Making up the global city: the financing and governing of urban infrastructural futures


2 Minute read

The key research goals in this project are:

  • To understand how different actors and institutions have articulated their global city aspirations since the shift to a more entrepreneurial and globally oriented system of urban governance in the early 1990s. It will analyse how these aspirations have shaped urban infrastructural pathways.
  • To investigate how urban infrastructure development is currently being used as a worlding strategy by different actors and institutions. It will investigate whose global city aspirations are likely to be tied into the next generation of infrastructure that is being proposed and planned for construction.
  • To identify alternative global city futures articulated by civic actors and to explore at which points they resist or cohere.

The details

Many cities around the world are struggling with how to finance and govern their transport infrastructure. Faced with a range of economic, environmental, political and social challenges, many cities are now learning from each other, experimenting with a range of models. For cities in the most industrialised countries, this involves both existing and new infrastructure.

Moreover, the value of infrastructure is increasingly understood not just in terms of the successful movement of a city’s population. Rather there is a sense that, for a city to be perceived as global, it must have a certain set of transport infrastructures. Transport infrastructure is used by those who govern cities to project them into the world economy and to position them to capture and retain global capital flows. At the same time, cities have also sought to use transport infrastructure to address issues of inequality and social exclusion, aspiring to produce a more inclusive and just city.

This project contributes to a growing body of work that seeks to understand the explicit ‘global’ aspirations of urban actors and the ways in which these are materialised through transport infrastructure projects. Here, ‘making up’ refers to the global aspirations that are ‘made up’ or imagined by different actors and the processes through which they are projected onto and physically ‘made up’ through infrastructure. Guided by Ananya Roy and Aihwa Ong’s conceptualisation of worlding as the “ongoing art of being global” (Ong, 2011, p3), this paper adopts the view that there is no singular formulation of ‘global’ and no set pathway to becoming global.

These themes are explored through a comparative case study of worlding in Manchester and Melbourne. The first part of this research will tease out what ‘global’ means in these cities and why becoming global has seemingly become a dominant and prevailing aspiration. To then explore how visions of becoming global become embodied within infrastructure, this study analyses the production of the Metrolink tram system in Manchester and the Airport Rail Link in Melbourne.

Through these projects, this study will compare worlding in the context of two urban and governance contexts, an almost-fully-built project and a not-yet-built project and two rail-based infrastructures that serve different types of journeys in the city.

The graduate researcher on this project is: Caitlin Morrissey

Supervision team

First published on 8 July 2022.

Share this article