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Understanding and researching urban extreme poverty: a conceptual–methodological approach

Published in Environment and Urbanization, 32(1).


Urban extreme poverty has long been regarded as a vital challenge for policy and practice, but how might we research it? In this article, we set out a two-step approach to identifying and understanding the nature of urban extreme poverty (UEP). We experiment with an approach that does not define UEP in advance but seeks to examine it through a series of dimensions and approaches. Drawing on the long history of research on UEP, we argue that research would benefit from early scoping in context. This scoping begins by examining how UEP surfaces in relation to five dimensions: material, economic, political, spatial and emotional–subjective. From that base, we argue for a focus on the causes and form of UEP through dialogue among four epistemic approaches: political economy, political ecology, feminist urbanism and postcolonial urbanism. We illustrate this approach in relation to two quite distinct cities: Mumbai and Lima.

Suggested citations: Yap, C. & McFarlane, C. (2020) Understanding and researching urban extreme poverty: a conceptual-methodological approach.  Environment and Urbanization, 32(1). Available:


Key Words  feminist urbanism / political ecology / political economy / postcolonial urbanism / urban extreme poverty / urban poverty


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