Session 4

4. Political Ecology of the ‘Urban’: Historical and Situated Perspectives

The ‘Urbanocene’ is the transformative-provocative context which has led to intensified debates and discussions surrounding urban sustainability from diverse domains and disciplinary orientations. The nature, patterns and implications of the shifting geographies of urbanization in the global South are being discerned with the application of sophisticated spatial approaches and tools including remote sensing, (participatory) GIS, etc. However, system-based urban ecological paradigm and land-use/land-change science dominating spatial planning theorizations and designs are inadequate frames of analyses to unravel complexities shaping the production of urban spaces – metabolism i.e. the circulatory dynamics between capital and nature is seldom addressed through these frameworks and models. It is within this context, we argue that political ecology, by simultaneously shedding light on the ‘urbanization of nature’ and the ‘nature of urbanization’, explicitly explicates how cities and ecologies make and remake each other across space and time. The workings of the intersecting social variables such as class, caste, gender, ethnicity and religion on the dynamic spatio-temporal plane are unraveled through political ecological explorations committed to expose structural (in)equity and social (in)justice in the spatial production of the urban (Figure). Rooted in the ethos of ‘historical geographical materialism’, political ecology of the urban brings to the fore the production of historically contingent social and physical natures. Political ecology offers multi-scalar, multi-layered and multi-pronged analyses of the ‘urban’ – beyond reified emphasis on the city as a ‘spatial container’, and as a ‘network matrix’ encompassing (non)spatial interconnectedness along shifting temporal trajectories. Through comprehensive coverage and nuanced investigations of long-term systemic conditions and resource allocation-accumulation processes of the past, temporality unfurls (re)making of urban ecologies involving multiple mediating actors, i.e., how coupled socio-ecological configurations of cityscapes are crafted during different historical and political epochs. With political ecology as the analytic, this session aims at critical reconfiguration of spatial methods in urban sustainability research. It will draw attention, bring together and forge conversations among different tenets of (urban) political ecological research such as: historical urban political ecology, situated urban political ecology, embodied urban political ecology, etc., facilitating an enriched epistemethodological exercise to address, interrogate and inform discourses on ‘sustainability’, especially within the huge, diverse, complex and unsettled urbanscape of the global South. The session will comprise of papers that will add theoretical-methodological-empirical traction to urban political ecology and its prodigious potential in advancing urban sustainability sciences. With its ever-expanding ambit through the incorporation of plural, innovative methodologies and axiological commitment towards an ‘engaged praxis’, this session, by leveraging on historical and situated perspectives, will suggest pathways of trans-sectoral engagement, fostering exchanges among academia, practitioners and activists.