Suburbanization in Global Society: Volume 10


Table of contents

(19 chapters)
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List of contributors

Pages vii-viii
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World population is expected to increase by some 2.6 billion from 6.9 billion in 2010 to more than 9.5 billion by mid-century. Most of this population increase will occur in the developing nations, and most of this increase will be absorbed in the rapidly expanding metropolitan regions of these countries – the so-called megacities of the twenty-first century (United Nations, 2009). And as urban development accelerates across the globe, most of the population increase will occur in the emerging megacities and other metropolitan areas in Africa, Asia and South America. Because the original areas of settlement in the city centre have long been established, much of the population increase in these metropolitan regions will occur in the suburban areas of cities in the Global South – areas of favelas and shanty towns alongside earlier middle-class and upper-class suburbs, newly planned gated communities and garden suburbs, and indigenous models of suburban growth that will emerge in the next century.

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Consideration needs to be given to the difference [that] the diversity of cities makes to theory.Robinson (2002, p. 549)

American suburbia changed drastically over the past century. Once home to wealthy white enclaves, suburbs opened to the masses after World War II through federal housing and infrastructure programs. A population shift from the American Rustbelt cities in the North and Midwest to the South and Southwest fueled the growth of new suburbs. The rise since the 1970s of global immigration from Central and South America as well as Asia helped diversify the country with the majority of this population relocating to suburbs rather than central cities. Located 20miles outside Atlanta, GA, Gwinnett County provides an opportunity to examine how these trends have manifested. Using this county as a case study, this chapter describes how Gwinnett has evolved over three periods of growth. From its founding in the 1820s to the 1960s, the area was dominated by small towns and an agricultural-based economy separated by elites and locals. The development of infrastructure led to the New Suburban phase from the 1970s to 1990s. A national migration of rustbelters coupled with regionals from the rural South made Gwinnett an upscale, white, upper middle class Republican area. As Gwinnett became one of the country's fasted growing counties, problems from urban sprawl appeared. In the third phase, Avoiding Slumburbia, Gwinnett wrestles with deteriorating older suburban corridors while adjusting to an influx of international migration. By 2009 Gwinnett became a majority minority county. This chapter looks at Gwinnett as a national example of a rapidly growing suburban area within a quickly expanding metropolitan area that is representative of current American suburbanization trends.

Governor Robert F. Casey made his first state visit to Homestead, Pennsylvania the day after his inauguration in January 1987 to announce a package of plans for restoring economic vitality to metropolitan Pittsburgh in the wake of steel's collapse. Earlier urban renewal had involved large-scale demolition of older downtowns for conversion to commercial and industrial use, but state and local officials now emphasized a two-pronged redevelopment approach largely modeled on the success of the postwar suburbs. The closure of the Monongahela River (Mon) Valley's mammoth steel mills opened large swaths of land and prompted calls for planned riverfront manufacturing and retail districts similar to those sites sprouting up at suburban interchanges. A second and related effort involved schemes to build new highways tying aging communities in the river valleys to both Pittsburgh and new suburban growth areas, such as the sprawling “edge city” of Monroeville less than 10miles away. Indeed, Casey had a special project in mind for revitalizing the iconic Homestead – construction of the long-delayed Mon/Fayette Expressway that would parallel the river south of Pittsburgh. “This is another big step [to] help bring businesses and jobs into the region,” the governor later declared. “No longer is this valley a forgotten valley” (as cited in Basescu, 1989, p. 1).

Since the 1950s, and the steadily growing mobility of people and production (economic activity) as a result of the shift to road traffic, especially in North America, suburban areas have grown rapidly as residential areas and places of (post-industrial) economic activity (Hoffmann-Axthelm, 1998). People moved from ‘the country’ and, especially, the established central cities to the more spacious and cheap to develop peripheral locations. In Europe, differences have emerged on the basis of established planning law and thus availability of land for development, and of historic legacies in the relationship between ‘city’ and ‘country’. Thus, for instance, while in Germany cities were distinctly separate from their surrounding areas in legal terms and land ownership, in Italy, cities have been viewed as ‘owning’ or controlling the surrounding areas to the extent that these are subservient to the cities’ developmental needs (Heitkamp, 1998).

The contemporary city of Rome is being built differently from the expanding post-war peripheries. New, mainly private residential developments are changing our perception of the cityscape. According to the General Plan, these projects are designed to encourage a polycentric metropolitanization, with mixed uses and facilities. But they have been critiqued for producing urbanscapes that ‘discourage urbanity’ because the relevant organizational and functional dimensions of public life have been almost totally neglected: foremost among these are the provision of public goods, services to citizens, high-quality standards of construction and an infrastructure allowing for spatial mobility. The main argument for urbanity emphasizes ‘the way of using the space of the city’ in combination with spontaneous forms of interaction within that urban space. This argument contests the production of the contemporary suburban areas of the city and is based upon a sort of nostalgia for the urbanism inherited in the romantic conceptualization of the modern European city, made visible in the celebrations of historical city places. It gives rise to dissatisfaction with the recently built environment which has been critiqued for its ‘absence of urbanity’.

While I do not intend to provide an exhaustive survey of North African emigration to France and the history of banlieue and urban formation in France (see Stovall, 2003), I nonetheless provide a brief background related to place and immigrants in order to contextualize how place is invoked, or is not, in second-generation North African immigrant identities. France's relationship with the Maghreb began with the colonization of Algeria in 1830, of Tunisia in 1831, and of Morocco in 1931. Algeria remained in French control until 1962, and Tunisia and Morocco remained in French control until 1956.

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South Africa has long been an intriguing subject of study, particularly for scholars from the United States. The intensification and dismantling of the apartheid state offers a wealth of material to political scientists and social movement theorists. As the African country with the highest White population, race relations are always in the foreground, as they are in most studies of U.S. urban (and suburban) policy, while they are only just beginning to be taken as a serious ‘issue’ in European social science. U.S. scholars may occasionally look at South Africa as if it were a distorted mirror.1 Depending on one's perspective, as well as the focus of the study, South Africa can be taken as a hopeful symbol of reconciliation or as a warning of the great difficulty in overcoming decades of oppression and systemic inequality. This chapter focuses on the generally overlooked aspect of suburbanization in South Africa, which, surprisingly enough, in certain respects looks very much like U.S. suburbanization.

Cities are continually built and unbuilt (Hommels, 2005), reflecting cycles of investment and disinvestment across space, the machinations of housing and urban policy interventions, and shifting patterns of household need, demand, choice and constraint. The drivers of change are fluid and reflect shifting political, institutional, technological, environmental and socio-economic contexts. Urban landscapes evolve in concert with these changes, but the built environment tends to be defined more in terms of spatial fixity and the path-dependency of physical fabric. Suburban neighbourhoods register this dynamism in different ways as they have flourished, declined and subsequently revalorised over time. Changes initiated through redevelopment, from large-scale public renewal to alterations and renovations by individual owner-occupiers, are long-standing signifiers of reinvestment (Montgomery, 1992; Munro & Leather, 2000; Whitehand & Carr, 2001). Our concern here relates to a particular form of incremental suburban renewal: the increasing significance of private ‘knockdown rebuild’ (KDR) activity. KDR refers to the wholesale demolition and replacement of single homes on individual lots. We are interested in the scale and manifestations of this under-researched process and, in particular, the new insights offered to debates regarding gentrification, residential mobility and choice, and in turn, potential implications for metropolitan housing and planning policy. Our focus is Sydney, Australia.

The international literature on the impacts of globalization on large cities has insistently pointed to the increase in residential segregation. Three mechanisms have been identified as the causes of this phenomenon: globalization, which by disseminating neoliberal ideas throughout the world, generated changes in the regulatory models and paradigms that guide urban policy; institutional reforms toward market liberalization and the property and housing market were undertaken in various countries; real estate prices became the central mechanism for distributing the population throughout the city, reinforcing income inequality as the determinant of urban spatial organization. At the same time, privatization exacerbated the growing inequality of access to the services and infrastructure that ensure urban well-being, especially with regard to quality. The wealthier areas, where those with greater purchasing power concentrate, have at their disposal an abundant supply of goods and services, whereas the areas populated by the poor are supplied with inferior goods and services. Further, globalization caused structural changes originating in the transformation of the productive base of the cities, creating trends toward social polarization. The social structure of the great metropolises is no longer represented by a pyramid, and is expressed instead by an hourglass where the middle positions narrow while the extremities widen. Simultaneously, there has been an increase in the distance between the average incomes of the higher and lower strata.

In Brazil, to speak of the ‘suburb’ is to evoke a rhetoric of need and subordination, and in Rio de Janeiro this is even more the case because, there, ‘suburb’ tends to connote something very different from the usually upper- or middle-class neighbourhoods the same term brings to mind, say, in the United States. This is because, in general, in wealthier countries the term mostly connotes affluence and ‘white flights’, while in the Global South it can include both such wealthier areas and the largely impoverished peripheries. This is very much the case in Rio: to live in a ‘suburb’, there, tends to mean that one comes from a poorer background and needs to content oneself with living far removed from the cultural, social and economic centre of the city inhabited by elites – often, suburbanites spend up to three hours only to get to their jobs, and then the same amount of time to get back home again at the end of a tiresome day.

The image of Latin American suburbs has changed in the last two decades as they have become more heterogeneous with the development of gated communities that coexist with poor-household settlements. Developers, local government staff and gated community residents are the main actors involved in the process of urban development of the periphery.

Discussions on the implications of power relations among the state, market, and society in urban plans and planning processes are usually centered on urban issues. Studies on suburbanization generally look at suburbs and satellite towns as “spillovers” of high density in the cities, deteriorating conditions of the innercity – particularly in the case of the United States – as well as the longing for living closer to nature. During the twentieth century, both the garden suburb and garden city movements in Britain influenced the planning of new communities overseas. The garden city movement of Ebenezer Howard, emphasizing new and attractive planned towns with their own socialisitic administration, employment, and local facilities, has strong echoes in Singapore's new towns, although the adaptation of the concept in Singapore is more towards the physical landscapes and built greeneries rather than embracing the whole idea of the garden city.

The new town concept originated from the ideal city model of Ebenezer Howard and expanded from Europe to America in the 1900s. It has reemerged as a site for accommodating population from highly dense urban centers of China and India since the early twenty-first century. The massive infusion of public and private investments has enabled the emergence of new towns in China and India as planned centers of world-class residential, commercial, and work spaces. The rational goal of de-densifying the crowded central cities can lead to a more balanced distribution and use of resources across the metropolitan regions with more spacious housing for the growing middle class in China and India. Yet it is a relatively small number of the wealthy and mobile people who have turned out to be beneficiaries of the mostly high-end housing and well-developed transport infrastructure that evokes social and economic polarizations and political contestations. In this chapter, we will examine: (1) how these top-down planned and developed new towns have reshaped the urbanization process of the megacities in India and China, (2) the socio-spatial influence of these settlements on the central city as well as the surrounding rural areas, and (3) the expected and actual spatial users (both old and new residents) of the new towns? We address these questions by organizing two pairs of cases in a systematic framework: Anting New Town and Thames Town in Shanghai, China and Rajarhat New Town and the Kolkata West International City (KWIC) near Kolkata, India.

Wangjing is a large residential cluster located at the intersection of the Fourth Ring Road and the airport expressway in the northeast part of Beijing. The area is a “suburb” according to official statistics and academic accounts, which often classify urban areas beyond the historical old city as suburbs. Due to its proximity to the airport and major expressways, Wangjing has developed quickly since the late 1990s. As more high-rise luxury apartment buildings get built, the area's population has reached 150,000 as of 2010, including more than 30,000 foreign expatriates living here amid Chinese urban professionals. Across the airport expressway from Wangjing is the 798 Factory, a hip arts quarter developed within a former electronics factory built in the 1950s. Looking for large studio space, a few artists moved into the Bauhaus-style workshops here in the late 1990s, and quickly bookstores, coffee shops, and galleries followed suit. By 2005, the 798 Factory had become the center of the contemporary Chinese art scene and home to many prestigious international galleries. Outside the factory compound is a working-class neighborhood developed in the 1950s to house workers at the nearby factories and their families. The living conditions here have not changed much for decades, with some families still sharing common kitchens and bathrooms with their neighbors in dilapidated apartment buildings. To the west side of Wangjing, after about a 15-minute drive along the Fourth Ring Road, one reaches the Olympic Park, a brand-new area of parks, stadiums, five-star hotels, golf courses, and exclusive gated communities of villas – all developed in the short period before the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Beyond the Fifth Ring Road, one can see many “urban villages,” former agricultural villages that have become populated by migrant workers with low-paid jobs – taxi drivers, construction workers, waiters, nannies, security guards, and street vendors. Unable to afford to live in the central city, migrant workers rent rooms from local peasants at the city's edge. Many of these villages are to be demolished soon to make space for commercial property development, and the migrant worker tenants will have to move to another village farther away from the city.

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Research in Urban Sociology
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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