International Metropolitan Observatory Project

 

 

The International Metropolitan Observatory Project (IMO) is a global network of social scientists investigating cities
and their surrounding regions. Organized in 2002 at the initiative of Vincent Hoffmann-Martinot (CERVL-CNRS/ Sciences
Po Bordeaux) and Jefferey Sellers (University of Southern California, Los Angeles), the IMO is currently co-directed by
Jefferey Sellers and Daniel Kübler (University of Zürich).

The IMO arises from a need that many researchers have acknowledged to extend analysis of society and politics to the
extended urbanizing regions that increasingly dominate patterns of settlement around the world. The Project has a dual aim.
On the one hand it seeks to build a global database of comparable information on critical aspects of metropolitan regions.
At the same time, a coordinated series of workshops has analyzed crucial but neglected aspects of the politics and
governance of metropolitan regions from a systematic transnational perspective.

The Project first convened September 28, 2002 in Stuttgart, Germany. In 2003 the Poject received support
from the French GRALE (Groupement de Recherche sur l'Administration Locale en Europe) and the Centre
National de Recherche Scientifique to carry out a series of international workshops on metropolitan topics. Subsequent
workshops have been funded by the Thyssen Foundation and the University of Southern California Provost's Program
for Advancing Scholarship in the Humanities and Social Sciences. The workshops have consisted of papers prepared by
representatives from each country according to a jointly developed set of protocols. Within the participating countries, a
wide variety of national and local funders have helped support the research, from the Haynes Foundation and the
METRANS Center for Transportation Research in the United States to the Swiss NCCR Democracy 21, to the
Brazilian Center for Metropolitan Studies.

The first workshop, held in Bordeaux on January 9-10, 2004, included participants from a total of
sixteen countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North America. Participants gave an overview of the
metropolitan transformations currently under way in each country, along with the political implications. On the
basis of an agreed upon protocol designed to reconcile the international variations in metropolitan definitions, participants
were then asked to collect and analyze data on metropolitan areas with populations over 200,000. The analyses
focussed on recent trends toward exurban settlement and metropolitan polarization, on resemblances to the
stereotypical U.S. metropolitan patterns of suburbanization and segregation, on effects from metrpolitan settlement
and change on political behavior, and on plans for future workshops. Those papers were published in
Vincent Hoffmann-Martinot and Jefferey Sellers (eds.), Metropolitanization and Political Change
(Wiesbaden: Verlag fuer Sozialwissenschaften, 2005
; French edition CNRS Press 2007).

Reviews of Metropolitanization and Political Change: Cahiers de recherche du Programme Villes et Territoires, Local Government Studies, Le Monde, Public Administration.

The second phase of the project drew on an original dataset of electoral, demographic and spatial data form 14,000
localities in eleven countries to scrutinize the effects from emerging metropolitan patterns on changing partisan cleavages
and on voter turnout in national and local elections. Results from this phase, begun in workshops in Bordeaux in May
2005 and in Stuttgart in January 2007, has now been published in Jefferey Sellers, Daniel Kübler, Melanie Walter-Rogg
and Alan Walks (eds.), The Political Ecology of the Metropolis (Colchester and New York: ECPR Press and Columbia

University Press, 2013)
. The analyses of this volume reveal an emerging reterritorialization of politics around metropolitan
geographies across the developed world and beyond. One component shows how patterns of residence in metropolitan
regions account in large measure for new partisan political cleaveages. A second component, based on the first contextualized
comparative analysis of election turnout in national and local elections, shows that electoral participation also follows
metropolitan patterns. In both analyses, the variations within and between metropolitan regions go beyond what the
demographic composition of places can explain. Papers from this project have been presented at meetings of the International
Political Science Association, the European Consortium for Political Research, the American Political Science Association,
the Urban Affairs Association and numerous other venues. Project findings about the metropolitan bases of new political
cleavages were presented at panels of the Amercan Political Science Association Annual Meeting in Toronto, Canada and the
European Consortium for Political Research Biennial General Conference in Potsdam, Germany in September 2009. For
information on how to access the data for replication or futher analysis, click here.

Reviews of The Political Ecology of the Metropolis: Canadian Geographer, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, International Sociology, Journal of the American Planning Association, Journal of Politics, Party Politics, Revue francaise de science politique, Swiss Political Science Review.

The third phase focused on governance and metropolitan inequality. Results from this phase are now published in Jefferey
Sellers, Marta Arretche, Daniel Kübler, and Eran Razin (eds.), Inequality and Governance in the Metropolis: Regimes
of Place Equality and Fiscal Choices in Eleven Countries
(London: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2017)
. This phase built on the political, economic and spatial data from previous phases, and included leading scholars working on several large developing countries. The analysis focused on the spatial inequality that increasingly characterize major metropolitan regions worldwide. Fiscal and other data were analyzed to examine how policies and institutions at national, regional and metropolitan levels have
aggravated or mitigated disparities in local services across metropolitan regions. Papers from this project were presented at a
workshop at the European Consortium for Political Research Joint Workshops in Rennes in April 2008, a second workshop in
January 2009 at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, and subsequent panels at meetings of the International
Political Science Association and the American Political Science Association.

Subsequent phases of the Project are also under development. The coordinators welcome feedback as well as inquiries about
opportunities for collaboration in this emerging, increasingly important research agenda.

 


Kübler homepage | Sellers homepage
University of Zürich Institute of Political Science | USC Political Science
USC Center for International Studies
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