Bangkok – Mumbai

For the lack of better photography, but in need of some color on this page, this tree from Bangkok photographed during a nightly stroll

I am trying to put together a comparative paper on slums in Mumbai and Bangkok, which draws some inspiration from my work on Tokyo. It is basically about comparing the spatial distribution of slum populations across the cities. Some thoughts following the jump. Continue reading

For the record

This blog has been a true companion for much of the last decade, but it has been strangely difficult to express myself here during the last 24 months or so, two of the most difficult and eventful years.

For me COVID-19 coincided with major personal upheavals, or should I say caused one another. All this has made regularly updating this blog, beyond the usual professional tidbits, a lot harder. (Lack of) time was only one factor.

There used to be a more innocent time in which I posted travelogues here, anecdotes from around the world, as well as other reflections. My mind is brimming with these as usual, but putting them down to paper has just proven one effort too much lately.

This has created a personal precedent – for the first time in all these years, I have left little in the way of digital memory, something which I had grown so accustomed to — think of it as the annual scrolling through the year’s travails and finding pride and direction in it. Blogs are vanity projects after all.

This was brought home to me to today when my wife needed a stock photo from Myanmar for her work, and we easily found one on the archives here, taken on a trip we took a long time back.

So this blog really has really become a record of my (and her!) life. Why has this crazy recent period got such little airtime but will, in hindsight, prove so transformative? is a question I don’t want to leave unanswered.

A series of changes to my life (one of the major ones being that we are moving to Australia this December!) will allow me to “close” the preceding chapter, with some personal blog posts about to be written. That’s before I find a new professional focus, be it a new book project or whatever will keep me occupied down under.

OAG talk

I gave a talk to the “Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Natur- und Voelkerkunde Ostasiens” (OAG, German East Asiatic Society) yesterday. After 20 years of living abroad, this was a great opportunity to translate some of my research into my mother tongue German. I spoke for about an hour, which allowed for quite an in-depth tour of the various themes that I have also explored over the years on this blog. The presentation can be downloaded here. I also translated it into English.

FIRE

I rarely write on anything else than Tokyo on this blog anymore. But I have previously used this blog to reflect on some more personal financey topics, especially in this fiery treatise arguing against our real estate obsession which got a good deal of clicks.

Other posts in this category included those on impact investing and the state of economics education, among others. Anyway, this just to refresh my mind and gather some courage to stray from the all-too-familiar Tokyo and Yangon posts this blog has seen over the last few years.

FIRE (short for “financial independence, retire early”): First off, I am not among the initiated, and do approach the movement with some skepticism. I hope that such transparency upfront creates some goodwill among the believers. Continue reading

ARCH+ Contested Modernities

I wrote an article for the current issue (#243) of ARCH+, a German magazine for architecture and urbanism. This special issue is entitled “Contested Modernities” and about the development of postcolonial modernisms in Southeast Asia.

My contribution recounts the works of Raglan Squire and Benjamin Polk, who left their mark on Yangon’s built environment and ought to be rediscovered today. I have written about their work and my research on this blog before.

The edition is in German and has an impressive list of authors, covering a wide geography and breadth of topics. An English edition will be published in the fall.

Space egalitarianism

The latest paper drawing on my PhD has now been published with the International Journal for Urban Sustainable Development. It covers one of the main threads of the dissertation, i.e. decreasing intra-urban inequalities during Tokyo’s rapid growth phase between 1955-1975. The two anonymous reviewers’ comments made me change the final section quite considerably, and their feedback was highly appreciated. Get in touch if you need the full paper. What follows is the abstract.

Intra-urban inequalities during rapid development: space egalitarianism in Tokyo between 1955-1975

This paper demonstrates empirically that Tokyo’s rapid post-war growth coincided with decreasing intra-urban inequalities in the special ward area, both in terms of private and public living standards. This phenomenon has not received much attention to date because Japan’s income inequalities were generally very low during this period. However, megacity growth of this kind is normally associated with growing segregation. This paper develops the narrative of ‘spatial egalitarianism’. It attributes low intra-urban inequalities to Tokyo’s homogenous urban form, equal economic structure of its neighbourhoods, and a redistributive intermediate layer of government that took a hands-off approach to urban planning. The implications are of relevance to today’s developing megacities in Asia and beyond.

Describing “Emergent Tokyo”

Drawing on my AAS presentation (already recorded, to be aired at the end of March 2021) I would like to write up another journal article on the “Tokyo model”. This would mean that all of my dissertation has been “used” and published in some form or another. For the sake of self-inspiration I will sketch out a skeleton of the article after the break.  Continue reading

The Tokyo Moment: What Developing Cities Can Learn From The Postwar Japanese Capital

Tokyo is Asia’s first megacity: its urban agglomeration topped the symbolic ten million inhabitants marker sometime after World War II. While it had been one of the world’s largest cities for centuries, arguably its most relevant growth spurt took place between 1950 and 1970. It was during this period that the already enormous urban agglomeration doubled in population. I call this phase of the city history the “Tokyo moment” (i.e., twenty years of rapid population growth to an already large urban area).

Read the whole article on The Metropole, the Urban History Association’s official blog.

Tripitaka on my mind

A short but beautiful trip in late 2019 was the last time I managed to set foot in Yangon, visiting the magical Tripitaka Library and being shown around inside. A few photos from the inside below, dug up from the SD card today. Looking at them feels strange, it is February 2021 after all and our friends in Yangon are going through some hard times.

Continue reading