CALL FOR PAPER: The Politics of Urban Land in South Asia: Current Challenges and New Directions

Urmi Sengupta's picture
Call for Papers
November 30, 2020
Subject Fields: 
Geography, Public Policy, Social Sciences, South Asian History / Studies, Urban History / Studies

The Politics of Urban Land in South Asia: Current Challenges and New Directions

Land is back on the political agenda in South Asia. As the price and use-value of land have increased steadily – particularly in urban and peri-urban areas – new debates and struggles over land and its many potential uses have mushroomed across the subcontinent. In this edited volume, we work towards a comparative understanding of the politics of urban land in South Asia. We map out current challenges and chart out new directions for future research and land policy.

Urban land continues to attract interest from academics, planners and practitioners. Scholars have had a longstanding interest in the relationships between land and society and have analysed these from a wide range of philosophical and methodological positions, including assemblages, governance, post-structuralism, political ecology, Marxist political economy, and critical geography, to name a few. Over the past 15 years or so, the scholarly interest has shifted from a concern with land development, to also cover questions of equity, citizenship, and land rights. This is most vividly illustrated by the large and growing literature on what has come to be known as ‘the global land grab’. 

In practice, urban land has seen contradictory trends in response to the longstanding urban challenge. Urban population densities have consistently risen in some of the biggest cities in global South including India and China, triggering new waves of land development and concomitant land related conflicts. The geography of where these activities are centred have also shifted. Major parts of the urban expansion have been in the peri-urban areas with China, Southeast Asia, and India in the lead. However, a shortage of urban land for development continues to be a burning issue in both the global south and north. In regions with more acute land shortage, such as South Asia, land resources and its uses are intensely contested, as rapid urbanization, demographic changes, and economic development interact with persistent insecurities related to food, water and energy, and the effects of climate change. This situation is expected to worsen in the next decades as 70 per cent of the world’s people are expected to live in urban areas by the middle of this century.  On the other hand, there are significant variations in how land issues are tackled in inner urban, peri-urban and rural zones.

Against this backdrop, we invite contributors to critically examine key assumptions about urban land. Contributions should address one or more of the following questions: How can the challenge of “land shortages” in urban contexts be reframed through the prism of equity and citizenship? What are some of the possible pathways towards sustainable land management? How have civil society groups and popular movements shaped and promoted effective land policies and management from below? And, to what extent can we read popular contestations over urban land and its uses as indexical of active citizenship? In addition, we are also interested in contributions that examine how different forms of land governance contribute to the shaping of what we now consider “good practice”; and how the shifting focus on sustainability and ecology affect the accessibility and availability of land.

We invite scholars working on land in South Asia to submit an abstract of their chapter. Abstracts should be around 500 words and should be submitted to Dr Urmi Sengupta, & Dr Kenneth Bo Nielsen
before 30 November 2020.

Contact Info: 

Dr Urmi Sengupta

Dr Kenneth Bo Nielsen