Worlding cities through transportation infrastructure

Creighton CONNOLLY*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


This paper engages with emerging literature on worlding cities in analysing the contested ways in which mid-sized cities attempt to ‘globalize’ through the redevelopment of urban infrastructure, and in particular, transportation infrastructure. The paper focuses specifically on the World Heritage City of Penang, Malaysia and critically examines controversies over the extensive urban redevelopment and regeneration projects that have emerged since 2012. In particular, it examines the ambitious Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP), which has posed considerable implications for the city’s heritage landscapes, but also several socio-environmental impacts. The paper analyses the state government’s vision for the PTMP, before turning to an alternative strategy and critique of this plan put forth by local civil society organizations. As I demonstrate, both plans make use of worlding strategies in ‘selling’ their particular vision for the city’s future, but the ways they do so are markedly different. In reviewing this case, the paper challenges the conceptualization of inter-referencing and urban modelling practices as it is currently documented in the literature on worlding cities. What is novel in Penang is the way local stakeholders identify comparable cities outside of the Global North as models to follow, rather than established mega- or ‘world’ cities, which act as more realistic reference points. In doing so, the paper highlights key technologies of governance that are being used to counter the neoliberal worlding strategies put forth by city managers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)617-635
Number of pages19
JournalEnvironment and Planning A
Issue number3
Early online date18 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research for this paper was made possible by funding from the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore (NUS). I am grateful to the Penang Forum for allowing me to reproduce the figures included in this article. I would like to thank Erik Swyngedouw, Rachel Bok, and members of the Politics Economies and Space (PEAS) Research Group at NUS for helpful comments on previous drafts of this paper. I also appreciate the suggestions of three anonymous reviewers, which helped to clarify my arguments and writing.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2018.


  • governance
  • heritage
  • Malaysia
  • planning
  • transportation infrastructure
  • Worlding


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