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Panel 71. Beyond the ‘Southern turn’ in urban studies: reflections and future directions

Conveners: Alli Appelbaum, University of California, Berkeley and University of the Witwatersrand; Nicholas Shatan, University of California, Berkeley; Ooha Uppalapati, University of California, Berkeley


The dialogues between the Global North and the Global South have long been forged from discursive encounters as much as lived practices. It has been almost two decades since the publication of some of the most significant initial postcolonial critiques of urban theory (McFarlane 2008; Robinson 2002; Roy 2009; Watson 2009) that signaled the start of the Southern turn in urban studies. These impassioned calls for theorizing from cities in and from the South (Caldeira 2017; Pieterse and Simone 2017), have been incorporated into urban studies and planning curricula at institutions in both the global North and South. Thanks to the work of the pioneering scholars of the Southern turn—who not only published challenges to the status quo but established new Southern knowledge-producing institutions, like the African Centre for Cities and the Indian Institute for Human Settlements—a generation of students have learned about London, Chicago and New York alongside São Paulo, Beirut, Mumbai, and Johannesburg.

For a generation of urban scholars for whom the Southern turn has been canonical, a range of questions arise over future directions: Should we try to crystalize a particular way of thinking about the city—or an urban vocabulary—that comes from the South? Shall we broaden the Southern turn to theorize from the Global East (Müller 2020) or Global Southeast (Yiftachel and Mammon 2022)? Should we work to ‘provincialize’ the Global North? Could we shift our citation politics to recognize scholarship across regions? Shall we incorporate postcolonial critiques that have perhaps been inadequate within the Southern turn, like critical race theory, decoloniality, abolitionism? Could various literatures in the global South, often not written in English, provide guidance on the steps beyond the Southern turn?

If we accept the foundational epistemological challenge of the Southern turn—that place matters fundamentally in the production of urban scholarship—is it the location of the discussion or the place being discussed that matters most to us? For some, the directions beyond the Southern turn are less about the books we write and more about our pedagogical approaches. Should we be focusing on building Southern centers of urban theory and political praxis? Shall we construct curricula that, borrowing Gautam Bhan’s provocation, teach squatting as a Southern practice?

This panel engages these questions by asking scholars to reflect on the impact of the Southern turn on their research and consider how they have responded to the provocations and contributions of the Southern turn in urban studies. While papers offering theoretical contributions are welcome, we also encourage scholars to present empirical papers with clear connections to how the literature of the Southern turn has influenced their research approaches, or pedagogy, in any setting across the globe. Submissions are particularly encouraged from—though not limited to—early career scholars.


Caldeira, Teresa. 2017. Peripheral urbanization: Autoconstruction, transversal logics, and politics in cities of the global south. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 35(1), 3–20.

McFarlane, Colin. 2008. Urban Shadows: Materiality, the ‘Southern City’ and Urban Theory. Geography Compass, 2(2): 340-358.

Müller, Martin. (2020.) In Search of the Global East: Thinking between North and South., Geopolitics, 25:3, 734-755, DOI: 10.1080/14650045.2018.1477757

Simone, AbdouMaliq and Pieterse, Edgar. 2017. New Urban Worlds: Inhabiting Dissonant Times. Polity.

Robinson, Jennifer. 2002. Global and world cities: a view from off the map. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 26(3): 531-554.

Roy, Ananya. 2009. The 21st-century metropolis: New geographies of theory. Regional Studies, 43(6): 819-830.

Watson, Vanessa. 2009. Seeing from the South: Refocusing urban planning on the globe’s central urban issues. Urban Studies, 46(11): 2259-2275.

Yiftachel, Oren and Mammon, Nisa (Eds.). 2022. TheoriSE: debating the southeastern turn in urban theories. African Center for Cities.

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