The term BRIC was used initially in an analytical sense to refer to a grouping of countries beyond the West with the potential to reconfigure the geography of the global economy. After 2009 however it referred to a political alliance with geopolitical intentions (with BRIC becoming BRICS when South Africa joined in 2010). The construct is under pressure in terms of its analytical and political use as BRICS economies have become increasingly differentiated in terms of economic performance and as severe diplomatic tensions have emerged within the alliance.
In this seminar we discuss ongoing comparative work on cities in the BRICS, a grouping of countries that account for nearly 40% of the world’s total urban population. With the enormous diversity of the BRICS in almost all categories – including scale, economic performance, levels and rates of urbanisation, income and governance – questions arise over the meaning and purpose of comparison. We discuss the challenge of comparison but nevertheless show how very different places can be drawn into a meaningful comparative conversation. There is however a significant point of commonality. All countries in the BRICS have experienced far-reaching political and/or economic transformations over the past few decades in a way that the global West has not.
In the presentation we show how these macro changes have been translated into urban change, but also show how differences in the national and local management of these processes account in part for significant differences (and similarities) across the BRICS in terms of urban outcomes. We use the different trajectories of metropolitan governance as an illustrative case.