Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)

Between collectivization and enclosure: examining the uneven provision of clean water, waste disposal and public space in rapidly growing cities

Programmegroup Political Sociology

Why do residents in rapidly growing cities succeed or fail to secure amenities required for their health, dignity, and comfort?

While engineers might see this as a technical question, this project focuses on the social relations that form around and through the setting up and governing of amenities for clean water, waste disposal, and public space. The provision of these amenities, of paramount importance to people’s lives and prominent on the policy agendas of governments and development agencies, is patchy and checkered, especially in the rapidly growing cities of the developing world. Charting and explaining the uneven development of amenities is therefore a vital task. The project uses extensive meta-reviews of the literature and detailed case studies of Accra (Ghana) and Istanbul (Turkey) to identify the conditions and mechanisms that explain why some people and places have privileged access to high-quality amenities while other people and places do not. 

The project is innovative on several fronts. Theoretically, it synthesizes bodies of literature that have much to offer to the analysis of amenities – and uneven development more generally – but which, to date, have not been brought into conversation: urban studies, figurational sociology, and common pool resource literature. Methodologically, it combines ethnography and Qualitative Comparative Analysis, elaborating QCA to identify conditions and mechanisms to account for specific pathways, and using ethnographic methods to analyze processes of collective action that have so far mostly been addressed through experiments and simulations. Finally, the project promises to “deparochialize” the study of cities – it does not simply project theory on cities outside of the West but uses the cases to rethink two foundational issues in the social sciences: differences in the capacity for collective action, and the origins of inequality. 

Period: January 1, 2018 - December 31, 2022
Funding: NWO VIDI

Published by  AISSR

14 March 2018