Poverty and “The City”

2015, In Charlotte Lemanski and Colin Marx (eds.), The City in Urban Poverty (London: Palgrave Macmillan).


The twenty-first century is the first truly urban epoch. However, the well-circulated graphs that reveal the inexorable urban transition of past and future decades are only part of the story. Accompanying the headline demographic message, that this is an era where urbanisation is the dominant motif, is the reminder that the locus of the twenty- first century has shifted away from Europe and North America. We not only now live in an urban world but also a Southern world, in which Asia and Africa are numerically dominant. As the absolute epicentres of population, cities and towns are the places and spaces that provide the foundations on which contemporary and emerging global systems and values will be built (Miraftab and Kudva, 2014; Roy and Ong, 2011). There are other substantive ways in which, over the next few decades, what happens in and is exported from ‘cities of the South’ will come to dominate our collective lives: cities will have massive impact on natural systems changes; the production, distribution and circulation of goods and services; and the experiences of everyday life, health, culture and politics (McGranahan and Martine, 2014; Parnell and Oldfield, 2014; Revi and Rosenwieg, 2013; Elmquist et al., 2013). For the global majority, life will be shaped by urban conditions and expectations. But for all of its centrality, we do not really understand what constitutes the city or how urban form, urban management, urban life and identity interface with the experiences of, or responses to, poverty.

Susan Parnell