Event — Symposium

Neighborhood Transformation in East Asian Cities: Is 'Gentrification' the Right Frame of Reference?

In this symposium, we are interested in the following question: Is "gentrification" the best concept with which to describe what is going on in Asian cities, or do we need other—or additional—frames to understand the Asian context at the neighborhood level?


    Gentrification is the process by which urban neighborhoods, usually the home of low and lower-middle-income residents, become the focus of reinvestment and settlement by middle classes. The rapid urbanization process puts Asian megacities at the center of gentrification studies. In terms of its scale, speed, and the stakeholders involved, gentrification in Asian cities looks entirely different from the process in cities in Europe and the United States, where the term gentrification first started to be coined starting in the 1960s. When it comes to non-Western cities, scholars consider gentrification as a broader political and economic process. This process includes the unequal and uneven production of urbanizing space, entailing power struggles between haves and have-nots as well as disputes over the upgrading of small neighborhoods or more significant clashes related to social displacement experienced at the metropolitan or even regional scale. 1 Shin, H. B., & López-Morales, E. (2018). Beyond Anglo-American gentrification theory. In Handbook of gentrification studies. Edward Elgar Publishing.

    The concept of gentrification is difficult to translate into language worlds that are distant from English. 2 Waley, P. (2016). Speaking gentrification in the languages of the Global East. Urban Studies, 53(3), 615-625.  However, scholars working on cities in Asia keep using this concept due to hegemonic theories written in the English language and propagated by scholars working on Western cities.

    You can download the short symposium concept note here.  


    Keynote speech
    Frontiers of Gentrification: Perspectives from Asia

    Keynote speaker
    Prof. Hyun Bang Shin

    Date & time
    Wednesday, 1 September 2021, 10:00-11:30 (Amsterdam/CEST)

    The speaker

    Hyun Bang Shin is Professor of Geography and Urban Studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science and directs the LSE Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre. His research centres on the critical analysis of the political economy of urbanisation, politics of displacement, gentrification, housing, the right to the city, urban spectacles, and speculative urbanism with particular attention to cities in Asian countries such as China, South Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore. His most recent projects on circulating urbanism and Asian capital involve field research in Quito, Manila, Iskandar Malaysia, Kuwait City and London. His recent books include Global Gentrifications: Uneven Development and Displacement (2015, Policy Press), Planetary Gentrification (2016, Polity Press), Neoliberal Urbanism, Contested Cities and Housing in Asia (2019, Palgrave Macmillan), and Exporting Urban Korea? Reconsidering the Korean Urban Development Experience (2020, Routledge). He is currently working on two book manuscripts, Making China Urban (for Routledge) and another on the making of speculative city of Seoul.

    Hyun Bang Shin

    Objectives & scope

    In this symposium, we are interested in the following question: Is "gentrification" the best concept with which to describe what is going on in Asian cities, or do we need other—or additional—frames to understand the Asian context at the neighborhood level? Our goals in this symposium are to 1) understand what is going on at the neighborhood level in Asia; and 2) identify more appropriate terms and lenses with which to describe transformations in Asian cities, using locally-specific language and frameworks.

    The geographical scope of the symposium is East Asia, including Northeast Asia and the ASEAN countries in Southeast Asia. Contributions may be in the form of individual case studies or comparative work involving multiple cities in the region. Selected papers presented at the symposium will be published together as an edited volume or a special journal issue, depending on the strength and coherence of the contributions.  


    Institute of Developing Economies (IDE), Japan External Trade Organization 
    Urban Knowledge Network Asia, International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS), Leiden, The Netherlands
    Nanjing University, China
    Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (A): Informalizing Asia, Saitama University, Japan
    Resona Foundation for Asia and Oceania, Japan

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