Session 46

K1 Engendering Urban Governance and Planning in the Global South: Methodological Issues and Challenges

Since the 1990s several states in the Global South have attempted democratic decentralization targeting economic growth, livelihood improvement, poverty reduction and most importantly, increased citizen participation in grassroots governance. The restructuring of urban locales and governance in consonance with the tenets of neoliberal project emphasised decentralization of authority and resources for ‘good governance’, touted as the easy panacea. In reality, success of the proposed agenda of neoliberal urban transformation in the Global South is disputable. The ongoing processes of urbanization and digitization is reframing the terrain of urban governance and the modes of political participation. What is often overlooked in this narrative is the pattern of women’s political participation and representation. Locating the gender question and specifically the modalities of women’s political participation within this context reveals the gender dimension of transforming urban local bodies and its extensive digitization. The difficulty in addressing these questions corresponds to methodological challenges. The methodological frameworks employed in studies pertaining to this domain need to inevitably capture simultaneous transformations, such as urbanization and digitization reshaping both urban local bodies and the gender question in governance. Besides, appropriate methodological tools are required to engage with the changes brought about in the fabric of urban local governance arrangements and how gender is implicated in it by the rampant digitization of public spaces. One needs to discern the specific methods to study both the substantive and descriptive representation of women in urban governance and how digitization is reframing the existing patterns of representations. Comparative frameworks are widely employed in studies of local governance and participation, however, the feasibility of comparative approach in comprehending the changes engendered by urbanization and digitization in the urban spaces across Global South as well as outlining the continuities and discontinuities in the different trajectories of neoliberal reforms of decentralized governance are critical challenges. Intersectionality is another crucial methodological tool in decoding the impact of the ongoing processes in the urban landscape, the scope and modalities of which are less documented in the scholarship. This session intends to address the following methodological challenges/issues: (1) Methodological challenges in attempting to understand the simultaneous processes of urbanization and digitization in the Global South; (2) Methodological tools that adequately engage the gender question in the context of shifting urban governance and digitization of public spaces; (3) The distinctively different applications of comparative approaches in outlining the trajectory of decentralized governance in urban spaces and the neoliberal policies; (4) Research methods that competently captures the gender dynamics of urban governance and women’s political participation in different contexts; (5) The different strategies of data collection, qualitative and quantitative methods as well as mixed methods, and analysis of the material by bringing in an intersectional perspective; (6) Possibilities and challenges of incorporating social and spatial research methods in addressing the gender question and political participation in governance; (7) Methodological issues involved in combining the domains of urban and gender studies; (8) Methodological frameworks suitable to navigate interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary domains; (9) The scopes of process oriented and historical methods in making sense of the urban governance landscape, and the gender dimensions of political participation and representation. The proposed session plans to glance at the processes of urbanization and digitization in the Global South and the resultant restructuring of the gender question and women’s political participation in urban governance. We invite papers exploring methodological issues and discussing novel methodological strategies in discerning the shifts in urban governance and women’s political participation in the Global South. The key focus area of the session is to initiate and sustain the discussions of methodological challenges in capturing and analysing urban governance and its gender dynamics against the backdrop of urbanization and digitization.