Expanding the Boundaries of Urban Political Ecology: New Theoretical and Empirical Engagements

Session Description: Urban political ecology (UPE) has provided, for over 15 years, a rich set of theoretical tools for situating relationships of nature and the city within larger geographic traditions of critical theory. At its core, UPE examines the production of uneven socio-natural landscapes, pushing the boundary between life and nonlife, human and nonhuman actors, while also expanding notions of “the urban” far beyond the boundaries of any single city jurisdiction. However, most UPE case studies tend to take as their “problem event” an environmental system or occurrence (i.e. sewage, trees, water), meaning that the role of power in producing and reifying social difference, while never absent, often gets read through the social dimensions of ecological problems. The social and natural are alway co-produced, of course, but UPE has tended to start from the point of something understood as a form of “urban nature.” In this paper session we ask: What would it look like to produce wider and more diverse urban political ecologies, where the starting points of our analysis are not always anchored in some form of urban nature, but expand towards issues often conceptualized as purely “social”?


In this session, we seek papers that bring UPE to bear on new engagements of the social world, both theoretical and empirical. For example, papers might address the ecological dimensions of homelessness, health care, education, or police brutality. Or, for example, they might utilize theories such as metabolism and circulation embedded in UPE to think through human-environmental constructs such as urban land rights and transformations of urban housing and housing access. We are especially excited to work with papers that build on the epistemological strengths of UPE (or, to borrow from feminist philosopher Lorraine Code’s work, the ability to “think ecologically”) to address urban inequalities which have fundamentally ecological dimensions, yet may be thought initially through their social ramifications as a first step. And finally, we hope to discuss the ways in which UPE scholars work with communities (i.e. decision-makers, practitioners, advocacy groups) who conceptualize social and ecological problems distinctly, even as scholars might work to demonstrate their co-constitution.


If you are interested in participating, please send an abstract and contact information to Eric Goldfischer (goldf056@umn.edu) and Jennifer Rice (jlrice@uga.edu) by November 25th. We will notify regarding acceptance into the session by November 28th

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