CALL FOR PAPERS: Local Transformations in Urban Asia


Local Transformations in Urban Asia

Guest editors: Blaž Križnik and Su Kim

We are living in what is called the ‘Asian century’ for the growing economic and political importance of Asia compared to the Global North. This far-reaching transformation is also reflected in an unprecedented growth of cities in Asia. The metropolitan regions of Jakarta, Karachi, or Tokyo, for instance, are between the world’s largest agglomerations of economic activities and urban population. In the near future, a dozen Chinese cities are expected to exceed the already immense size of the metropolitan regions such as Delhi or Seoul (UN-HABITAT 2015). While merely 17.5% of Asians lived in urban areas in 1950, about half of them live there today. The urban population in Asia is to reach 66.2% by 2050 according to the UN 2018 World Urbanisation Prospects. Urban growth resulted not only in opportunities but also in challenges. Cities in Asia face severe environmental degradation and vulnerability, which poses significant risks for their future along with the growing social and economic polarisation (UN-HABITAT 2015; Miller and Douglass 2016). Despite persisting regional disparities, the growth of cities across Asia is to further exacerbate their living environment.

The future of Asia seems to largely depend on the effective management of cities and metropolitan regions. Emerging approaches to urban governance in Asia, addressing social, economic and environmental challenges in a more sustainable way, are well acknowledged. Competition and global aspirations of cities in Asia are at the same time considered major drivers of their urban growth (Park, Hill and Saito 2011; Roy and Ong 2011). Less attention, however, is placed on the consequences of urban growth on the everyday life in localities. These are not only passive recipients but also as active agents, capable of responding to competition and global aspirations of cities (Cabannes, Douglass and Padawangi 2018). Moreover, localities are relevant for their growing importance for inclusive urban governance, which aims to foster community development, collaborative economies, grassroots placemaking or expansion of local autonomy (Read and Pekkanen 2009; Cho and Križnik 2017). The 2021 special issue of Asian Studies journal, therefore, aims to explore the diverse consequences of urban growth on the transformation of localities in urban Asia by addressing the following key questions:

  • How does urban growth affect everyday life in localities across Asia?
  • How do localities sustain or resist competition and global aspirations of cities in Asia?
  • What is the importance of localities for building just and sustainable cities in Asia?

The special issue aims to bring together contributions from scholars in human geography, urban and regional planning, environmental management, landscape architecture, urban sociology and anthropology, cultural studies or political sciences, which can contribute to a comprehensive understanding of the local transformations in urban Asia. It aims to focus on residential neighbourhoods, traditional commercial areas and markets, streets and alleys or urban parks, for instance, to explore how everyday practices and shared identities, embedded in localities, affect and are affected by the urban change. These localities are seldom part of global financial centres, shopping malls or speculative mega projects but belong to multifaceted civic spaces, where diverse social groups can mingle and coexist (Douglass, Ho and Ooi 2010; Chalana and Hou 2016).

Next from its focus on a comprehensive understanding of localities, the special issue also wants to engage with a locally informed understanding of the local transformations in urban Asia. Cities in Asia were often studied in relation to and based on the methodological tools and explanatory frameworks, borrowed from the Global North, without challenging their relevance for particular Asian urban contexts (Chen 2010). This not only restricts the understanding of cities in Asia but also possibilities to challenge general urban theory (Bunnell and Goh 2018). The special issue, therefore, aims to bring together contributions that critically address the local transformation in urban Asia while challenging established methodological tools within Asian urban contexts. Theoretical or empirical contributions are welcome from scholars, researchers, PhD students and other experts, particularly from those using a qualitative research approach.

Previously unpublished original contributions should be submitted online by July 1st, 2020 ( Contact, please, the managing editor Nataša Visočnik for additional information at: natasa.visocnik(at)



Bunnell, Tim and  Daniel, P. S. Goh (Eds.). 2018. Urban Asias, Essays on Futurity Past and Present. Berlin: Jovis Verlag.

Cabannes, Yves, Mike Douglass and Rita Padawangi 2018. Cities in Asia by and for the People. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

Chalana, Manish and Jeffrey Hou (Eds.). 2016. Messy Urbanism: Understanding the “Other” Cities of Asia. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.

Chen, Kuan-Hsing. 2010. Asia as Method: Toward Deimperialisation. Durham: Duke University Press.

Cho, Im Sik and Blaž Križnik. 2017. Community-based Urban Development: Evolving Urban Paradigms in Singapore and Seoul. Singapore: Springer.

Douglass, Mike, Kong Chong Ho and Giok Ling Ooi (Eds.). 2010. Globalization, the Rise of Civil Society and Civic Spaces in Pacific Asia Cities. Abingdon: Routledge.

Miller, Michelle Ann and Mike Douglass (Eds.). 2016. Disaster Governance in Urbanising Asia. Singapore: Springer.

Park, Bae-Gyoon, Richard C. Hill, and Asato Saito (Eds.). 2011. Locating Neoliberalism in East Asia: Neoliberalizing Spaces in Developmental States. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

Read, Benjamin L. and Robert Pekkanen. 2009. Local Organizations and Urban Governance in East and Southeast Asia: Straddling State and Society. Abingdon: Routledge.

Roy, Ananya and Aihwa Ong (Eds.). 2011. Worlding Cities: Asian Experiments and the Art of being Global. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

UN-HABITAT. 2015. The State of Asian and Pacific Cities 2015, Urban Transformations: Shifting from Quantity to Quality. Nairobi: UN-HABITAT.


Blaž Križnik is an associate professor at the Graduate School of Urban Studies, Hanyang University in Seoul. He received his PhD in sociology from the University of Ljubljana. He worked as a research fellow at the IaaC in Barcelona, Seoul Development Institute, and Seoul National University Asia Center. He is a researcher at the Institute for Spatial Policies in Ljubljana and a member of the Centre for Korean Studies at the University of Ljubljana. His research is focused on comparative urban studies, social movements and Korean studies. He’s the co-author of a book Community-based Urban Development: Evolving Urban Paradigms in Singapore and Seoul.

Su Kim holds a master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the Graduate School of Environmental Studies, Seoul National University. She graduated from German studies, and political science and international relations from Yonsei University in Seoul. Her research interests include urban studies, community development and civil society, and international development cooperation. She is taking part in a series of research projects on state involvement in community building in East Asia at the Institute for Spatial Policies in Ljubljana.