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One-sixth of humanity now lives in either a Chinese or Indian city. And it is in these two most populous countries of the world that the most rampant urbanisation is expected to happen in the coming decades. This transformation is creating enormous pressures on land use, housing, infrastructure and environment. Despite the high stakes, the workings of urban governance in China and India remain obscure and poorly understood.


In this talk, Xuefei Ren will explore how China and India govern their cities and how their different styles of governance (the origins of which can be traced to late Imperial China and pre-colonial India respectively) produce inequality and exclusion. The India-China gap grossly evident in China's six lane highways and glitzy skyscrapers, perpetuates the trope that urban China has little if anything to learn from India's experience, and conversely, urban India has everything to learn from China's urban experience. This gap is commonly accounted for by the invariable difference in efficiency between an authoritarian versus democratic regime. However, do the two countries have more in common than is usually perceivable? Xuefei peels through the layers in urban governance to compare the two, as it becomes clear that the development of cities in these two nations will have profound consequences well beyond their borders.


This talk is based on Xuefei's new book Governing the Urban in China and India: Land Grabs, Slum Clearance, and the War on Air Pollution (Princeton University Press, 2020).


About the Speaker:



Xuefei Ren is a comparative urbanist whose work focuses on urban development, governance, architecture, and the built environment in global perspective. She is a professor of sociology and global urban studies at Michigan State University and has authored two award-winning books: Urban China (Polity Press, 2013) and Building Globalization: Transnational Architecture Production in Urban China (University of Chicago Press, 2011). Her current projects include urban redevelopment in Chicago, Mumbai, Rio de Janeiro, and Guangzhou, culture-led revitalization in post-industrial Detroit, Harbin, and Turin, and metropolitan responses to Covid-19 in comparative perspective. She received her MA in urban planning from Tokyo Metropolitan University and PhD in sociology from the University of Chicago. She lives in Hyde Park, Chicago.


Convenor: Parul Rewal, Architect and Urbanist

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