Working Paper

STEPS Working Paper No.35

On the Edge of Sustainability: Perspectives on Peri-urban Dynamics

Published on 1 January 2009

This paper examines some of the many ways in which the peri-urban has been theorised, considering, in particular, the implications for a normative research agenda towards improved environmental and social justice. The paper discusses the value of different notions of sustainability in the context of the peri-urban, challenging the view that ‘sustainability’ is not an appropriate goal in relation to cities which are seen, by some urban theorists, as inherently ‘unsustainable’. Drawing on examples, largely from south Asia, in health service provision, water management and agriculture and food systems, the particular challenges posed by the peri-urban situation in relation to environmental integrity and social justice are reviewed (in line with the STEPS definition of Sustainability which emphases that the objects being sustained are increasing levels of social justice and enhancing environmental integrity). The contribution of both peri-urban theoretical conceptualisations and empirical research to date in the context of Sustainability goals are reviewed, offering suggestions for complementary approaches and progression. Drawing on a notion of pathways (as self reinforcing trajectories of change – both existing and potential), alternative perspectives in planning and management of the peri-urban are considered through examples from policy and practice across sectors; initiatives to increase participation in urban planning processes; citizen action to mobilise access to key resources for the poor, and the engagement of poor and marginalised groups.

Cite this publication

Marshall, F., Waldman, L., MacGregor, H., Mehta, L. and Randhawa, P. (2009) On the Edge of Sustainability: Perspectives on Peri-urban Dynamics, STEPS Working Paper 35, Brighton: STEPS Centre


Linda Waldman

Director of Teaching and Learning

Hayley MacGregor

Research Fellow

Lyla Mehta

Professorial Fellow

Pritpal Randhawa

Research Officer

Publication details

published by
STEPS Centre
Marshall, F., Waldman, L., MacGregor, H., Mehta, L. and Randhawa, P.
STEPS Working Paper, issue 35


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