ISBN: 9788776940799

Asian Cities: Globalization, Urbanization and Nation-Building


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By Malcolm McKinnon

2011, 272 pp, 15x23 cm.

  • Questions the centrality of globalization in explaining change in Asian cities and examines developing Asian cities in their own terms rather than as variants of Western urbanization.
  • Explores middle cities ‘off the radar’ as well as well-known metropolises.
  • Uses both quantitative and ethnographic research.

Asian Cities challenges Western paradigms of urban growth with a fresh and stimulating look at cities in developing Asia. It questions the status accorded globalization in explaining contemporary Asian cities, arguing instead that they are being transformed by three major forces – urbanization and nation-building as well as globalization. The latter two are not dependent variables of globalization, although all, in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, are shaped by capitalism.

The book reaches beyond the usual focus on metropolitan centres to examine urban life in a sample of middle-sized cities representative of hundreds of such urban centres throughout the Asian continent.

An introductory chapter outlines the arguments and introduces the sample cities. Chapters two and three explore two principal facets of urbanization: the material transformation that comes in its train and the impact that it has on the lives of the newly-urbanized. Chapters four to seven explore the way that the national framework shapes cities – including business enterprises, migration, travel and commercial popular culture. In a final chapter the book surveys likely trends in Asian cities over the next quarter century and considers the implications of the study for our understanding of globalization generally.

This is a nuanced study grounded in quantitatively-based findings but enriched by qualitative research that both provides additional evidence and brings the findings alive.

Malcolm McKinnon is an independent New Zealand historian who, besides researching urban development in Asia, has written extensively on New Zealand’s relations with Asia.