Shifting Ground: The Precarity of Land on the Urban Periphery

An event hosted by LSE Cities in partnership with LSE Anthropology

This workshop examined the uncertainties of land tenure and access to housing on the periphery of cities throughout the global South. By focusing on the spatial politics of land claims, processes of home-making and un-making, and logics of speculation and dispossession, speakers highlighted the discourses and practices that shape future land security and insecurity. Special interest was paid to how the uncertain status of titles, plans, investment, and ownership shapes claims to and conflicts over urban space and property.

The Urban Uncertainty workshop series is an integral part of LSE Cities’ collaborative investigation into emerging ways of envisioning and governing the future of cities. Each session focuses on a different dimension of urban uncertainty, from health and housing to crime and climate, and brings together scholars from a handful of disciplines whose work converges on common themes.

Event materials


    Hyun Bang Shin

    Hyun Bang Shin is Associate Professor of Geography and Urban Studies at the London School of Economics. His main research interests lie in critically analyzing political and economic dynamics of contemporary urban (re-)development and its socio-spatial implications, with special emphasis on Asian cities. He has recently received the STICERD/LSE Annual Fund New Researcher Award to fund his examination of the social legacy of 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games in China.

    Ayona Datta

    Ayona Datta is Senior Lecturer in Geography at the University of Leeds. Her research and writing broadly focuses on the gendered processes of citizenship and belonging and the gendered politics of urban renewal and urbanization across the global North and South. She is the author of The Illegal City: Space, Law and Gender in a Delhi Squatter Settlement (2012) and the blog, the City Inside Out:

    Filip De Boeck

    Filip De Boeck is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Leuven, Belgium. His research in the Democratic republic of Congo focuses on youth and the city. With photographer Marie-Françoise Plissart he is the author of Kinshasa: Tales of the Invisible City (2004) and also co-edited Makers and Breakers. Children and Youth in Postcolonial Africa (2005). He is currently preparing a book on new city extensions across Africa.

    Vandana Desai

    Vandana Desai is Senior Lecturer in Human Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London. Her research involves an integrated strategy of cross-disciplinary research collaboration combining her own background in development with the research of academics from geography, sociology, social policy, gerontology and international NGOs. Her work focuses on theoretical and implementation issues in development policy, urban governance, and North-South donor relations in areas of low-income housing and infrastructural development (water and sanitation), ageing and gender issues.

    Deborah James

    Deborah James is Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics. Her research interests, focused on South Africa, include migration, ethnomusicology, ethnicity, property relations and the politics of land reform. She is author of Songs of the Women Migrants: Performance and Identity in South Africa (Edinburgh University Press, 1999) and of Gaining Ground? “Rights” and “Property” in South African Land Reform (Routledge, 2007).

    Kamna Patel

    Kamna Patel is Lecturer at the Development Planning Unit at the University College London. Her research interests coalesce issues of urban land tenure, the complexities of life in low income settlements, and approaches to planning and implementing ‘development’ interventions. To date, her work has explored the social consequences of upgrading informal settlements in South Africa.