Global development and urban studies: tactics for thinking beyond the North-South binary

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Recent calls to shift from an “international” to a “global” development paradigm have sought to challenge global North–South binaries. This has provoked lively debate, with criticisms focusing on two issues: the empirical question of North–South convergence since 1990, and the political-theoretical basis of the proposed paradigm. In response, this paper draws on innovations in postcolonial and comparative urban studies to propose three “tactics” for thinking globally about development: thinking from the South to understand the North; comparing across difference; and exploring transnational flows, circuits and relationships. These tactics demonstrate how it is possible to disrupt geographical binaries while also addressing the two major criticisms of the global development approach. First, they demonstrate that establishing convergence is not a prerequisite to thinking about development across the global North–South distinction. Second, they are informed by critical theoretical approaches that animate a deep commitment to transforming the structural causes of inequalities globally.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)433-449
Number of pages17
JournalEnvironment and Urbanization
Issue number2
Early online date24 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2023


  • International development
  • global development
  • postcolonial urban theory
  • urban comparison
  • global North
  • global South


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