Urban Studies Peri-Urban Development
Yuze Yang, Lin Ye
  • LAST REVIEWED: 17 April 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 October 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780190922481-0008


The study of urban periphery has become an emerging theme in urban and regional research in recent decades. Peri-urban development often refers to the space where city meets the countryside and is also often referred to as urban–rural interface, peri-urban area, edge city, and even suburbs. It is hard to exactly identify the urban periphery since it lacks a clear theoretical definition and material boundary. Some regard it as the space between urban and rural, while some consider it as a dynamic process of the transformation from rural to urban. The ambiguity of peri-urban area has led to neglect and ignorance in both urban and rural studies for a long period, but nowadays an increasing number of scholars have begun to realize that the peri-urban area has its unique characteristics, needs, and problems, which may induce great challenges and opportunities to regional development and governance. Peri-urban development is not limited to individual countries or regions; rather, it is pervasive all over the world, not only in developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America but also in developed nations in Europe, North America, and Australia. Nor is peri-urban development an isolated process. It is a broad issue related to a wide range of topics including economic growth, land use transformation, public service provision, ecological conservation, urban planning, social equity, and so on. It shows strong diversity and heterogeneity in driving forces, process, and effects, which highly depend on specific contexts and reflect a complex nature and endless possibilities. Both the similarity and variation in peri-urban development in different parts of the world requires careful attention and thorough examination.

General Overviews

The World Urbanization Prospects 2018 report indicates that over 55 percent of the world population is now urban, with the expectation that the proportion will rise to almost 60 percent over the next decade. Although “being urban” has been a widely recognized development pattern across the world, it is not entirely clear about its concept and scope. There is space surrounding urban areas, which is peri-urban development that poses an important challenge for people to be living in “urban” areas. These peri-urban areas are transitional places between urban and rural that are important from spatial, economic, social and even political aspects. This section contains articles and books focusing on peri-urban development from both empirical and theoretical perspectives. Coming from the perspective of theoretical research, Iaquinta and Drescher 2000 examines the definitions and typologies of peri-urban areas and summarizes five major peri-urban patterns. Adell 1999 provides a systematic review of theories and models in the field of peri-urban interface. Phillips, et al. 1999 and Ros-Tonen, et al. 2015 offer illuminating literature reviews on peri-urban governance. Other works investigate peri-urban development based on case studies in different countries. McGee 1991 puts forward the concept of desakota to depict the peri-urban areas in South Asia. Moench and Gyawali 2008 further develops the concept system of desakota phenomenon based on literature review and case studies. In addition, Brook, et al. 2001 and Chirisa, et al. 2016 examine the peri-urban development in Africa covering a wide range of issues. Lynch 2005 focuses on the interaction between urban and rural and discusses aspects on the flows within urban–rural interface. Saunders 2010 depicts the grand picture of peri-urban spaces fulfilled with conflicts, failures, collaborations and opportunities, which Saunders calls arrival cities. The works in this section are helpful in establishing a preliminary understanding of peri-urban areas and the pattern of development.

  • Adell, German. Theories and Models of the Peri-Urban Interface: A Changing Conceptual Landscape. Strategic Environmental Planning and Management for the Peri-Urban Interface Research Project Report. Development Planning Unit, University College London, 1999.

    This report provides an ideal access to understand the complex definitions, theories, and models of peri-urban areas. It consists of debates focusing on concepts of peri-urban interface, discussions about different regional development paradigms, and several case studies in Asian countries. The author examines peri-urban areas in a broader field of rural–urban linkages and regional networks to offer an illuminating analysis on the conceptual issues of peri-urban development.

  • Brook, Robert, Sangeetha Purushothaman, and Chandrashekhar Hunshal. Changing Frontiers: The Peri-Urban Interface Hubli-Dharwad, India. Bangalore, India: Books for Change, 2001.

    The authors examine the conditions and effects of peri-urban interface based on a seven-year case study of Hubli-Dharwad in India. They analyze the agricultural systems, land use patterns, environmental conditions, water resources, livelihoods, poverty, and health and markets in peri-urban areas. This book offers an ideal access to understand the uniqueness of peri-urban interface and its problems and needs in developing countries.

  • Chirisa, Innocent, Elias Mazhindu, and Elmond Bandauko. Peri-Urban Developments and Processes in Africa with Special Reference to Zimbabwe. Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2016.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-34231-3

    This book explores the process of peri-urban development in Africa especially in Zimbabwe. It discusses a broad range of issues including economic transformation, environmental problems, public services, infrastructure building, land use policies, and so on. It provides a better understanding of how peri-urban areas develop and how peri-urban dwellers survive in Africa.

  • Iaquinta, David L., and Axel W. Drescher. “Defining Peri-Urban: Understanding Rural–Urban Linkages and Their Connection to Institutional Contexts.” Food and Agricultural Organization 2 (2000): 9–26.

    The authors develop a typology of peri-urban and discuss related institutional contexts. They divide peri-urban into five categories including village peri-urban, diffuse peri-urban, chain peri-urban, in-place peri-urban, and absorbed peri-urban. They also analyze the institutional context related to each typology, including the network induced institutional context, amalgamated institutional context, reconstituted institutional context, traditional institutional context, and residual institutional context. This paper provides a basic framework for understanding complex peri-urban phenomena.

  • Lynch, Kenneth. Rural–Urban Interaction in the Developing World. New York: Routledge, 2005.

    In this book, Lynch emphasizes the importance of flows and interactions between rural and urban areas and challenges the distinction between urban and rural. The author systematically examines a wide range of issues on urban–rural interface including the flows of food, natural resources, people, information and finance in developing countries both theoretically and practically.

  • McGee, Terence Gary. “The Emergence of Desakota Regions in Asia: Expanding a Hypothesis.” In The Extended Metropolis: Settlement Transition in Asia. Edited by Norton Sydney Ginsburg, Bruce Koppel, and Terence Gary McGee, 3–25. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1991.

    The author challenges the traditional urban–rural paradigm and put forward the concept of desakota to identity the spatial and economic transition in Asian countries. Desakota is defined as regions of intense mixture of agricultural and nonagricultural activities that often stretch along corridors between large city cores. It can be seen as one of the earliest concepts on peri-urban areas and has posed an impressive impact on subsequent research.

  • Moench, Marcus, and Dipak Gyawali. Desakota: Reinterpreting the Urban Rural Continuum. Final Report Desakota II A. Natural Environment Research Council, London, 2008.

    The authors investigate the impacts of economic globalization and ecosystems services on desakota regions. They further improve the concept system of desakota and identify seven criteria to identity a desakota, including linkage to a metropolitan center, available daily labor market, mixture of urban and rural activities, and so on. The authors also discuss the institutional challenges in desakota regions and develop the concept framework of interlinkages in the Desakota Phenomenon.

  • Phillips, David, Keith Williams, Gavin Andrews, et al. 1999. Literature Review on Peri-Urban Natural Resource Conceptualisation and Management Approaches, Final Technical Report. University of Nottingham and University of Liverpool, DFID Natural Resources Systems Programme.

    This report makes an effort to consolidate literature on peri-urban natural resource conceptualization and management approaches in developing countries. It examines the definition of peri-urban interface and related conceptual issues including land and economic activities, social issues, and environmental impacts. This report also analyzes the development and application of environmental planning and management approaches and examines two application cases in Ghana and India.

  • Ros-Tonen, Mirjam, Pouw Nicky, and Bavinck Maarten. “Governing Beyond Cities: The Urban-Rural Interface.” In Geographies of Urban Governance. Edited by J. Gupta, K. Pfeffer, H. Verrest, and M. Ros-Tonen, 85–105. Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2015.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-21272-2_5

    The authors review the literature on urban–rural interface and linkages and provide suggestions for governance on peri-urban areas. They emphasize three major problems in peri-urban governance including fragmentation, institutional inertia and the inability to realize inclusive development. Then they present six institutional design dimensions for a more inclusive governance including integration, interaction, multilevel governance, adaptiveness, continuous and shared learning, and an inclusive development perspective.

  • Saunders, Doug. Arrival City: How the Largest Migration in History Is Reshaping Our World. London: Random House, 2010.

    This book depicts a special kind of space the author calls “arrival city,” which generally refers to the informal settlements or urban villages located in urban peripheries as the first destination for rural immigrants. Drawing on more than twenty cases of different countries and regions, the author investigates how immigrants come, acclimate, and move upwards within arrival cities and emphasizes the transition function of such peri-urban spaces.

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