De-centring global urban studies: learning from small cities in Africa

Date and time
Thursday 21 November 

6pm (GMT)


LSE Houghton St., Old Building RoomOLD.3.21

(Maps and Directions:

De-centring global urban studies: learning from small cities in Africa

Mathieu Hilgers (Associate Professor of Anthropology at the Free University of Brussels)

 Deborah Potts (Geography, King’s College London) and Ryan Centner (Geography and Environment, LSE)

Hyun Bang Shin, LSE

Over the last decade there has been a major scholarly push in urban studies, led by research in the South, to decentre the field, to contest Western analyses, and to produce studies that discuss and critique dominant theories. This presentation participates in this dynamic by focusing on cities that are home to the invisible urban majority in Africa. Today, half of city-dwellers worldwide live in urban areas with populations of less than500,000.  In Africa, 60% of people live in such small and mid-sized towns.Nonetheless, in academic work, Africa’s lesser cities are relegated to a double periphery which reflects the importance attributed to them: the peripheral status of Africa in the world, and that of smaller cities within Africa. Drawing on long term fieldwork in numerous cities and discussing scholarly research in many disciplines this talk constitutes a first step to theorize these cities as structurally relevant in the global age but also as specific in that ‘the way they “do” city-ness is distinctive, while still recognizably urban’ (Bell and Jayne 2009: 695). 




Mathieu Hilgers is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the Free University of Brussels and visiting fellow at University of London.His current research focuses on the neoliberal expansion in the global South and analyses the relationship between capitalism, urbanization and state building. He is the author of numerous articles (published in Theory, Culture and Society, Social Anthropology, Theory and Psychology, L’homme Revue française d’anthropologie) and has published and coordinated several books, the most recent (together with Eric Mangez) entitled “Social Field Theory. Concept and Applications” will come out in 2014, Routledge.


Please do bring drinks or nibbles to share after the seminar, when there will be an opportunity for informal discussion and networking.