Contradictions in Contemporary Urbanisation: Cities of the Arabian Peninsula

Book launch hosted by LSE Cities and LSE Middle East Centre

What happens to cities when money is plentiful, regulation weak, and labour conditions severe? Through a collection of essays brought together by sociologist Harvey Molotch and planning scholar Davide Ponzini, ‘The New Arab Urban: Gulf Cities of Wealth, Ambition, and Distress’ traces just how it works on the ground. How do the authorities align cosmopolitan sensibilities with authoritarian rule? Through what means do they arrange alliances to protect particular forms of spatial segregation and political control? Who builds and how? What sense can be made of massive investment for environmental breakthrough in the midst of world-class ecological mayhem?

In this event, the volume’s editors offered up some of the book’s findings, pointing to ways Gulf cities not only import projects and ideas from the outside, but also how, increasingly, they disseminate them to places far afield.


photo: Michele Nastasi


Event materials


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    Harvey Molotch

    Harvey Molotch is Emeritus Professor of Social & Cultural Analysis and Sociology at New York University. He conducts research on city growth and urban security as well as on product design and development. His books include the classic Urban Fortunes (with John Logan), and, more recently, Against Security: How We Go Wrong at Airports, Subways, and Other Sites of Ambiguous Danger. His most recent award is for Lifetime Career of Distinguished Scholarship (the Du Bois Award) from the American Sociological Association.

    Davide Ponzini

    Davide Ponzini is Associate Professor of Urban Planning at the Department of Architecture and Urban Studies at Politecnico di Milano, Italy and the director of the TAU-Lab (Transnational Architecture and Urbanism research unit). His research activity focuses on planning theory, urban and cultural policy, spectacularisation of contemporary architecture and the urban environment. He is the author (with Pier Carlo Palermo) of Place-making and Urban Development, and (with photographer Michele Nastasi), Starchitecture: Scenes, Actors, and Spectacles in Contemporary Cities.

    Fran Tonkiss

    Fran Tonkiss is Professor of Sociology, and Deputy Head of Department. Her research and teaching is in the fields of urban and economic sociology. Her research interests focus on urban inequalities, urban development and design, social and spatial divisions, and the socio-economic organisation of urban space.  Publications in these fields include Cities by Design: the social life of urban form (Polity, 2013), Space, the City and Social Theory (Polity, 2005), and Contemporary Economic Sociology: Globalisation, Production, Inequality (Routledge, 2006). She is currently managing editor of Economy and Society; she was previously an editor of the British Journal of Sociology, and remains a member of the editorial board.

    Steffen Hertog

    Steffen Hertog is Associate Professor in Comparative Politics at LSE. His books include Princes, Brokers, and Bureaucrats: Oil and the State in Saudi Arabia as well as Engineers of Jihad: The Curious Connection between Violent Extremism and Education (with Diego Gambetta).