University of Southern California

International Metropolitan Observatory Project


The International Metropolitan Observatory Project (IMO) is a global network of social scientists investigating cities
and their surrounding regions. Organized in 2002 at the initiative of Vincent Hoffmann-Martinot (CERVL-CNRS/ Sciences
Po Bordeaux) and Jefferey Sellers (University of Southern California, Los Angeles), the IMO is currently co-directed by
Jefferey Sellers and Daniel Kübler (University of Zürich).

The IMO arises from a need that many researchers have acknowledged to extend analysis of society and politics beyond
either cities or countries to the urban and exurban regions that increasingly dominate patterns of settlement around the world.
The Project has a dual aim. At the same time it seeks to gather and systematize a global database of information on critical
aspects of metropolitan regions, it has also undertaken a coordinated series of workshops to analyze crucial and little-
understood aspects of politics and governance in these settings from a systematic transnational perspective.

The Project first convened September 28, 2002 in Stuttgart, Germany. In 2003 the Poject received support
from the French GRALE (Groupement de Recherche sur l'Administration Locale en Europe) and the Centre
National de Recherche Scientifique to carry out a series of international workshops on metropolitan topics. Subsequent
workshops have been funded by the Thyssen Foundation and the University of Southern California Provost's Program
for Advancing Scholarship in the Humanities and Social Sciences. The workshops have consisted of papers prepared by
representatives from each country according to a jointly developed set of protocols. Within the participating countries, a
wide variety of national and local funders have helped support the research, from the Haynes Foundation and the
METRANS Center for Transportation Research in the United States to the Swiss NCCR Democracy 21, to the
Brazilian Center for Metropolitan Studies.

The first workshop, held in Bordeaux on January 9-10, 2004, included participants from a total of
sixteen countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North America. Participants gave an overview of the
metropolitan transformations currently under way in each country, along with the political implications. On the
basis of an agreed upon protocol designed to reconcile the international variations in metropolitan definitions, participants
were then asked to collect and analyze data on metropolitan areas with populations over 200,000. The analyses
focussed on recent trends toward exurban settlement and metropolitan polarization, on resemblances to the
stereotypical U.S. metropolitan patterns of suburbanization and segregation, on effects from metrpolitan settlement
and change on political behavior, and on plans for future workshops. Those papers were published in
Vincent Hoffmann-Martinot and Jefferey Sellers (eds.), Metropolitanization and Political Change
(Wiesbaden: Verlag fuer Sozialwissenschaften, 2005)
; French edition CNRS Press 2007).

The second phase of the project drew on an original dataset of electoral, demographic and spatial data form 14,000
localities in eleven countries to scrutinize the effects from emerging metropolitan patterns on changing partisan cleavages and on
voter turnout in national and local elections. Results from this phase, begun in workshops in Bordeaux in May 2005 and in
Stuttgart in January 2007, has now been published in Jefferey Sellers, Daniel Kübler, Melanie Walter-Rogg and Alan Walks
(eds.), The Political Ecology of the Metropolis (Colchester and New York: ECPR Press and Columbia University
Press, 2013)
. The analyses of this volume reveal an emerging reterritorialization of politics around metropolitan geographies
across the developed world and beyond. One component shows how patterns of residence in metropolitan regions account
in large measure for new partisan political cleaveages. A second component, based on the first contextualized comparative
analysis of election turnout in national and local elections, shows that electoral participation also follows metropolitan patterns.
In both analyses, the variations within and between metropolitan regions go beyond what the demographic composition of
places can explain. Papers from this project have been presented at meetings of the International Political Science Association,
the European Consortium for Political Research, the American Political Science Association, the Urban Affairs Association
and numerous other venues. Project findings about the metropolitan bases of new political cleavages were presented at
panels of the Amercan Political Science Association Annual Meeting in Toronto, Canada and the European Consortium
for Political Research Biennial General Conference in Potsdam, Germany in September 2009. For information on how to
access the data for replication or futher analysis, click here.

A third phase, begun in 2007, focuses on Metropolitan Inequality and Governance. This phase builds on the political, economic
and spatial data already collected in previous phases, and on an expanded group of participants that includes representatives
from several large developing countries. The analysis of this phase focuses on the spatial inequality that has increasingly
characterized the proliferating metropolitan regions of both developed and developing countries. Using local fiscal and other
data, participants are examining how policies and institutions at national, regional and metropolitan levels have aggravated or
mitigated inequalities in services across metropolitan regions. Initial papers for this project were presented at a workshop at the
European Consortium for Political Research Joint Workshops in Rennes in April 2008, and a second workshop on this agenda
was held in January 2009 at the University of Southern California. Panels presenting cross-national findings from the study are
scheduled at the International Political Science Association Meeting in Santiago, Chile in July 2009,at the American Political
Science Association Annual Meeting in Toronto, Canada in September 2009 and at the International Political Science
Association biennial meeting in Madrid, Spain in July 2012. A collaborative volume based on these papers is beng edited
by Jefferey Sellers, Eran Razin, Daniel Kübler, Marta Arretche, and Annapurna Shaw.

Subsequent phases of the Project are also under development. The coordinators welcome feedback as well as inquiries about
opportunities for collaboration in this emerging, increasingly important research agenda.

International Metropolitan Observatory documents:

Meeting Documents
Stuttgart (9/28/2003)

Participant/Mailing list

Bordeaux (1/9/2004 - 1/10/2004)

Meeting schedule
Participant/Mailing list

Bordeaux (5/27/2005 - 5/28/2005) Agenda: Political Ecology of tthe Metropolis
Participant/Mailing list
Stuttgart (1/26/2007 - 1/28/2007)

Agenda: Political Ecology of the Metropolis II (10/2005)
List of Recommended Variables
Revised Agenda: Political Ecology of the Metropolis II

Revised List of Recommended Variables
Proposal for IMO Phase III

Rennes Joint Workshops (4/12/2008 - 4/15/2008)

Metropolitan Inequality and Governance: Intro paper
Program of workshop

Los Angeles (1/30/2009 - 1/31/2009) Workshop Program
List of participants with contact information
Metropolitan Inequality and Governance: Overview paper (Sellers draft)
Protocol for expenditure and revenue categories (Razin)
Template/protocol for country papers (Sellers, Arretche)
Excel spreadsheet template for Gini coefficient calculation
(weighted and unweighted) (Walks)
Madrid (7/2012)

Panel Abstract
New country paper template
Metropolitan Inequality and Governance project wiki
(for project participants only)

Project wiki instructions


Kübler homepage | Sellers homepage
University of Zürich Institute of Political Science | USC Political Science
USC Center for International Studies
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