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GUHP Emerging:


Four Symposia Spotlighting the New Generation of Global Urban Historians

On April 23, 24, and May 7 and 8th 2021, participants in this year's inaugural GUHP Mentorship Program will present their work at four symposia via a series of 8-minute pre-recorded and pre-circulated presentations. Participants will be able to view the presentations 3 days in advance. Prominent discussants will lead the discussions with their authors.

The symposia will occur at different times of day during these two pairs of Fridays and Saturdays to accommodate participants (and audiences!) who live in many time zones. If you are not a GUHP member yet, please join up now to become eligible for registration. Our free-of-cost option is still available, though GUHP, like all organizations in the period could use extra help from all of its members! 

Do not miss this chance to hear from the rising generation of global urban historians!


The suggested donation for these spotlight symposia is $20 per event.  Any donation is appreciated!!  

See you soon at this exciting series of events! 



Friday April 23

Panel 1: Who Claims the City?

9AM PT, Noon ET, 5PM UTC

Chair: Michael Goebel, Freie Universität-Berlin

Discussant: Ademide Adelusi-Adeluyi, University of California Riverside

Discussant: Sebastian Conrad, Freie Universität-Berlin


  • Titilola Halimat Somotan (PhD, Columbia; Postdoc, Princeton). Mentor: Carl Nightingale, University at Buffalo:

    "Ratepayers, Municipal Services, and Decolonization in Lagos, Nigeria."


  • Amanda Waterhouse (Indiana University). Mentor: Mark Healey (University of Connecticut)

    "Radical Architects: University Development & Student Protest in Cold War Colombia"


  • Archa Girija (The University of British Columbia). Mentor: Guadalupe Garcia, Tulane University.“European Modernity and the Imagination of an Alternate Urbanism in the Indian Ocean"



Saturday April 24

Panel 2: Infrastructure and Hinterland

8AM PT, 11AM EST, 4PM UTC, 5PM (UTC+1), 6PM Cairo, 9:30PM Delhi


Chair: Rosemary Wakeman, Fordham University

Discussants: Saheed Aderinto, Lagos Studies Association and Western Carolina University

and Lynn Lees, University of Pennsylvania


  • Prerna Agarwal (King’s College London). Mentor: Su Lin Lewis (University of Bristol).

    "Internationalism in India's docklands, 1920s-1940s"


  • Ingy Higazy (PhD student, UC Santa Cruz). Mentor: Alexia Yates, Manchester University:

    "The Problem of Movement: Planning Urban Mobility Infrastructure in Cairo, 1970-Present"


  • Rustam Khan (PhD student, MIT).M entor: Micah Muscolino, UC San Diego.

    “Soviet’s Metropolis: Nature and Capital in Socialist Vladivostok, 1930s40s”


  • Ernest Sewordor (University of Basel). Mentor Constanza Benavides- Castro, Universidad de los Andes: "The “Hinterland Question” Under Planetary Urbanization (PU): Colonial Mining Capitalism, Landscape Operationalisation, and Race in the Gold Coast"


Friday May 7

Panel 3: Race, Gender, and Subalternity

1PM UTC: 6AM PT, 9AM EST, 3PM Lyon, 1:30PM Kolkata, 9PM Manila


Chair: Carl Nightingale, University at Buffalo, SUNY

Discussant: Abosede George, Barnard College and Columbia University


  • Camille Cordier (Université Lyon Lumière). Mentor: Trevor Burnard, University of Hull:

    "Space and Time of the “marché des nègres” in Cap-Français in the 18th century"


  • Aishani Gupta (SUNY Stony Brook). Mentor: Debjani Battacharya, Drexel University.

    "Women of the Empire at Ajmer’s Dargah: Negotiating the Sacred and the Civic in a Prominent Sufi Pilgrimage Site, ca. 1900-1920"


  • Chester Arcilla (University of the Philippines-Manila). Mentor: Annelise Orleck, Dartmouth College: “From Community Barricades to Occupy: Radical Urban Subaltern History in the Philippines.”



Saturday, May 8

9AM UTC: 2AM PT, 5AM EST, 11 AM CET, 2:30PM IST, 5PM Manila, 8PM Melbourne

Panel 4: Building Cities, Building States

Chair: Debjani Bhattacharyya, Drexel University

Discussant: Devika Shankar, University of Hong Kong

  • Bernard Keo,(Monash University, Australia). Mentor: Michael Vann, California State University, Sacramento. "Colonial City, Global Entanglements: Intra- and Trans-Imperial Networks in George Town, 1786-1937"

  • Stephen Pascoe (UC Irvine). Mentor: Cyrus Schayegh, Graduate Institute Geneva "Concessionary Imperialism: Infrastructure and the Making of the Contractable State in Post-Ottoman Syria"


  • Yingchuan Yang (PhD student, Columbia). Mentor: Katherine Zubovich, University at Buffalo. "Walls and Chimneys: Building a City of Production in Early Socialist Beijing"





(alphabetical by author’s last name)


Prerna Agarwal

Title: Internationalism in India's docklands, 1920s-1940s

Abstract: The port cities of India - like Calcutta and Bombay are well placed in historiography as birthplaces for nationalist movement. But they have not been studied as sites that produced and sustained political internationalism of wide variety. The themes of Indian urban literature include – governance, modernity, nationalism, and communalism. The growth of regionalism, micro-nationalisms, religious communalism in the post-independence period have all contributed to a parochial understanding of some of the major cities and the politics they produced. A number of scholars have recently argued for an ‘internationalist moment’ for South Asia in the interwar period, this project contributes by examining the role of the two major cities of colonial India. It studies how industrialization, migration and maritime-labour shaped the global outlook and solidarities of its inhabitants, focusing on working-class activism, anti-colonial (communist, pan-Asianist, Islamic) and pro-fascist networks.

Keywords: Calcutta Bombay; working-class activism; anti-colonialism; internationalism


Chester Arcilla

Title:  Marking Filipino radical urban subaltern histories within global histories of gentrification and housing financialization

Abstract: In 2017, the National Alliance of Urban Poor led some ten thousand Filipino urban poor families in the illegal occupation of around 5,200 empty socialized housing units on the peri-urban province of Bulacan, north of the country‘s capital. Dubbed ‘Occupy Bulacan,’ it is perhaps one of the largest collective housing takeovers in the Global South. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte condemned the housing takeover and instructed to “shoot them dead” if any more housing units are illegally occupied. This research weaves urban subaltern militant histories with global histories of housing neoliberalization.  The rise of empty socialized housing, amid huge unmet housing needs, provided the politico-material opportunities for the housing takeover, which incited state containment. The empty housing phenomenon flows from decades of gentrification, housing commodification, and workers’ precarity.  To resist the displacements, militant urban subalterns have defended their communities with organizing, protests, and community barricades.  The Occupy Bulacan represents a shift to an offensive urban movement, as the occupiers threatened to deterritorialize capital and state-space and establish a commune.  Occupiers are now subjected to intensified military surveillance, illegal arrests, and criminalization of protest actions.  Housing commodification and gentrification engender radical subaltern resistances and, consequently, neoliberal fascist containment in the Global South.

Keywords: Phlippines; socialized housing; gentrification; neoliberalism


Camille Cordier

Title: Shaping a slave city: the space and time of the marché des nègres in Cap-Français, mid-17th century-end of the 18th century

Abstract: In the town of Cap-Français, the economic capital of the French colony of Saint-Domingue, the marché des nègres, located in the main square, was the commercial heart of the region. The expression, used by contemporaries, describes the edible markets in Caribbean cities, supplied by plantation enslaved. By studying this urban institution, I wish to show how enslaved, through their mercantile activity, shaped the space and time of Cap-Français, and how, in return, the administration tried to contain it to fit it into the city. The ubiquity of slavery conditioned the policies of supply and urban planning, as city dwellers were dependent on plantation enslaved for their food supply. In order to prevent food shortages, the colonial authorities, whose political culture was forged in France, adapted the principles of urban planning and market regulation to the colonial context. Through cartographic and administrative sources, the Black market appears as the result of negotiations between administrators, traders and buyers. Far from being merely the product of an imperial vision, the Caribbean city is also the product of the action of the colony's inhabitants. As the driving force behind the economic and physical transformations of the city, the Black market defines the Creole urbanity.

Keywords: Cap Français, St. Domingue; slavery; markets; urban planning


Archa Girija

Title: Early European Modernity and the Imagination of an Alternate Urbanism in the Indian Ocean

Abstract: My paper focus is on an important player in the Indian Ocean of the early modern period- the port of Calicut, on the south-west coast of India. Calicut was the primary hub of the pepper trade, which was the most important commodity of the early modern Indian Ocean trade, the cardinal destination of the first European ventures, and functioned as a cosmopolitan locus in the global trade. Most of the literature assumes that Calicut lost its predominance with the arrival of the European powers. However, this is mainly due to the use of European sources which define an early modern port city exclusively based on infrastructure and aesthetics developed under European purview. But port cities like Calicut attempted to resist and challenge the European monopolistic and imperial efforts and continued to hold their commercial importance. My paper attempts to examine an alternate non-imperial model of an early modern port city by focusing on the economic, social, and cultural realms of it. If we look at the fifteenth and sixteenth-century descriptions of Calicut, two important features were identified as the characteristics of urbanism: commercial significance and cosmopolitanism. These features continued in the later periods, rather than declining. This paper argues that it was the definition of urbanism changing drastically in the domain of the European imperial projects, not the non-European cities.

Keywords: Calicut, India; early modern port city; Indian Ocean trade; cosmopolitanism


Aishani Gupta

Title: Women of the Empire at Ajmer’s Dargah: negotiating the sacred and the civic in a prominent Sufi pilgrimage site, ca. 1900-1920

Abstract: This paper examines how gendered power tussles in sacred spaces such as the early modern Sufi shrine of Muin al-Din Chishti (d. 1236 CE) in Ajmer, were characteristic of modern urbanisms in the empire. I present case studies of four women who visited the shrine in western India between 1908 and 1918. The first is a native courtesan from Lucknow, who petitioned the British Government to claim maintenance from the Sajjada-Nashin (the biological descent of the Sufi saint buried there). The second is a Muslim lady who complained to the colonial officials about being tortured and ill-treated by her Sufi in-laws. The third is a British lady, the wife of a senior official, whose molestation by Khadims (keepers of the shrine) was deftly brushed under the carpet by the colonial administration. The fourth is Queen-Empress Mary, who granted royal patronage to the shrine by donating money, which was then used to build an ablution tank and called the Victoria Tank. I argue that both colonized and imperial women at specific nodes of the empire which had parallel forms of authority such as sacred spaces used those very systems of authority, often against each other, to make their prerogatives heard.

Keywords: Ajmer Sufi shrine; sacred spaces; gendered power dynamics; British Raj


Ingy Higazi

Title: The Problem of Movement: Planning Urban Mobility Infrastructure in Cairo, 1970-Present

Abstract: This paper investigates the politics of urban mobility and infrastructure in post-1970s Cairo. It takes the case of the Greater Cairo Ring Road (constructed between 1986 and 2005), part of Egypt’s project of capitalist restructuring and state-making beginning in 1974 (Infitah). The Ring Road’s construction was intended to: alleviate urban crowdedness, accelerate desert development, and contain urban encroachment on the Nile Delta’s dwindling fertile land. Yet, it facilitated an unprecedented erosion of land fit for agriculture and led to the emergence of Cairo’s peri-urban belt and border: the spatially and geographically peripheral rural-urban communities that surround the city and supply the majority of its waged labor. This paper draws on policy documents, press archives, and interviews with urban planners, officials, and private developers to reconstruct an urban history of the Ring Road. By studying how planning and constructing the Ring Road articulated and re-configured relations of space, capital, and coercion in Cairo and its peripheries, I analyze how and why mobility in the city was planned and for whom. I argue that the Road was planned not only as an infrastructure to facilitate the flow of global capital and to cater to a growing automobile economy (Dodson 2017; Barak 2019; Taha 2002), but also as a state effort to govern and discipline the production of urban space and movement(s) in the city and its rural and desert peripheries.

Keywords: Cairo; Ring Road construction; urban planning; urban-rural dynamics


Bernard Keo

Title: Colonial City, Global Entanglements: Intra- and Trans-Imperial Networks in George Town, 1786-1937

Abstract: From its foundation as a British settlement in 1786, the city of George Town on the island of Penang quickly became enmeshed in complex circulations of trade, people, and ideas. By the end of the nineteenth century, George Town had developed a multicultural and polyglot society that included a kaleidoscopic mix of ethnic groups. This paper investigates the relationship between George Town’s cosmopolitan population and its development into a global hub for commercial, intellectual, and physical interchange over the course of British rule. In particular, I argue that the city’s success depended on intricate webs of personal and professional connections developed by George Town’s residents across Southeast Asia and beyond. Building on recent scholarship exploring of Penang’s regional networks of trade and knowledge (Yeoh et al., 2009; Zabielskis et al., 2017), I examine how one particular community, the Peranakan Chinese, built and leveraged networks across the British, Dutch, and Japanese empires. By exploring these intra- and trans-imperial networks, this paper integrates George Town into global history and presents fresh perspectives on both Malaysian and British imperial history. In particula, I make the case for studying colonial cities like George Town not as passive nodes of empire but as active sites within overlapping imperial networks.

Keywords: George Town, Penang; cosmopolitanism; global commerce; Peranakan Chinese


Rustam Khan

Title: Greening the Soviet City: Vladivostok and the Making of Urbanity through Coal and Rivers, 1938 – 1953

Abstract: In this presentation, I display how Soviet cities couldn’t grow without producing and encapsulating ecological energies such as coal and rivers from a non-urban sphere. I do so by focusing on Vladivostok, a city squeezed in between China, North Korea, and the Pacific Ocean during the late Stalinist era. Much of the historiography into socialist built environments has almost exclusively revolved around the essence of ideology and modernity to make sense of urbanization. In contrast, I highlight how cities, whatever their political regimes, could only develop by enabling a seamless circulation of green power between urban cores and rural hinterlands. Such green power allowed to build a public hygiene infrastructure to accommodate a growing working class. It also allowed to set up an electric grid to stimulate industrial growth. Such a conceptual orientation feeds off the insights about high modernism (James C Scott) and the urban-environmental nexus in the making of cities (William Cronon). In particular, I hope to stimulate comparative investigations and critically examine the agency of nonhuman factors in shaping urban life under socialism.

Keywords: Vladivostok, USSR; urbanization; ecological energies; nonhuman urban actors


Stephen Joseph Pascoe

Title: Concessionary Imperialism: Infrastructure and the Making of the Contractable State in Post-Ottoman Syria

Abstract: This paper presents a slice of my ongoing research. In the larger project, I argue that foreign-capitalized infrastructure companies during the Age of Steam practiced a form of “concessionary imperialism”. By this term, I mean the attempt by such companies and their allies to engineer long-term contractual arrangements to build, operate and control vital urban and regional infrastructure (electricity, railways, roads, ports) understood to be indispensable to modern social and economic life. In this paper, I examine the relationship between the French imperial state and the concessionary companies that had been active in Ottoman Syria prior to World War I. I argue that French imperial planners crafted a “contractable state”, one which institutionalised the outsourcing of vital infrastructure via contracts that were intentionally drafted to outlive the temporary system of mandate government imagined after the war. While the strategic alliance between colonial bureaucrats and the representatives of multinational corporations was critical to the formation of the interwar mandate state in French (and British) mandated territories, I argue that this cohabitation was short lived. As such, my thesis challenges simplistic formulations of alliance of state and capital in early twentieth century imperial rule while sketching the fault lines for anti-imperial mobilisation beyond the framing of anti-imperial struggle as a solely national affair targeting state power.

Keywords: Ottoman Syria; concessionary companies; urban infrastructure; anti-imperial struggle


Ernest Sewordor

Title: The “Hinterland Question” under Planetary Urbanization (PU): Colonial Mining Capitalism, Landscape Operationalisation, and Race in the Gold Coast

Abstract: This project takes its overall theoretical inspiration from the notion of Planetary Urbanisation; built on the chief claim that today’s urban reality has become ‘ex-centric’ hence the need for a de-centred epistemology of the urban (i.e., not take the city as tout court, a unit of the urban). Similarly, this work foregrounds mining enclaves in the Gold Coast (GC) within a conceptual frame that focus specifically on their industrial urban make-up via processes of unequal capitalist transformation of landscape (imbricating both city and hinterland spaces), while accounting for their embeddedness in worldwide intensification of colonial capitalism within the British empire. From the vantage point of GC’s hinterlands, I intervene in urban scholarship by examining how mechanised mining and its associated infrastructures (e.g., regulatory regimes) reconfigured territory by critically contesting a linear view of how global circulations of capitalism (presumably, Western) transformed urban space on a trans-local scale, and also highlight how, in the process, capitalism was racialised to disadvantage colonial subjects, during the first half of the twentieth century. Without positioning colonial subjects as helpless victims of racialised capitalism, the study ultimately traces histories of intersections, conflicts, dispossession, and dialectics to demonstrate indigenous agency as alien capital operationalised landscape.

Keywords: Gold Coast; mining; planetary urbanism; racial capitalism


Titilola Halimat Somotan

Title: “We Voters in this Area Want Service for our Money”: Lagos Ratepayers and the Struggles over Municipal Administration in the Decolonization Era

Abstract: As Nigerians struggled for independence from British colonial rule, Lagos residents, who often described themselves as ratepayers, and voters demanded social services from the Lagos Town Council. Tenants and landlords from diverse class, ethnic, and gender backgrounds created ratepayers’ organizations to influence municipal policies. Drawing from newspapers, novels, and musical recordings, this paper examines how Lagos ratepayers framed their requests and debated the necessities of council’s laws. While historians of decolonization have shown how urban dwellers shaped nationalist movements and defied colonial administration’s building policies, I study how city residents engaged with municipal government. By demanding resources such as water and sewage collection, Lagosians made everyday conflicts over urban social services central to how urban inhabitants experienced and contested the transition from colonial rule to independence.

Keywords: Lagos, Nigeria; municipal government; urban social services; postcolonial transition


Amanda Waterhouse

Title: Radical Architects: University Development & Student Protest in Cold War Colombia 

Abstract: This article examines architecture as a contested form of international development in Colombia during the Cold War. Focusing on the University of Valle in Cali, Colombia, it shows how Colombian and U.S. officials conscripted architects into the development of modern university facilities during the 1960s. They also funded the architecture school to produce architects engaged with community development needs. But architecture at the University of Valle was more than a facilitator of development; it also became a site of contestation. Architecture faculty and students levied formal critiques of the programs and techniques that administrators and officials advocated. The architecture school became one center of a radical student protest movement that peaked—and saw violent state repression—in 1971. It fought for autonomy and against elitism, imperialism, and international development. The very architecture students and faculty meant to champion architecture that fulfilled elite Colombian and U.S. visions of development, then, in fact confounded top-down and outside control of both their discipline and public spaces.

Keywords: Colombia; architecture; student movement; international development


Yingchuan Yang

Title: Walls and Chimneys: Building a City of Production in Early Socialist Beijing

Abstract: While Liang Sicheng advocated for the construction of a separate administrative district in Beijing’s suburbs in 1951, Mao Zedong demanded to turn the capital into “a city full of chimneys” and to build the administrative center right in the old city. Instead of blaming Mao and his cadres for the destruction of “old Beijing,” this essay takes seriously the socialist vision of urbanization. Liang’s proposal failed for being fundamentally at odds with the Communist Party’s plan of transforming Beijing into a city of production that underpinned the development not only industry but also mobilizational politics. New space facilitated transportation and industrial production, and Beijing’s cityscape was further associated with the emancipation of proletarians, whose new life could be best found at Longxugou, a refurbished drainage that captured the success of socialist governance. Beijing in the 1950s demonstrated the Party’s grand ambitions and adroit tactics of reconfiguring urban China, a setting unfamiliar to it before 1949.

Keywords: Beijing; socialist urbanization; industrialization; urban reform