; alternatively, categories of analysis developed elsewhere can be imported for application to an area that we want to study in a different way, in order to make us look at it from another angle. In all these cases we are seeking to produce a different interpretation of the phenomena or to open up new avenues of analysis.

Research on the spontaneous densification of building stock is one example of the transfer of questions, topics, and categories of analysis. The urbanization of greater Rome is characterized by very extensive abusivismo edilizio, that is to say illegal construction, outside the areas authorized in the official plan or without a construction permit. Almost a third of the volume of construction in the city of Rome seems to have been done illegally (Nessi 2010). Abusivismo has been a public problem for a long time, and is addressed by specific action plans on the part of the authorities as well as being analysed by urbanists. This particularly Roman phenomenon led our research group to treat illegality as a particular category of analysis for understanding spontaneous densification in Rome. We have now applied this to the Ile-de-France region. While the phenomenon is far from being as extensive as in Rome, we have found that it does exist. In most of the municipalities we studied, violations of plans or building permits were reported to us, though generally on a small scale. The local authorities say they are aware of the problem but have few resources to deal with it.

Our current research on illegal urbanization in Rome, Paris, and Hanoi confirms our observation that in this case a North/South comparison is worthwhile even though the three sites may seem at first sight to be too dissimilar. In fact, illegal and informal urbanization has been extensively researched in the countries of the South, far more than in the North. Analytical frameworks have been developed and hypotheses tested. From this point of view, comparison opens up the possibility of applying existing research to other situations, as long as the limits of its transferability are clearly defined. For example, although the scale of the phenomenon is very different in the two cases, as we think more generally about the boundary between legality and illegality we may recognize very clear echoes from one to the other.

Conclusion

In each of the comparative research strategies described here, the usefulness of the comparison is that it enables us to increase the level of generality with respect to a single case, and to build, test, and modify categories of analysis. But the level of generality can be increased in several ways. In the first strategy, the aim is to construct correspondences between types of area and the processes of urbanization which take place there. In the second, in contrast, we seek to disconfirm these correspondences by showing that very different processes can take place in areas that we had thought were parallel. In the third strategy, we show that very different areas can give rise to very similar processes of urbanization. The fourth is that of the construction of ideal types, which are naturally different from one another. This strategy is based on the import/export of analytical frameworks constructed elsewhere and tested for validity on a new case.

But although in principle it is possible to compare everything, this does not exempt researchers from doing a substantial amount of work to avoid the methodological pitfalls inherent in comparison. We will not restate the rules governing this kind of work, which have already been largely set out elsewhere (in particular Vigour 2005). Differences in socio-geographical and cultural conditions should be taken into account. Access to data is not always parallel for the different areas studied. The categories of analysis and pre-defined terms (town or city, the urban, density, public interest, etc.) do not necessarily have the same meaning in all the situations studied; and so on. Everything can therefore be compared as long as the limitations of the exercise are clearly spelled out and the comparison is properly ‘constructed’. Otherwise, our scientific coleslaw will probably taste very strange.

Bibliography

Blanc M. and Chadouin O. (2015), ‘Editorial’, Espaces et sociétés, 2015/4, No. 163.

Bourdin A. (2015), ‘La comparaison telle qu’elle s’écrit’, Espaces et sociétés, 2015/4, No. 163.

Charmes E. (2011), La ville émiettée. Essai sur la clubbisation de la vie urbaine. Paris: Presses universitaires de France.

Detienne M. (2000), Comparer l’incomparable. Paris: Seuil.

Idt J. and Pellegrino M. (2018), ‘Les acteurs publics face aux phénomènes de densification spontanée. Une comparaison franco-italienne’, in Leger J.M. and Mariolle B. eds, Densifier/Dédensifier les campagnes urbaines. Marseille: Parenthèses.

Lorrain D. (2018), L’urbanisme 1.0. Enquête sur une commune du Grand Paris. Paris: Raisons d’agir.

Morlet O. (1997), ‘Les pratiques locales de la préemption’, Etudes Foncières No. 86, ADEF.

Nessi H. (2010), ‘Action publique et étalement urbain à Rome: une lecture par les services en réseau’, Flux, 2010/1, Nos. 79-80.

Vigour C. (2005), La comparaison dans les sciences sociales. Paris: La Découverte.

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Footnotes

[1] See for example the issue of the journal Espaces et Sociétés on international comparisons in urban studies (Blanc and Chadouin 2015).

[2] Borrowing Marcel Destienne’s formula (2000) which argues for a similar approach from a different perspective, by showing the usefulness of a radical comparative approach to historical analysis.

[3] Research undertaken for the PUCA: ‘Les acteurs publics face à la densification spontanée du bâti: une comparaison franco-italienne’ (http://www.urbanisme-puca.gouv.fr/IMG/pdf/rapport_final_puca.pdf), by Joel Idt and Margot Pellegrino, carried out between 2014 and 2016 (Idt and Pellegrino 2018), with the assistance of Sarah Baudry.

[4] Research in progress, carried on within the framework of the PSDR CapIDF programme, segment 3 of the research project (with Roxane de Flore).

[5] Research in progress, carried on within the framework of the Réseau International sur l’urbanisation diffuse du Labex Futurs Urbains de l’Université Paris Est: https://dcun.hypotheses.org/ (research network coordinators: Adèle Esposito, Joel Idt, Clément Musil).

[6] For a more extensive analysis of the links between classical sociological theory and the comparative approach, see Vigour (2005).

[7] For a more extensive analysis of the links between classical sociological theory and the comparative approach, see Vigour (2005).

To cite this article:

Joël Idt, « Should We Compare the Processes of Urbanization in Paris, London, and Shanghai, or Paris, Marseille, and Vesoul? Strategies of Comparison in Urban Research », DCUN (Diffuse Cities & Urbanization Network) Methodological Note Series, No.1, April 2019. URL: https://dcun.hypotheses.org/1448

Words & Concepts

« Wording Urban Diffusion »

Driven by the wish to produce innovative scientific material, the DCUN organized on the 21 November 2018 a workshop entitled « Wording Urban Diffusion ». This event that took place at the Architecture School of Paris-Belleville in Paris (France) and gathered more than fifteen speakers who discussed and examined the lexicon linked to the territorial diffusion of urbanization.

Today, urban diffusion is global and induces in the field of urban studies a revision in the way of thinking the relations between urbanism and territory. For this reason, this phenomenon has been studied in different geographical and historical contexts, and has resulted in the production of a terminology and a conceptual and theoretical apparatus in different languages.

This workshop was an opportunity for the scientific community to question the conceptual, disciplinary and methodological frameworks that have guided the production of knowledge on urbanization processes in different contexts and historical moments.

 

 

DCUN provides online content of this workshop with 8 videos, please see below


 

1 – Thomas Sieverst: « What are the problems with wording urban diffusion? »

This talk discusses the importance of adequate terms for the phenomenon of urban diffusion and the necessity to use words, which are connectable to ordinary language.

This means, that an adequate word should evoke suitable, correct and not negative images, the latter we can observe in Germany and this makes constructive discussions difficult from the very beginning. A good term might even have a poetic dimension. Completely artificial terms do not generally have these qualities.

To watch DCUN’s video (1) (content in English) click below or here

 

2 – Susan Parham & Matthew Hardy: « Repairing Suburbs – The socio-spatial dimension of the traditional urbanism discourse »

In Britain and the United-States, suburbs have over the past couple of decades generated an increasing amount of academic research. Initially, many of these works attempted at shedding light on the forces shaping these changing suburban areas and at describing their spatial characteristics. More recently however, a number of publications have focused on design and action, in particular those produced by academics and practitioners who can be referred to as traditional urbanists. These works suggest a number of principles and methods aiming at transforming, retrofitting and ‘repairing’ suburbs identified as sprawl based on transect principles and in the light of current social, economic and environmental issues.

To watch DCUN’s video (2) (content in English) click below or here

 

3 – Chiara Barattucci: « The italian urban planners lexical inventions describing the diffusion and dispersion of urbanization, since 1960 »

This presentation aims at explaining the functioning of sector language of italian urban planners in relation to their rich neological creation about low density urbanization. In this contribution the author identifies and observes, in particular, the use, the diffusion and the role of three neological expressions, widely used from the sixties by Italian planners in their texts: (i) Campagna urbanizzata, (ii) Urbanizzazione diffusa and (iii) Città diffusa. Speaking of Città diffusa, this presentation will also stress the significance given to this expression by its inventor, Professor Francesco Indovina (thanks to a recent interview realized for the DCUN’s workshop).

To watch DCUN’s video (3) (content in French followed by translation in English) click below or here

 

4 – Charlotte Vorms: « Does the notion of urban periphery always make sense? Perspectives from collective works on the naming of urban periphery »

Drawing on the experience of several collective works (“Les mots de la ville” research programme, the book What’s in a name? Talking about suburbs, and “La ville informelle au 20e siècle” research programme), the talk discusses the relevance of the generic notion of urban periphery and the importance of other criteria to describe urban space, according to place, time and speakers.

To watch DCUN’s video (4) (content in English) click below or here

 

5 – Feriel Boustil: « Urban peculiarities in Algeria: words and specificities »

The classic concepts of urbanization of the countryside (periurbanization, urban sprawl, etc.) are concepts that present the evolution of the urban world as a simple consequence of urbanization mechanisms in the morphological and functional sense of the term whether in America or in Europe. The urban growth in the western Mitidja in Algeria implies an incorporation of several terms in the social system of the city of the “periurbanisation”, “rurbanisation” and “between two”, this intimate mixture between city and countryside is as much in space than in the heads of the inhabitants. Peri-urban areas move and move away but in Algeria – formerly colonized country – this state of affairs is rather characterized by the notion of order and disorder and a process of migration between town and country.

To watch DCUN’s video (5) (content in French followed by translation in English) click below or here

 

6 – Astrid Safina, Leonardo Ramondetti & Filippo Fiandanese: « Diffuse urbanization with Chinese characteristics’ »

The contemporary Chinese landscape has been mainly described by opposing megalopolis to minor cities, coastal to inland regions, and urban to rural areas. However, during the last three decades this landscape has been radically transformed. Within this framework, a ‘blurred space’ is taking shape by the erosion of boundaries and hierarchies between cities and countryside, by the capillarity of the infrastructures and by stronger interconnections between urban and rural areas. In recent years, scholars have used different expressions to describe this phenomenon, such as city regions or urban agglomerations; while others have associated it to the south-east Asian desakota regions or to the suburban or post-suburban areas.

This talk presents some outcomes of the ongoing empirical researches on the city of Zhaoqing, in the Pearl River Delta, the city of Zhengzhou, in the Central Plain Agglomeration, and Tongzhou District, in the JingJinJi Region.

To watch DCUN’s video (6) (content in English) click below or here

 

7 – Anne Grillet-Aubert & Bernadette Laurencin: « The texture of the city. Words and Maps of Urban Diffusion in China »

A rich vocabulary gives account of diff use urbanization in Europe and in other continents. These words designate different processes and forms of urban sprawl. They invite us to examine the morphological specificities of urbanization in different contexts that also depend on preexisting urban forms. Does diff use urbanization break with former substrata and processes? Is it a symptom of broader and deeper transformations? This talk describes the patterns of urban diffusion in China in relation with Chinese lexicon on cities and urbanization. Also, it compares diff use urban morphologies in China with other periurban territories in Europe and the United-States.

To watch DCUN’s video (7) (content in French) click below or here

 

8 – Charles Goldblum: « Concluding Remarks »

On the basis of the presentations given in the workshop, Charles Goldblum concludes with a series of remarks and presents possible lines of research.

To watch DCUN’s video (8) (content in English) click below or here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Call for contributions

DCUN ACTIVITIES

Call for contributions

(no current Call for contributions)

 

Previous Call for contributions (closed)

The Diffuse Cities & Urbanization Network (DCUN) and the Research group «Vocabularies of architectural and urban design across time» (CNRS-AUSSER) are pleased to launch a joint call for contributions for the workshop « Wording Urban Diffusion » organized at the Architecture School of Paris Belleville (ENSAPB, Paris) on November 21st 2018.

The workshop aims to examine the lexicon related to the global phenomenon of the territorial diffusion of urbanization with the purpose of questioning the conceptual, disciplinary, and methodological frameworks that have oriented knowledge production on urbanization processes in different contexts and historical moments.

Send your abstracts (max 300 words, English and French accepted) before July 15th 2018 (to the following email address: dcun.activities@gmail.com). Accepted contributors will be notified by August 31st.

Please follow these links to find more details (in English / French)

 

 

 

 

 

Hanoi – Vietnam

Since the adoption of a « socialist-oriented market economy » (1986), Hanoi has seen an average of 3% urban growth per year. Today, the government aims to make Hanoi the national gateway for foreign direct investment (FDI), competing with regional poles like Bangkok and Jakarta. With a population of 8 million, Hanoi is the second largest city in the country (behind Ho Chi Minh City) and generates around 15% of national GDP. Its rapid urbanization followed the desakota pattern, characterized by (i) a demographic boom triggered by rural-urban migrations; (ii) densification of the urban fabric across the extended region; (iii) urban sprawl through large-scale property developments; and (iv) the development of economic and industrial zones. Infrastructure is being upgraded to international standards through the modernization of the road network and major transit developments.

 

 

 

 

Individual DCUN’s Members


Adèle Esposito (Research fellow). CNRS Researcher, UMR AUSser.

DCUN Coordinator.

Expertise field: Architecture, Urban Planning, Cultural Heritage, Urban development in Southeast Asia.


Joël Idt (Assistant professor). UPEM, Laburba.

DCUN Coordinator.

Expertise field: Urban Planning, Urban Governance, Technics and politics in public decision.


Clément Musil (Associate Researcher). UMR AUSser.

Blog DCUN Coordinator.

Expertise field: Urban and transport planning, Land management, Urban development in East and Southeast Asia.


Leslie Belton-Chevallier (Research Fellow). IFSTTAR. (more details).

DCUN Editorial board member

Expertise field: Sociology of mobilities and (urban and periurban) lifestyles, ICT.


Margot Pellegrino (Assistant professor). UPEM, Lab’Urba. (more details).

DCUN Editorial board member

Expertise field: Energy transitions, energy policies, energy-related behavior.


Delphine Callen. UPEM.

DCUN Editorial board member

Expertise field:


Laetitia Dablanc (Director of Research). IFSTTAR, University Paris-East. (more details).

DCUN Editorial board member

Expertise field: freight transportation, freight and the environment, urban freight and logistics, rail freight, freight transport policies, logistics sprawl


Florent Lenechet (Assistant professor). UMLV, LVMT. (more details)

DCUN Editorial board member

Expertise field:


Béatrice Mariolle (Professor). UMR AUSser, ENSAP Lille. (more details).

DCUN Editorial board member

Expertise field:


Jérôme Rollin.

DCUN Editorial board member

Expertise field:


Mariane Thebert. IFSTTAR

DCUN Editorial board member

Expertise field:


Hélène Nessi. (Assistant professor). University Paris 10, LAVUE. (more details)

DCUN Editorial board member

Expertise field: Urban and transport planning, Energy transitions, Energy policies, Urban form, Urban mobility, Urban and periurban lifestyles.


Amandine Toussaint. CIRED

DCUN Editorial board member

Expertise field:


Antoine Bres (Professor). University Paris 1 – Panthéon Sorbonne.

DCUN Editorial board member

Expertise field:


Olivier Bonin (Research Fellow). IFSTTAR, LVMT.

DCUN Editorial board member

Expertise field:


Anne Aguilera (Researcher, Authorised research supervisor). IFSTTAR, LVMT. (more details).

DCUN Editorial board member

Expertise field: urban mobility, urban form, polycentrism, location strategies, business travel, ICT


Jose-Frederic Deroubaix. LEESU. (more details).

DCUN Editorial board member

Expertise field: water management and public policies, land disputes, climate change, use of digital tools, urban governance.


Nicolas Raimbault (Researcher). LISER. (more details).

DCUN Editorial board member

Expertise field: logistics activities, urban and regional governance, land and real estate development, blue-collar workers.


Romain Melot. Agroparistech

DCUN Editorial board member

Expertise field:


Nur Miladan (Lecturer & Researcher). Department of Urban & Regional Planning, Faculty of Engineering, Universitas Sebelas Maret (Indonesia). (more details).

DCUN member

Expertise field: Urban & Regional Planning, Disaster and Environmental Management.


Pham Thai Son (Senior Lecturer & Researcher). Academic Coordinator of Sustainable Urban Development at Vietnamese-German University (Vietnam) – in partnership with Technical University of Darmstadt. (more details).

DCUN member

Expertise field: Urban Planning, Livable and Resilience City, Property Market, Transit-Oriented Development, Urban Economics.


Kusumaningdyah Nurul Handayani (Lecturer & Researcher). Department of Urban & Regional Planning, Faculty of Engineering, Universitas Sebelas Maret (Indonesia). (more details).

DCUN member

Expertise field: urban studies, participatory design and disaster & environmental management.


Marie Lan Nguyen Leroy (Researcher). Paris Region Expertise (PRX), Hanoi (Vietnam) . (more details).

DCUN member

Expertise field: land law, land governance, expropriation process, waste management and informal recycling in Vietnam


Emmanuel Cerise (Research & Architect). Paris Region Experise (PRX), Hanoi (Vietnam), UMR AUSser.

DCUN member

Expertise field: Urban and Regional Planning, Housing.


Andrew Marton (Professor). University of Vicoria – Pacific and Asian Studies Department –  Asian Pacific Initiatives (Canada). (more details).

DCUN member

Expertise field: Urbanization & regional development in China & Asia, Contemporary Chinese society, Culture and education in China.


Vuong Khanh Toan  (Associate Researcher, Lecturer). Hanoi University of Architecture (Vietnam).

DCUN member

Expertise field: Urban Design and Urban Management, Urban development in Vietnam.

 


Ahmad Fariz Mohamed (Associate Professor, Senior Lecturer). Institute for the Environment and Development (LESTARI), University Kebangsaan Malaysia. (more details).

DCUN member

Expertise field: Waste management. Urban metabolism, Environmental Management System, Industrial Ecology, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), Urban Livability.


Josefine Fokdal (Senior Researcher). Department for International Urbanism, University of Stuttgart (Germany).

DCUN member

Expertise field: Spatial theory, Housing, Governance, Informality, Urban development, Urbanization in Asia and Urban embodiment.


Lee Jing (Research Fellow, Lecturer). Institute for the Environment and Development (LESTARI), University Kebangsaan Malaysia. (more details).

DCUN member

Experise field: Water and Environmental Security, Environmental and Natural Resources Governance, Tangible and Intangible Heritage and Cultural Diversity.


Nuriah Abd Majid (Research Fellow, Lecturer). Institute for the Environment and Development (LESTARI), University Kebangsaan Malaysia. (more details).

DCUN member

Experise field: GIS, Geohazard, Spatial Modeling, Urban geography.


Sharina Abdul Halim (Senior Lecturer). Institute for the Environment and Development (LESTARI), University Kebangsaan Malaysia. (more details).

DCUN member

Expertise filed: Environmental Sociology, Indigenous and Island Communities, Adaptation & Sustainable Livelihoods, Heritage Conservation.


Nor Diana Mohd Idris (Research Fellow, Lecturer). Institute for the Environment and Development (LESTARI), University Kebangsaan Malaysia. (more details).

DCUN member

Expertise field: Socioeconomic impacts assessment, Sustainable livelihood, Resources economic, Regional development.


Sarah Aziz Abdul Ghani Aziz (Associate Professor, Senior Research Fellow. Institute for the Environment and Development (LESTARI), University Kebangsaan Malaysia. (more details).

DCUN member

Expertise Field: Natural resources and environmental law, Law and disaster risk reduction, Law and heritage conservation,Governance and sustainable development.


Shaharuddin Mohamad Ismail (Associate Fellow). Institute for the Environment and Development (LESTARI), University Kebangsaan Malaysia. (more details).

DCUN member

Expertise field: Urban and Periurban Forest, Ecotourism, Environmental Education, Sustainable Forest Management.


Jian Zhuo (Professor). College of Architecture & Urban Planning (CAUP), Tongji University (China). (more details).

DCUN member

Experise field: Theories of Urban Planning, Network city, Urban Mobility and Transport.


Julien Birgi (Ph.D. student & senior planner). CESSMA (UMR 245), INALCO – Bordeaux Metropolitan Authority (France)

DCUN member

Expertise field: Urban development, Real estate, and Governance in Indonesia


 

Andrea Palmioli (Visiting Assistant Professor), Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering, College of Engineering , City University of Hong Kong; UMR AUSser) (more details).

DCUN member

Expertise field: Chinese Urbanism, Sino-European Comparative Studies on Diffuse Metropolis, Territories of Dispersion, Bioregional Planning


 

Institutional Partners

 

The Joint Research Unit « Architecture, Urbanism, Society: Knowledge, Education, Research » (UMR AUSser no. 3329) had its contract officially extended for 5 years, under the supervision of the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and the Ministry of Culture and Communications.

The Unit’s research activity revolves around the production of architectural, urban and landscape objects considered in terms of their relationships with the societies that have gradually shaped them and in the light of the new design issues facing researchers, producers and users of these spaces at the level of individual buildings and the territory as a whole.

 

IFSTTAR is a major player in the European research on the city and the territories, transportation and civil engineering. The French Institute of Science and Technology for Transport, Development and Networks, born on January 1st 2011, from the merger of INRETS and LCPC, is a Public Institution of a Scientific and Technical Nature, under the joint supervision of the Ministry of Environment, Energy and the Sea and the Ministry of higher education and research. IFSTTAR conducts applied research and expert appraisals in the fields of transport, infrastructure, natural hazards and urban issues with the aim of improving the living conditions of our fellow citizens and, more widely, promoting the sustainable development of our societies.

 

 

IIHS, the sponsoring organisation, is a section 8 company under the Indian Companies Act, established in 2008 by eminent Indians who have distinguished themselves in various fields, including the government, private sector and civil society. They have come together for a common cause, i.e. to set up a proposed university i.e. the proposed IIHS (Institution of Eminence).

 

 

The « Laboratoires d’Excellence » project, one of the projects of the « Investments for the Future » program of the French National Research Agency, is based on the principle that laboratories of excellence emerge in all territories and in all Disciplines, to encourage the best French laboratories to strengthen their scientific potential by recruiting researchers and investing in innovative equipment, to encourage the emergence of ambitious and internationally visible scientific projects carried out by laboratories or groups of laboratories.

 

Lab’URBA is mainly defined by its enrollment in the School of Urban Planning of Paris being structured by the merger of the two main institutes of French urbanism. The Lab’URBA perimeter also associates teacher-researchers sharing its values ​​and working on urban issues, particularly within the geography department of Paris Est Créteil University (UPEC), the Urban Engineering Department of Paris University. -East Marne-la-Vallée (UPEM) and the School of Engineers of the City of Paris (EIVP)

These institutes and departments find their reason for being in a strong association between a training that follows the evolutions of its reference professional worlds, in France and in the world, and contributes to this evolution by the production of knowledge, the implementation of this knowledge in activities of expertise and a role of animation in the public debate on the social choices which concern the production, the management and the use of the cities.

 

The Water, Environment and Urban Systems Laboratory (Lees) is a joint laboratory of the École des Ponts ParisTech, Paris-Est Créteil University and AgroParisTech (UMR MA 102). Leesu’s research objective is above all urban water under different approaches:
– Physical and hydrological studies (runoff, transfer in the urban system, lacustrine environments);
– Biogeochemical studies of emissions, fate and effects of chemical and microbiological contaminants in the city / works / receiving environments continuum;
– Study of policies, uses of water, practices and their evolutions.
 

The Institute for Environment and Development (LESTARI) was established on 1st October 1994 as a multidisciplinary institute within the structure of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. It fulfills the aspirations of the university, as envisioned by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to realise the goal of sustainable development through research and capacity development.

LESTARI was also established to serve as a reference centre capable of dealing with environment and development issues, assisting government in formulating policies based on research of a holistic and balanced kind. The development function is directed towards enhancing human resource capacity through skill development and training, for both government and private sectors.

 

Laboratory “Ville, Mobilité, Transport » (LVMT) addresses the interactions between city and transportation.The city is dealt with in its largest sense (metropolitan areas, networks of cities…) as is transport: not only commuting movements but also those of the non-constrained type (e.g. leisure, tourism) are considered, as is freight movement within the city.

Created en 2003, the laboratory “Ville, Mobilité, Transport » (LVMT, or “City, Mobility, Transport”) is a joint lab (UMR T9403), resulting from the partnership between an engineering school – ENPC- Ecole des Ponts, a research institute -IFSTTAR – Institute on Technology, Transport and development, and a university – UPEM- the Université Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée.

 

 

 

PRX-Vietnam is a local representation of the Ile-de-France Region cooperation in Vietnam started in 1989 and based in Hanoi. Since November 2017 Ile-de-France Region oriented it’s cooperation with foreign partners to promote regional private and public expertise with a new platform: Paris Region eXpertise (PRX). In Vietnam this cooperation focus on improvement of public skills and development of urban quality through training, study, expertise and pilot project in several field as urban planning, sustainable development, heritage management, public transportation and environment.

 

 

 

 

Forthcoming

DCUN SEMINAR SERIES

– NEW URBAN EPISTEMOLOGIES & DIFFUSE URBANIZATION –

Next DCUN’s event will be announced soon

 

What is DCUN ?

DCUN is as an international and horizontal research platform that aims to facilitate the production of collaborative research and the dissemination of individual and collective research on diffuse urbanization.

Why diffuse urbanization is a major field of investigation?

The territorial diffusion of urbanization, a global phenomenon (Simon, 2008), forms an epistemological break in urban studies. Diffuse urbanization has been studied in many different geographical and historical contexts, and in no other field of urban theory has the production of terminology been more prolific. Among the many terms and concepts developed to describe the continual expansion of “the urban” are urban sprawl (Gottman, 1967), suburbia (Fishman, 1987), desakota (McGee, 1989), città diffusa (Indovina, 1990), exurbia (Nelson, 1992), ville émergente (Dubois-Taine and Chalas, 1997), post-suburbs (Phelps and Wu, 2011), the horizontal metropolis (Viganò, 2013), the edge city (Garreau, 2011), Zwischenstadt (Sieverts, 2004), and planetary urbanization (Brenner, 2014).

As a whole, this well-established, albeit diverse, body of work reveals that the diffusion of urbanization poses major problems for planning and governance and triggers debate on environmental sustainability, whether it concerns the development of new areas or the transformation of existing settlements. In North America and Australia, urbanization has generally taken place on supposedly greenfield and open land, while in Europe, Asia, and Latin America it has developed on pre-existing substrata of human and rural settlements. In these regions, urbanization has been criticized for consuming resources and destroying existing settlements and ecosystems (Allen et al., 1999; Douglas, 2006).

The model of the “compact city” is held up as the best means of conserving resources and the non-urban use of land (Gordon and Richardson, 1997; Jenks and Burgess 2000; Hofstad, 2012). However, Sieverts (2004) recently argued that compact urbanization might be a mere parenthesis in human civilization, and that compact cities may be inapt for humans, whom he sees as social animals best suited to living in small groups in open, borderless spaces. This raises a number of questions. What if effective management could transform diffuse urbanization into a positive asset? What if diffuse urban territories were the urban condition for future societies?

What does DCUN seek to achieve ?

With few exceptions, there is scant research involving grounded, cross-continental comparisons of diffuse urbanization. DCUN aims is to test the validity, scope, and transferability of context-specific urban-analytical lenses on a broader scale by applying them to the phenomenon of diffuse urbanization. This is a complex task as each of these lenses involves specific sets of concepts, disciplinary backgrounds, and methods. However, it should enable us to overcome the North-South compartmentation of urban research and highlight global issues to be addressed in policymaking and planning. DUCN implements research methods involving both historical and future-oriented analysis in order to address the continuous processes of urbanization which, especially in developing and emerging countries, is happening at rapid speed. Moreover, DUCN develops research approaches using case studies and transversal themes involving scholars and professionals from diverse disciplines, including geography, architecture, planning, sociology, environmental sciences, and urban engineering).

 


 

References

  1. Allen, A., da Silva, N.L.A. and E. Corubolo, 1999, Environmental Problems and Opportunities of the Peri-Urban Interface and their Impacts upon the Poor, PUI Research Paper, Development Planning Unit, London.
  2. Brenner, N. 2014. Implosions/explosions: Towards a Study of Planetary Urbanization. Jovis. 573 p.
  3. Douglas, I. 2006. “Peri-urban ecosystems and societies: transitional zones and contrasting values”. In McGregor D, Simon D, Thompson D, (eds). The Peri-Urban Interface: Approaches to Sustainable Natural and Human Resource Use. London/Stirling, VA: Earthscan. pp. 18-29.
  4. Dubois-Taine, G. and Chalas, Y., 1997. La ville émergente. Paris : éditions de l’Aube.
  5. Fishman, R. 1987. Bourgeois Utopias: The Rise And Fall Of Suburbia. New York: Basic Books. 241 p.
  6. Garreau, J. 1991. Edge City: Life on the New Frontier. New York: Doubleday/Anchor. 548 p.
  7. Gottmann, J. 1967. Urbanization and the American Landscape: The Concept of Megalopolis. Problems and Trends in American Geography. Edited by Saul B. Cohen. New York: Basic Books, Inc.
  8. Gordon, P. and Richardson, H.W., 1997. “Are compact cities a desirable planning goal?”. Journal of the American planning association. Vol.63(1). pp.95-106.
  9. Hofstad, H. 2012. “Compact city development: High ideals and emerging practices”. European Journal of Spatial Development. Vol. 49. pp.1-23.
  10. Indovina, F., (ed.). 1990. La Città Diffusa, vol. 1. Venezia: DAEST.
  11. Jenks, M. and Burguess, R. (eds). 2000. Compact Cities: Sustainable Urban Forms for Developing Countries. London and New York: Spon Press. 356 p.
  12. McGee, T. 1989. “Urbanisasi or Kotadesasi Evolving Patterns of Urbanization in Asia,” in Urbanization in Asia: Spatial Dimensions and Policy Issues, edited by F. J. Costa et al. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, pp. 93-108.
  13. Nelson, A. 1992. “Characterizing exurbia”. Journal of Planning Literature. Vol.6 (4), pp.350-368
  14. Phelps, N.-A. and Wu, F. 2011. International Perspectives on Suburbanization. A Post-Suburban World? Houndmills,Basingstoke, Hampshire, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  15. Sieverts, T. 2004. Entre-Ville: une lecture de la Zwischenstadt. Marseille: éditions Parenthèses. 188 p.
  16. Simon, D. 2008. “Urban Environments: Issues on the Peri-Urban Fringe.” In Annual Review of Environment and Resources. Vol. 33. pp 167-185.
  17. Viganò, P. 2013. “The Horizontal Metropolis and Gloeden’s Diagrams: Two Parallel Stories”. Oase 89, February. pp.94-111.

 

 

 

Previous Events

7th Session: « DCUN Working Seminar »

VENUE: Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Paris-Belleville (ENSA PB) 60, Boulevard de la Villette, 75019 Paris, FRANCE – Metro station ‘Belleville’ – Lines 11 / 2) Access map (link). 

On Monday 25th February 2019, the DCUN hold its first seminar event for the year 2019. This seminar was considered as a “working seminar” and was focus on the discussion for implementing comparison between urbanized territories facing urban diffusion.

This session was the opportunity to present two cases that some of our DCUN members are currently elaborating:

  1. The case of Siem Reap (Cambodia) / Melaka (Malaysia) by Adèle Esposito (CNRS / UMR AUSser) and Pierpaolo De Giosa (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology);
  2. The case of Istanbul (Turkey) / Hanoi (Vietnam) by Filiz Hervet, Helin Karaman (Observatoire Urbain d’Istanbul) and Clément Musil (Associate Researcher UMR AUSser).

For this working seminar, three “guest researchers” (Sonia Guelton (Professor Paris Urban Planning School, University Paris-Est, Lab’urba), Charles Goldblum (Professor emeritus, University Paris VIII, UMR 3329 CNRS AUSser) and Ozan Ramadan (CNRS, LATTS)) were invited to provide specific inputs.

For reference, programme’s event available in PDF here.

 


 

6th Session: « Wording Urban Diffusion » –  Workshop

21 November 2018 (Venue: Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Paris-Belleville (ENSA PB) 60, Boulevard de la Villette, 75019 Paris, FRANCE – Metro station ‘Belleville’ – Lines 11 / 2) Access map (link).

DCUN’s sixth events was organized on 21st November 2018 at the Paris Belleville Architecture School (Paris – France).

Co-organized by the Diffuse Cities & Urbanization research Network (DCUN) and the Research group “Vocabularies of architectural and urban design across time” (CNRS-AUSSER) this workshop was particularly focused on the examination of the lexicon related to the global phenomenon of the territorial diffusion of urbanization with the purpose of questioning the conceptual, disciplinary, and methodological frameworks that have oriented knowledge production on urbanization processes in different contexts and historical moments.

  The content of a total of eight presentations made during this workshop were recording and are available online by following this link.   For information, workshop’s programme is available here. The selection of the workshop speakers was based on a « call for contribution » issued in July 2018. Details regarding the « call of contribution » can be found here.    

 

 

 

 


 

 

DCUN Seminar series – « New Urban Epistemologies & Diffuse Urbanization » – 5th Session: « Diffusing urbanization and hybrid economic activities in the agricultural suburbs areas »

27 September 2018 (Venue: Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Paris-Belleville (ENSA PB) 60, Boulevard de la Villette, 75019 Paris, France (Metro station ‘Belleville’ – Lines 11 / 2). Access map (link). From 10.00AM to 1.00 PM.

DCUN 5th seminar was organized on the last 27th September 2018. This session entitled “Diffusing urbanization and hybrid economic activities in agricultural suburban areas” was focused on the development of hybrid activities in former rural peripheries.

In various geographical contexts, massive urbanization of former rural peripheries leads to the emergence of new economic activities that profoundly transform the traditional socio-spatial organization: farmers become land or real estate operators, develop agro-tourism activities for urban citizens or offer farm picking. The presentations proposed in this seminar explore the stakeholders who are initiating these hybridizations, what kind of new activities are developed, how these processes are transforming urban forms, and also raise the question of compatibility of these hybrid schemes with initial agricultural activities.

A first talk was provided by Andrew Marton (Centre for Asia Pacific Initiatives – University of Victoria, Canada) who delivered insights of his work on the hybrid spaces in the lower Yangzi Delta (China). A second guest, Gwenn Pulliat (CNRS – Lab Art-Dev – UMR 5281, France) focused her presentation on the roles for farmlands in expanding cities based on various case studies in Vietnam and Thailand. Each presentation gave the opportunity to the speakers to discuss with the participants and to raise comments as well as questions.

– details regarding the annouce of this session can be found here (link).

 

 

 


 

 

 

DCUN Seminar series – « New Urban Epistemologies & Diffuse Urbanization » – 4th Session: « Hybrid Electric Systems and Diffuse Urbanization » –  « Energy for diffuse cities. Comparative perspectives on policies and projects in periurban, semi-rural and rural Territories ».

25 June 2018 (Venue: Campus de la Cité Descartes, 14-20 boulevard Newton, Champs-sur-Marne, 77455 Marne-la-Vallée. FRANCE. « Bienvenue » building, rooms B017-B020) from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM.

DCUN’s fourth seminar was organized on 25th June  2018 at the campus « Cité Descartes », Champs sur Marne (France). This seminar session was co-organized by the City and Energy research group and the Diffuse Cities & Urbanization research Network (DCUN) (both members of the research federation Urban Futures research network – University Paris-East).

This study day aimed at investigating energy transition processes in contexts of diffuse urbanization and other low-density settlements. Through the different presentation and communication, the objective was to analyse policies, infrastructure projects, and urban design drawing on examples from the global North and global South.

– Details (in french) regarding the content of the discussion hold during this session can be found here (under preparation). – Details regarding the announce of this seminar session can be found here (in French / in English).      

 

 

 


 

 

 

DCUN Seminar series – « New Urban Epistemologies & Diffuse Urbanization » – 3rd Session « Economic Activities & Diffuse Urbanization »

06 April 2018 (Paris-Belleville Architecture School – ENSA PB – Research Floor – IPRAUS Institute – 60 Boulevard de la Villette – Paris (France) (Metro Belleville – Lines 11 & 2)

This seminar’s session was focused on the economic activities which is a major thematic that the DCUN aims at investigating. Two researchers have shared with the DCUN members the methodologies and the results of their own works regarding development of logistical activities and specific industries in different urban context. The first speaker, Laetitia Dablanc (IFSTTAR – University Paris East) gave a presentation entitled « New logistics landscapes in urban regions – the growing importance of warehouses”. The second speaker, Julien Birgi (PhD candidate and Senior Urban Planner at Bordeaux Metropolitan Authority) presented a work entitled ”Productive systems and urbanization in emerging countries. A comparative study of the impact of industrial zones, remote factories and artisan clusters in Java, Indonesia”. – Details (in french) regarding the content of the discussion hold during this session can be found here (DCUN_Echanges Seminaire n°3_06 04 2018). – Details (in english) regarding the announce of this seminar session can be found here (DCUN_Seminar Session 3_06 04 2018).    

 

 


 

 

DCUN Seminar series – « New Urban Epistemologies & Diffuse Urbanization » – 2nd Session « Learning from Successful Comparative and Inter-Disciplinary Research Experiences »

09 March 2018 (University Paris-Est campus – Cité Descartes – Building Bienvenüe – Room A017) – 14h00

DCUN’s second seminar was organized at the University Paris-Est Campus on 09th March 2018. It focused on the methods and problems posed by comparative and interdisciplinary research approaches.

Jean-Louis Chaléard (Emeritus Professor of Geography – University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne/ UMR  PRODIG – Director of the journal Echogéo) presented the research program PERISUD (Dynamiques territoriales à la périphérie des métropoles des Suds), which focused on the following cities: Shanghai, Mexico, Lima, Le Cap, Hanoi and Abidjan (see more details here). These cities present similar urban shapes and territorial structures, but are different in size and levels of development. Taken together, they reflect the diversity of urban situations in the Global South. The research program questioned to what extent urban models coming from the North were reproduced in these cities. It examined different paces of urban growth and the capacity of urban policies to manage urban transformations.

Comparative approaches – Prof. Chaléard explained – always raise methodological problems, especially when, as in the PERISUD program, six case studies were concerned – Shanghai, Mexico, Lima, Le Cap, Hanoi and Abidjan. Researchers had to scale down the comparison only to set of homogenous and reliable data available for every city. Moreover, comparison was particularly difficult when the size of urban spaces selected for the analysis was very different. Another main problem concerned terminology. For instance, the definition of « precarious housing » and « middle class » may vary depending on the examined context and is subject to specific local interpretations. Finally, the identification of a series of comparative criteria to guide fieldwork investigations was not an easy task. For these reasons, comparisons focused on specific thematics, including green spaces, transportations, residential areas, and in any case they overlooked the singularity of each of the metropolises under consideration. The publication of the edited volume “Métropoles aux Suds, le défi des périphéries ?” (ed. Chaléard) was among the main outputs of the program (for more information click here). 

Our second speaker was Eric Denis (CNRS Research Director / UMR Géographie cités). His presentation focused on the interdisciplinary research program SUBURBIN (SUBaltern URbanization in INdia) (see more details here). This program looked at the diversity of urban trajectories in India. SUBURBIN argued that small towns, where are living 1 third of the urban citizen (in towns bellow 100,000 inhabitants), experience intense transformations and they increase in number. Extensively drawing on the field of subaltern studies that looked at social transformations among the lowest social layers of South Asian societies, SUBURBIN argues that impactful transformative processes are not only driven by mega-projects and Indian metropolises, they  are also led by ordinary citizens in small towns. Besides, the program crossed disciplinary views on the “urban transition”, articulating macro and micro scales analysis and addressed the debates concerning the plurality of development paths. It developed the following research themes: i) economic expansion, industrial location, mobility and jobs; (ii) internationalization, value chains and innovations (productive systems of innovation in small towns); (iii) governance and “city status”; (iv) integration and counter effects of metropolitan areas and megaprojects; (v) links between cities and countryside; (vi) links between land-based capital and castes. Available data allowed the construction of a shared geodatabase and an online mapping tools is on development. The general approach adopted by SUBURBIN was to decentralize and de-hierarchize urban research by focusing on urban dynamics « from below », in spaces where the definition of the « urban » is debated. An edited volume –“Subaltern Urbanisation in India. An Introduction to the Dynamics of Ordinary Towns” (eds. Denis, Eric and Zerah, Marie-Hélène) published in 2017 exposes the results (find more details here).

Details regarding the seminar 2nd session announcement DCUN-Seminar Session 2- 09/03/2018

 


 

 

Emergent forms of Urban densification in Asia – Shared perspectives

13-16 November 2017 (Hanoi Architecture University – Hanoi Vietnam)

Participating to the international conference « Emergent forms of Urban densification in Asia – Shared perspectives », organized by the Institute of Research for Development (IRD), the Center of Population and Development (CEPED – IRD/University Paris Descartes) and the Hanoi Architecture University (HAU), Joël Idt (DCUN Coordinator) and Clément Musil (Blog DCUN coordinator) gave a joint presentation to introduce the objectives of the Diffuse Cities & Urbanization Network and its particularities regarding comparative approaches. 

Entitled « Comparing diffuse urbanization processes in different socio-cultural contexts: Asia and Europe – The interdisciplinary approach of the international research network on diffuse cities (Labex Urban Futures – University Paris Est) » this presentation put forward the diversity of terms and concepts developed to describe continual expansion of “the urban” and pointed out the challenge of the urban comparative analysis. They introduced the DCUN themes and the places that the members are investigating for the period 2018-2019. This presentation was the opportunity to promote the network and its activities.

 


 

 

Labex Week (Labex Urban Futures) – Seminar « Diffuse Cities Through the Lens of Comparison » – DCUN First Sesssion Seminar

15 September 2017 (University Paris-Est campus – Building Bienvenüe – Room A017)

 In the frame of the « Labex Week » sponsored by the Labex Urban Futures this half-day seminar gave to DCUN (Diffuse Cities & Urbanization Network) the opportunity to launch its first seminar activity and to gather more than 20 scholars from other research institutes and laboratories who are interested in the network’s actions and comparative approaches.

This first DCUN seminar laid the groundwork for the construction of research on the diffuse urban territories of Rome, Hanoi and Paris to be conducted by the network individual members and international institutional partners between 2018 and 2019. 

During this event was discussing the main themes that the DCUN will investigate for the next few years: (i) productive activities, (ii) planning & informality, (iii) architectural and urban forms, (iv) digitalization, (v) energy transition.

Few scholars were also invited to introduce the different places that DCUN’s members will investigate (Hanoi, Roma and Paris) with the aim to produce comparative papers.

  • Sylvie Fanchette (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement – IRD) introduced the case of Hanoi (Vietnam). Based on her research work conducting in Hanoi and the results published in the book entitled « Hà Nội, future métropole« , this presentation pointed out the relationship between the inner core city and the rural suburbs and gave a picture of the various drivers of the rapid urbanization that characterized today the Hanoi metropolis area.
  • Hélène Nessi (Laboratoire Architecture, Ville, Urbanisme, Environnement – LAVUE UMR 7218 Paris Nanterre) presented the Roma (Italy) metropolitan area. Based on a historical reading of the development of the metropolitan region of Rome, this talk has highlighted the specificity of the peri-urbanization of this vast territory and the deregulation aspects of urban management. The presentation insisted on the analysis of a phenomena, the « abusivismo », that led the urban authorities to recognize illegal constructions that occurred during decades.    
  • Nicolas Raimbault (Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research – LISER) gave a presentation focused on the logistic activities within the Paris region.The development of new logistical areas in the Paris’ outskirts affect the peri-urbanization process. This presentation highlighted the features of those new logistical areas and pointed out the new distribution and geography of the housing areas where the employees are leaving.

Detailed program of the seminar Diffuse Cities Through the Lens of Comparison (in French)  


 

 

Villes Diffuses – International Seminar

10-12 April 2017 (University Paris-Est campus – Building Bienvenüe – Room A017)

This international seminar was organized by the Labex « Urban Futures » and Research Departments UMR AUSSER, LATTS, Lab’Urba, in cooperation with the Research Department LESTARI, Universitas Kebangsaan Malaysia and Indian Institute of Human Settlements (IIHS).

This event was the opportunity to bring together, and confront, studies of diffuse urbanization in Europe and Asia. The ambition of this seminar was to produce theoretically informed and theoryinforming comparative empirical knowledge on how these peripheral urban areas and regions develop and transform, how they are practiced and lived, and on the use of resources (land, energy, water…) involved in these processes. Studies of the production and transformation of, and ways of life in, urban environments abound, yet these two issues are usually analyzed separately. Above all, a vast majority of these studies disregards issues of urban form and materiality broadly conceived. Conversely architects, urbanists and geographers have described or advocated variegated land use patterns, built area layouts and building designs, but in these studies, analyses on how built environments are produced and lived generally remain either superficial, oversimplified or normative.

Rational (Download) / Program (Download) / Event page: https://diffuse.sciencesconf.org/Previous    


 

Territories of Metropolis: Compactness, Dispersion and Ecology – Comparative perspectives between Asia and Europe

International Roundtable Conference
5-7 April 2016 (Shanghai Study Center, The University of Hong Kong)

Organized in Shanghai jointly by the University of Hong Kong, University Paris-Est and Labex Futurs Urbains, this international conference gathered more than 20 speakers to discuss diffuse urbanization issues. This conference paved the way to the organization of a series of seminar focused on « Diffuse Cities » and aims to deepen our understanding of the processes and implications of urban dispersion in Asia and Europe, to explore the commonalities and specificities of these processes between the two regions; and to confront successful or failed experiences in territorial planning, governance, policy and management. Download content

About

 

The Diffuse Cities & Urbanization Network (DCUN) is an international research network of academics and urban professionals sponsored by the research federation « LABEX Urban Futures », under the umbrella of the University Paris-Est. The network brings together several research laboratories from the federation (AUSSER, Lab’URBA, IFSTTAR, SPLOT/LVMT, and LEESU) and foreign partners. It aims to build up a scientific community researching on the global diffusion of urbanization in a comparative perspective.