Dynamics of Global Mobility

The world recently witnessed a major global milestone: more than half of the world’s population is now living in cities.  Most population projections for urban areas suggest that the number of people living in cities and their metropolitan regions will continue to grow exponentially. According to the World Health Organization (2013):

The global urban population is expected to grow roughly 1.5% per year, between 2025-2030. By the middle of the 21st century, the urban population will almost double, increasing from approximately 3.4 billion in 2009 to 6.4 billion in 2050.

This exponential urban growth is particularly visible in the rise of mega-cities: cities with a population in excess of ten million people.  Now more than ever, people, goods, and capital move across borders, contributing to complex and continuously changing urban environments.  This massive growth in cities creates both challenges and opportunities for metropolitan life.  GCI is on the forefront of this research, contributing research and policy solutions that keep up with the ever-changing dynamics of global mobility.

Learning & Exchange

In October 2013, Great Cities Institute launched its research cluster, Dynamics of Global Mobility, with an interdisciplinary symposium of UIC and international scholars, entitled, Cities Across the Globe. A second symposium was held on April 29, 2015.  Both symposia served as the jump off for a GCI research group of UIC, national, and international scholars that are focusing on international cities, providing a space for inter-disciplinary dialogue on challenges and successes on a global scale. This GCI Working Group will result in a series of publications the first of which is an edited volume from Routledge Press on disassembled cities. To check out videos from the 2013 and 2015 symposia, visit the Cities Across the Globe media page

GCI regularly hosts international visiting scholars and guests – both individuals and delegations. In the 2012-2013 academic year, GCI received visitors from Chile, Russia, South Korea, and United Kingdom.  In 2013, the GCI sponsored conference on Participatory Budgeting drew participants from over 70 cities in 17 countries. In the 2013-2014 academic year, we hosted international visitors from Turkey, Poland, Russia, United Kingdom, Ireland, Mexico, among others. Since 2014, guests and delegations to GCI have traveled from Australia, Canada, China, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, France, Great Britain, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Liberia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Russia, Spain, South Africa, and Turkey.   For six consecutive years, a delegation of civic leaders from Russia has spent a day at GCI. The visit is organized and supported by Open World Leadership Center (Library of Congress), American Council of Civil Society in Russia, Inc., Moscow School of Civic Education, and UIC Great Cities Institute. The Moscow School of Civic Education, a non-governmental organization, was established in 1993 “to promote the development of civil society in Russia.”

In 2013, GCI hosted Elif Kalan from Turkey, as part of U.S. Department of State’s Professional Fellows Program. Eon O’Neil was a visiting scholar from Dublin.  Catherin Durose, from the University of Birmingham, UK spent the summer of 2014 with us while she conducted her research. For two months in Spring 2016, Laura Pin was a visiting scholar from Canada. For four weeks in Fall 2016, GCI hosted Santiago Martinzez Jaramillo, from Colombia, a fellow with World Chicago’s Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative. Though not international, Mérida M. Rúa, Director of Latino Studies at Williams College, spent a year in residence at Great Cities Institute.

GCI also travels to interface with partners in other countries. These visits typically include formal presentations by GCI staff at academic colloquia, as exemplified in visits to Birmingham, UK; Istanbul, Turkey; and Guayaquil and Quito, Ecuador.  Most recently, a GCI delegation attended UN Habitat III gathering in Quito Ecuador, a major international gathering of over 35,000 attendees, during which time, New Urban Agenda, also known as the Quito Declaration, was adopted.

Current Dynamics of Global Mobility Research Cluster Projects

International Trade and Community Development

Great Cities Institute and the Republic of Ecuador’s Minister of International Trade, Diego Aulestia, formed a partnership to assess the connections and possibilities between international trade and community development. The Great Cities Institute produced a research report to him, titled: “Exports, Policy Choices, and Economic Growth for Ecuador: Achieving the Plan Nacional del Buen Vivir” (PNBV).  The report presented policy options for Ecuador’s goals for “Strategic Insertion in the World” and for establishing a solidarity-based and sustainable socio-economic system. As part of its partnership with the Ministry, GCI hosted the Minister and his entourage multiple times and members of GCI staff traveled to Ecuador to attend meetings, conduct interviews, tour key projects, and present research at two universities.

Global Health & Well-Being Research Seed Grant Program

Through the UIC Global Excellence Task Force, the Chancellor’s Office created the Global Health seed fund. Adminstered by the UIC College of Medicine’s Center for Global Health with the help of GCI, the annual seed grant program is designed to foster new trans-disciplinary and mixed and multiple methods research in global health and well-being at UIC. In particular, these grants will encourage new pilot research with a substantial likelihood of gaining external funding or that can be completed with a limited budget.

Ending Violence against Arab Women: Transnational Approaches across Four Cities

While a GCI Faculty Scholar, Nadine Naber worked on her book, Ending Violence against Arab Women: Transnational Approaches across Four Cities.  Overall, her work illustrates that state violence (poverty and militarism) are themselves forms of gender violence and that state violence and individualized forms of violence magnify each other. The contributions based on her work are more urgent than ever before since gender violence is on the rise in the Arab region. Moreover, Arab women living in major U.S. cities such as Detroit and Chicago have virtually no resources for responding to the problem of gender violence. Dr. Naber’s contributions will assist those developing strategies for ending violence that are actually relevant to the complex realities of Arab women’s lives.


GCI contributes to and participates in the multi-faceted programs and research at UIC on topics of immigration, displacement, and the formation of diaspora communities.

New African Diaspora in Chicago: Memories, Maps, and Communities

GCI Faculty Scholar Lynette Jackson’s project, “New African Diaspora in Chicago: Memories, Maps, and Communities,” has two major objectives. The first is to respond to the paucity of detailed and in-depth studies on Chicago’s growing African immigrant and refugee communities, specifically those coming from the following three regions of the African continent: Northeastern Africa (Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia), Mano River States (Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea) and Great Lake Region (Burundi, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.) The second is to interrogate the way in which the protean term African diaspora is deployed, particularly in the media and by various non-governmental, national and multilateral organizations.

Chicago Youth in the Survival Sex Economy: Sexualities, Poverty, Race, and the Law

GCI Faculty Scholar Laurie Schaffner is taking a closer look at underlying assumptions about youth, sex, mortality, and the law. She is analyzing 250 qualitative field interviews with self-identified young people who had ever traded sex for money or survival needs in the streets of Chicago during the time period 2011 to 2013 as a part of a national seven-city study of the commercial sexual exploitation of children, funded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention of the U.S. Department of Justice. Through this, she intends to decipher popular vocabulary as we seek solutions to the problem of poor youth exchanging sex in the streets, clubs, strolls, and cars in Chicago. Her research captures a rich sociological view of an issue that affects millions of families and communities around the world, across the nation, and here in Chicago.

Trans-Urban Imaginaries of Transport:

Urban Labor and the Taxi Trade in Mumbai and Manila/Singapore Style

GCI Faculty Scholar Tarini Bedi, assistant professor of Anthropology, brings the social into transport research, exploring the social, cultural, and economic life of transport through the networks of those who drive for a living in the transport and motoring trades, specifically in the taxi-trade. The project seeks to understand how taxi-drivers in the model city (Singapore) and the two modeled cities (Mumbai and Manila) respond to, adapt to, and shape the changes to their industry. It seeks to contribute to the understanding of comparative Asian urbanism, transformations of labor structures in Asian contexts of globalization, and the comparative study of the social networks of labor that surround transport infrastructures. This project seeks to explore the convergences, flows, distinctions, and frictions that present themselves in the efforts to corporatize the taxi trade in these three cities.

Walled Cities

Over the last twenty years, the landscapes of cities throughout the world have been transformed by the construction of walled enclosures. What explains the proliferation of these 21st century separation walls?  GCI Faculty Scholar Andy Clarno, assistant professor of Sociology and African American Studies, attempts to answer this question through an analysis of walled enclosures in Johannesburg and Jerusalem. What explains the different forms that these enclosures take?  To carry out this research, Clarno brings together the tools of comparative urban ethnography and comparative historical sociology.  His research focuses on: the relationship between neoliberal restructuring and the political transitions in each state, the growth of marginalized populations, the politics of security, and the production of walled enclosures.

Asia and China Research Program

GCI established the Asia and China Research Program in 2007, led by Professor Tingwei Zhang. The Program was initiated with an agreement between GCI and Guangxi Institute of Architectural Design and Research (GIADR), Guangxi Province in China.

The agreement provides funding for research and exchange between GCI and GIADR, around issues of importance to Southeast Asian countries, especially China. Collaborative research focused on economic, political, environmental, urban planning, and architectural issues, as they provide opportunities for exchange of ideas that mutually benefit both universities.

With the extension of the 2009 agreement between GCI-ACRG and Guangxi Hualan Planning and Development Consulting Group, a new project started in February 2014 on the comparative study of economic transition and spatial reorganization in the city of Nanning, China and Chicago. The project explores strategies employed by the municipal governments of the two cities in the globalization era.