Short Course: Political Mobilization in 21st Century Cities: Resistance, Reform, Renewal

Political Mobilization in 21st Century Cities: Resistance, Reform, Renewal

Jeffrey Paller
Full Day, 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Palais des congrés de Montréal, 512B

The world faces an affordable housing crisis that threatens the lives and livelihoods of millions of people (World Economic Forum 2019). Only 13 percent of the world’s cities have affordable housing (UN HABITAT 2016), leaving an estimated 330 million people housing insecure or unable to pay housing bills (McKinsey Global Institute 2014). According to the UN, 23 percent of the global population lives in slums, or more than 1 billion people (UN Population Division 2018). This housing shortage does not just affect the Global South. Prices in many global cities are out of reach for ordinary people. New developments displace existing populations and do not consider the needs of the poor or middle class. These challenges place extreme pressure on governments to build new housing and for residents to remain in place. This global urban housing shortage has severe implications for politics, as residents make competing claims to urban space; politicians establish lucrative connections to developers but also networks and alliances with voters, and; communities mobilize to resist rapid change.

This short course examines the political implications of rapid urbanization and social change across the world. How do different governments across the world respond to urbanization? How do actors and institutions respond to pressure on urban space? Why do certain populations benefit from urban growth while others are left behind? What are the conditions under which urban growth leads to development? What are the relationships between local, regional, and national-level policymaking?

This course focuses specifically on political mobilization in cities. It uncovers the important actors operating in cities, as well as the diverse strategies that leaders use to mobilize followers. We interrogate concepts in political science that take unique forms in cities, including clientelism, populism, campaigns, collective action, everyday resistance, and institutional reform. The course also considers how social identities like ethnicity, race, class, and gender interact with political mobilization. Methodologically, we draw from a range of social science research strategies, including surveys, field experiments, interviews, and participant observation. Thematically, we advance important political perspectives on emerging policy debates around housing, urban development and renewal, infrastructure financing, and global connectivity.

We include papers that fit under the following research streams related to political mobilization in 21st century cities:

1. Institutions: Historical legacies, institutional development, and policy reform

2. Electoral mobilization: Campaigns, clientelism, and populism

3. Urban space: Infrastructure development, urban renewal, gentrification

4. Collective action: Protest, everyday resistance, collective decision-making

The short course will include a combination of papers, book talks, and thematic discussions. The course will end with a conversation about a possible special issue or edited volume.