Inserting scales of urban politics: the possibilities of meso-urban governance shims

Olivia R. Williams*, Joseph Pierce

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores the geographic literature on governance at smaller-than-urban but larger-than-household scales, identifying a relative inattention to neighborhood and other partial-city scales of governance. Hegemonic power relationships are institutionalized at particular scales of state government (e.g. national, regional, municipal) and state-sanctioned governing units (e.g. jurisdictional districts or supranational bodies), which in turn shapes urban research. We propose a new analytical term, governance shims, to describe the insertion of new scales of governance between those already reified and reproduced; institutions at such scales may be unusually grounded in authority beyond the state. Geographers seem well positioned to explore the characteristics of governance shims at the meso-urban scale. We illustrate this by briefly tracing how common interest communities (CICs), housing cooperatives, and community land trusts (CLTs) might be analyzed through a shims approach. Provocatively, emergent governance at the meso-urban scale often leverages idiosyncratic structures of property ownership to produce institutional authority.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)795-812
Number of pages18
JournalUrban Geography
Issue number6
Early online date18 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • community land trusts
  • Governance shim
  • housing cooperatives
  • meso-urban
  • scale
  • shadow state


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