Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley Electronic Theses and Dissertations bannerUC Berkeley

Speculative Urbanism: The Remaking of Phnom Penh


This dissertation examines the emergence of Phnom Penh as a city of speculation. It focuses, in particular, on the formation of speculative markets in real estate and the politics of urban renewal financed over the last decade in large part by Asian developers. Positioned as the next "Asian" city in a region of booming metropolises, the city's promise lies in its economic and spatial future. As such, this dissertation pays close attention to the city's integration into inter-Asian circulations of capital and imaginaries of urban modernity. Speculation organizes all economies functioning as the linchpin between risk and reward. But in a city without a master plan or without the formal valuation of property, speculation in Phnom Penh functions in various formats. It is a logic based on the overregulation of law. It is a platform in the production of space with property - its commodification and exchange - central to creating value. It is a form of governance structured as networks of relations between Asian investors, state officials, and Cambodian power brokers who negotiate opportunities and access to the economy. It is based on social ties that shape markets and mitigate risk through intimate and unofficial knowledge of the economy. It is the politics of anticipation in which claims to the future must be staked in the present. In a context where the city's real estate is among the most expensive in Southeast Asia, this dissertation is designed to help illuminate the productive life of speculation not only as the urbanization of capital but as an inter-Asian capitalization of growth.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View