SSA conference in Beijing to explore the impacts of globalization and urbanization

Release Date: 
Wednesday, June 20, 2012

By William Harms.

The University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration will host researchers from China, India and South Korea during a June 27-29 conference at the University’s Center in Beijing to discuss the impacts of globalization and urbanization.

“Scholars at SSA increasingly recognize new challenges brought on by globalization and the major in-migration of people to cities around the world,” said SSA Dean Neil Guterman, the Mose & Sylvia Firestone Professor.

“This conference is an important opportunity for us to share what we’ve learned and learn from the experiences of others who have been studying these issues, from the perspective of leading scholars in three of Asia’s most rapidly developing nations,” he said.

Globalization and urbanization have improved individual incomes and led to modernizations in major cities, but also have led to a number of social problems and policy challenges, said Robert Chaskin, associate professor at SSA and organizer of the event, “International Perspectives on Social Policy and Urban Problems.”

“In some cases, for example, urban in-migration has catalyzed the growth of large, dense, informal settlements on the fringes of central cities or in their midst,” he said. “In others, processes of redevelopment have led to gentrification of central-city areas and displacement of the poor.

These population shifts also have resulted in increased concentrations of poverty and crime and emerging public health concerns. The changes also have increased disparities between the wealthy and poor, especially in health and education, Chaskin said.

“All these challenges place significant burdens, and often new responsibilities, on social service systems and urban governance regimes, both regarding their attention to seeking to alleviate the problem at hand and to spearhead efforts to design systems and strategies for prevention,” he explained.

“The goal of this seminar is to bring together scholars from a small set of relevant countries to explore knowledge about, policy responses to, and enduring questions regarding these changes and the processes that lie behind them around particular substantive themes,” he added.

The conference is a partnership with the Peking University Department of Sociology and Social Welfare and the University of Chicago Center in Beijing. In addition to UChicago scholars, the conference also will feature presentations from researchers at Peking University, the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, Seoul National University in South Korea, and other academic institutions around the world.

SSA faculty members taking part in the seminar in addition to Guterman and Chaskin will be Charles Payne, the Frank P. Hixon Distinguished Service Professor; and Mark Courtney and Colleen Grogan, both professors at SSA.

“I am delighted to welcome our colleagues from the SSA to the Center to discuss social policy and urban problems in a global and comparative setting, ” said Dali Yang, professor in Political Science and the faculty director of the Center in Beijing.

The seminar will provide an opportunity for scholars to present current research around these themes, discuss the implications of this work in specific contexts and cross-nationally, and explore new directions in scholarship. The conference will discuss the impact of globalization and related policy responses as well as topics such as child welfare, education, urban poverty and health disparities. 

In addition to academic publications based on the presentation, the seminar may eventually evolve into a series of similar, periodic gatherings, Chaskin said.

“Potentially, this effort could catalyze the development of a small set of cross-national working groups or research networks, each focused on a particular thematic area, which could meet periodically to share research findings, provide critique and response to one another’s work, pursue collaborative publication, or develop longer-term research projects,” he said.

The workshop on social policy and urban problems caps a busy year at the Center in Beijing. More than 60 conferences, workshops and public lectures have been held or given at the Center in Beijing since its inauguration in September 2010.