Speculative urbanism and the urban-financial conjuncture: Interrogating the afterlives of the financial crisis

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This article proposes an analytical–methodological approach to understand this historical conjuncture of speculative urbanism in which global finance capital plays an increasingly important role in urban transformation. Whereas the scholarship on urban financialization makes sharp distinctions between what occurs in the global North and the South, portraying the process in the South as one of subordination or peripheralization and in the North as mature and stable (although volatile), this article seeks to demonstrate that the North–South divide is less effective as an explanatory power. Instead, it presents an analytical approach that is attuned to the relentless dynamism and inter-scalar hyper-mobility of finance capital working across the postcolonial map—in other words, a relational–conjunctural approach. The article suggests the method of “following the financial strategy” by analyzing urban forms and projects as processes constituted by the nexus of practices in finance and city planning. It looks closely at finance’s use of inter-scalar financial tools (such as arbitrage, interest rate swaps, collateralized debt obligations, and currency hedges) across borders, sectors, infrastructures, and conditions, as mediated by national and international state actors. The value of this analytical–methodological approach will be illustrated through notable financial transactions occurring in and across cities to emphasize their speculative and financial characteristics—specifically highlighting investments traversing cities of Spain, the USA, and India. The focus here is on financial strategies emerging from the detritus of the 2008 global financial crisis and shaped by the expanding discursive-material formation of speculative urbanism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)367-387
Number of pages21
JournalEnvironment and Planning A
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 12 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This work was supported by the Geographical Sciences, National Science Foundation (grant number BCS-1636437).

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.


  • Speculative urbanism
  • inter-scalar research methodology
  • provincializing global urbanism
  • relational–conjunctural analysis
  • urban financialization


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