Session 10

SMUSI_10- Visualizing Urban Nature: Ethnographic Approaches and Explorations

The provocative context of the Urbanocene has birthed innovative and inclusive frameworks such as urban political ecology (UPE) and urban environmental history (UEH) conveying nuanced narratives of multiple makings of urban nature against specific temporal trajectories and political economic imperatives of the statecraft. However, while the UPE scholarship is overtly declensionist along constricted portrayals of conflicts across power hierarchies, UEH awaits enrichment by accommodating an array of interactive spatial and cultural methods and strengthening its focus on the contemporaneous – the present intricately interlinked with the past and posterity. Incorporating (yet bypassing) conventional environmental history and ethnography methods, this session aims to foreground the significance of seeing (like) nature to understand and internalize her as participant observers (in)deliberately exploring multiple activities of (non)human actors dotting urban ecological scapes. What are the multiple ways of knowing and portraying urban nature sculpted in visually immersive peregrinations? Can visualization techniques ranging from conventional photography to graphic illustrations, paintings and cross-fertilized attempts integrating visuals, participatory cartography and ethnographic accounts gathered along a conglomeration of qualitative methods (case studies, interactive transect walks, informal on-site conversations, formal interviews, etc.) elicit epistempathic engagements and stewardship in reinvigorating urban nature? In the field of visual culture, the conceptual trajectory of the ‘ethno-graphical’ is not entirely new. Interestingly, instead of the nuanced hyphenation, the currently existent term (’ethno/graphical’) uses an oblique mark which seems to be a semantic divider, fostering dialogues between graphical representations and textual interpretations. This session (re)introduces the ‘ethno-graphic’ approach, bringing to the fore its significance to capture and depict vibrant scenes of entanglements among actors, actions and enacting within socio-ecological contexts and contours of the urban fabric. By transcending the strictly textual boundaries of the lexical into the world of visual stories, the ‘ethno-graphic’ methodology is more equipped to reach a wider audience – scientific experts, NGOs, activists and bureaucrats as users and readers of the co-created works in tandem with the world of academia. Thus, the transdisciplinary exigency of the Urban Anthropocene can be accomplished through larger awareness, participation, involvement and engagement of multiple social stakeholders. The session will draw the attention of urban experts, artists and practitioners using and interested in more-than-textual narratives – a heterodox approach to read, see, capture, interpret and disseminate coeval ontologies of the ‘urban’ and the ‘environment’ – their overlaps, encounters, segregations and cohabitations from multi-layered, multi-level and multi-pronged perspectives for specific urban ecological contexts that may resonate across or be very different from other cases and conjunctures. The panel hopes to be lively, vibrant and enriching – communicating and conveying ideas through photographs, paintings, videos, participatory cartography, graffiti – in conversation with the application of (more) mainstream qualitative methods. The making and remaking of cities and nature will be captured and conversed upon through ethnographical explorations of urban spaces.