The global ‘land grab’ debate is going urban and needs a specific conceptual framework to analyze the diverse modalities through which land commodification and speculation are transforming cities across the globe. This article identifies new avenues for research on urban land issues by drawing on an extensive body of academic literature and concrete cases of urban land transformations in Asia, Latin America and Africa. These transformations are analyzed by focusing on three types of urban investments – investments in property, investments in public space and public services, and investments in speculation, image building and ‘worlding’ – and the way these investments are intermingled with and enhanced by processes of gentrification and speculative urbanism. Addressing real estate and infrastructure investments, speculation and gentrification through a land-based lens allows us to deepen the discussion on urban land governance in the global South. We argue that urban land acquisition cannot be thoroughly understood in isolation from the workings of urban real estate markets, public policies, and displacement processes. The urban land grab debate needs to consider the dialectic interplay between land use change and general socio-spatial transformations both in central – or recentralized – and peripheral areas. This is why we plea for a kaleidoscopic perspective on urban land governance by uncovering the complex patchwork of urban land acquisitions and their diverse temporalities and spatialities, their hybrid character in terms of actors involved, and the multiple and often unpredicted ways in which urban dwellers try to gain control over and access to urban land.
Authors and Publishers
van Noorloos, Femke
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