Cities and Development

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Year 1
Term 2
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of Development Studies

Module overview

The growth of cities is one of the key features of our times. Today more than half of the world population lives in cities, and developing countries have sustained decades of rapid and sustained urbanisation. This course will explore a) the key academic debates on the relationship between cities and development; b) the key factors driving the growth of cities in developing countries, from colonial times to the present and c) its implications for development.

The module, taught through a 1 hour lecture and tutorial weekly one term, will expose students to a number of theoretical approaches to the “urban” in developing countries. This will include a review of political economy and dystopic narratives on the city, with their emphasis on inadequate services and lack of jobs as distinctive of urban settings in developing countries, alongside that of postcolonial narratives on cities in the South, and their call to understand urban cities of the South “beyond development”. Central to their review will be attention to their disagreement on whether capitalism, development (or lack of development) is a useful entry point to understand the urban experience in the South.

The course will then move to the study of key themes (and surrounding debates at the interface of development studies and urban studies) of urban life in the global South, such as: the provision of infrastructure and of key urban services (such as transport and housing); urban crime and violence; informal employment; migration and the city, climate change and the city. The course will also review the origins and merits of fashionable new visions of the urban (such as "smart cities" and "world class" cities).

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module


  1. Demonstrate an historical and critical understanding of debates about cities, urbanisation and development.
  2. Understand the policy implications of academic debates about cities and development, through detailed engagement with both the academic literature and policy debates.
  3. Understand the diversity and similarities of cities in developing countries.
  4. Handle complex ideas and express his/her own view, of them, both orally and in a written form, in a structured and clear way




One lecture and one tutorial, both of one hour's duration, each week.


Scope and syllabus


  • Capitalism, cities and development: the pre-colonial and colonial period;
  • Cities and urban theory;
    • Neoliberalism and the urban experience: 1980s to the present;
    • The provision of infrastructure and of key urban services (such as transport and housing);
  • Urban crime and violence;
  • Cities and informal employment;
  • Migration and the city;
  • Climate change and the city;
  • New visions of the urban: smart cities and world-class cities.



Method of assessment


100% coursework. Each student will be expected to submit a Book Review worth 25% of total mark and an Essay worth 75% of total mark for the module.


Suggested reading

Core Reading:
  • Goodfellow, T &  S. Fox, 2016. Cities and Development (2nd Edition), Routledge. [textbook)
  • Rizzo, M. (2017). Taken for a ride: Grounding neoliberalism, precarious labour and public transport in an African metropolis. Oxford: Oxford University Press, Series on Critical Frontiers of Theory, Research, and Policy in International Development Studies. [ebook in SOAS library)
  • Roy, A. 2009. The 21st-Century Metropolis: New Geographies of Theory, Regional Studies, Vol. 43.6, pp. 819–830.
  • Shatkin, G. 2008. The city and the bottom line: Urban megaprojects and the privatization of planning in Southeast Asia. Environment and Planning A, 40(2), 383-401.
  • Simone, A. (2004a) “People as Infrastructure: Intersecting Fragments in Johannesburg.” Public Culture 16(3): 407–429.
  • Goldman, (M., 2011), ‘Speculative Urbanism and the Next World City’. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. Vol. 35 no. 3, pp. 555-581.
  • Davis, M. (2006) Planet of Slums. Verso, London and New York.
  • Freund, B. (2007) The African city. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
  • Robinson, J., & Parnell, S. (2012). “(Re)theorising cities from the global south: looking beyond neoliberalism, Urban Geography, 33, 4: 593-617.
  • Harvey, D. (1992). Social Justice, Postmodernism and the City. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 16: 588–601.
Additional Reading
  • Dagdeviren, H. 2008. Waiting for Miracles: The Commercialization of Urban Water Services in Zambia, Development and Change, 39, 1: 101–121.
  • City, 2011. Special Issue ‗Beyond the Return of the Slum‘. 15, 6. [papers by Arabindoo, Simon, Jones]
  • Cooper, F. (1983) “Urban Space, Industrial Time and Wage Labour in Africa.” Struggle for the City: Migrant Labor, Capital and the State in Urban Africa: 7–50. Edited by F. Cooper. Sage, London, UK.
  • Brenner, N. & Theodore, N (2002) Cities and the Geographies of “Actually Existing Neoliberalism.” Antipode 34(3): 349–379.
  • Brenner, N., Peck, J., & Theodore, N. (2010) “Variegated Neoliberalization: Geographies, Modalities, Pathways.” Global Networks 10(2): 182–222.
  • Castells, M., 1977 The Urban Question: A Marxist Approach, London: Arnold.
  • Gilbert, A. (2002) “On the Mystery of Capital and the Myths of Hernando de Soto. What Difference Does Legal Title Make?” International Development Planning Review 24(2): 1–19.
  • Goodfellow T (2017) Urban fortunes and skeleton cityscapes: real estate ad late urbanisation in Kigali and Addis Ababa. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 41(5), 786-803
  • Jessop, B. (2002) “Liberalism, Neoliberalism and Urban Governance: A State–theoretical Perspective.” Antipode 34(3): 452–472.
  • Lefebvre, H., 2003 [1970] The Urban Revolution, University of Minnesota Press. [esp. pp1-22, ‘From the City to Urban Strategy’.
  • Myers, G. (2011) African Cities: Alternative Visions of Urban Theory and Practice. Zed Books, London, New York.
  • Robinson, J. 2002. Global and World Cities: a view from off the map, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 26, 3, 531-554.
  • Robinson, J. (2006) Ordinary Cities: Between Modernity and Development. Routledge, Questioning Cities Series, Abingdon, UK.
  • Roy, A. (2011). ‘Slumdog Cities: Rethinking Subaltern Urbanism’, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 35, 2, 223–38.
  • Sassen, S. (2005), ‘The Global City: Introducing a Concept.’ Brown Journal of World Affairs Winter/Spring 2005, volume 11 no 2.
  • Pieterse, E. 2008. City Futures: Confronting the Crisis of Urban Development. London, UK, and New York, NY: Zed Books.
  • Storper, M. and Scott, A.J. 2016. ‘Current debates in urban theory: a critical assessment’. Urban Studies 53 (6): pp. 1114–1136.



Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules