Desakota and beyond: Neoliberal production of suburban space in Manila's fringe

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36 Scopus citations


The term desakota, a mixed urban-rural space adjacent to a metropolitan area, has been substantially used to depict a distinct Southeast Asian urban phenomenon. Invoking the resistant and anti-essentialist aspect of this concept, I offer a critical interrogation of suburban developments in a Global South setting, in particular in Manila's urban fringe, by grounding it within neoliberal restructuring in the Philippines. As the Philippines continues to experience sustained real estate growth eliciting jubilant support from both the state and the market, vast tracks of land on Manila's fringe have been converted to multiple gated residential subdivision developments. Using the case study of Canlubang, I problematize the accelerated production of these suburban spaces in two ways. One, I foreground their historical economic, social, political, and geographical relations and contestations involving multiple actors, such as landed elites, taipans, Overseas Filipinos, dispossessed farmers, and indigenous peoples. Second, I unpack these highly preferred developments by linking them to the continued land struggles of farmers and persistent dominance of political-economic elites in the Philippines. As farmers face numerous acts of harassment, violence, and demolition to make way for these developments, several farming communities have managed to sustain their resistance to these projects. These spatial narratives offer possible theoretical and empirical trajectories that elucidate grounded contingencies between urbanization and neoliberalization in multiple contexts and illustrate the instability of urban futures projected by neoliberal visions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1118-1143
Number of pages26
JournalUrban Geography
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 1 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Philippines
  • desakota
  • gated communities
  • neoliberalism
  • suburban

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Urban Studies


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