Category Archives: Commentary

Such is life in the urban tropics
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Such is life in the urban tropics

In 2015, the National Research Institute of Colombia “Alexander von Humboldt” (commonly known as Instituto Humboldt), promoted Urban Nature: Platform of Experiences, a book project giving voice to diverse sets of knowledge that come into play when addressing and managing biodiversity and ecosystem services in Colombian cities. Over 80 authors presented 40 case studies across […]

On the precarity of the global present and its implications for the African city
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On the precarity of the global present and its implications for the African city

The last couple of decades have witnessed a series of regional events that have threatened to shift the tides of global politics. For instance, it was not long ago that the notion of ‘Africa rising’ became such a hot story amidst optimistic accounts of a growing middle class, inclusive technologies, sprawling cities, and budding economies. […]

Beguiled by French theory: On the Relevance of Rancière to South Africa’s Insurgent Citizens
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Beguiled by French theory: On the Relevance of Rancière to South Africa’s Insurgent Citizens

Our academic culture continues to reward intellectuals who cite big-name, usually white, male, and European theories and theorists. French theorists, in particular, are given special attention. While sympathetic to the compulsion to harness the ideas of great men, one can no longer claim that this is the only way to succeed in the academic publishing […]

Thinking Urban Change in a Southern City
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Thinking Urban Change in a Southern City

I couldn’t quite figure it out. The entire project of housing provision in South African cities seemed to be marked by an almost obsessive sense of calculation, of rational town planning. Most notoriously there is the waiting list. After apartheid, the South African government embarked on a mass formal housing delivery program. In order to […]

The politics of flood mitigation in Jakarta
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The politics of flood mitigation in Jakarta

Jakarta is marked by a paradox: the city suffers from both too much and too little water. During monsoon season, heavy precipitation strains the network of canals and waterways that weave through Jakarta’s urban fabric, threatening to overwhelm the city. Rivers swell, sometimes inundating housing constructed along their banks. Water collects in roads, bringing the […]

Imaginaries on researching and inhabiting a city of sprawling ‘mobile’ infrastructures – Nairobi
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Imaginaries on researching and inhabiting a city of sprawling ‘mobile’ infrastructures – Nairobi

Imagine that you just alighted at Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, only 25 minutes from Nairobi’s Central Business District. Obviously, the first thing that you will want to do is get connected. At the airport, there are often a handful of enthusiastic mobile telecommunications agents and personnel that are readily on standby, more than willing to […]

Saint-Louis Sinking
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Saint-Louis Sinking

I’m walking through Guet Ndar, a neighbourhood in Saint-Louis, Senegal. We can hear the waves of the nearby Atlantic Ocean. During my last visit, a number of years ago, they seemed perhaps more distant, whereas now they seem almost upon us. We turn a corner near a mosque and look out. What were once streets […]

The urban risk machine: Municipal debt and climate change in the city
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The urban risk machine: Municipal debt and climate change in the city

Following Donald Trump’s announcement that the United States will withdraw from the Paris Accord, a number of US cities signaled their intention to symbolically join the agreement and demonstrate their commitment to avoiding more than 1.5 C warming. Cities have a unique relationship to global climate change as the historical locus of greenhouse gas emissions […]

Reflection After a Project: Building Collaborations Beyond The Peer-Reviewed Publication
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Reflection After a Project: Building Collaborations Beyond The Peer-Reviewed Publication

The Ways of Knowing Urban Ecologies (WOK-UE) project started in 2011 and finished in December 2016. Amongst other activities, the project proved instrumental in helping to build the Situated UPE Collective from its early days in 2013. Here PI Henrik Ernstson reflects on this now finished research project to exemplify how projects can act as crucial venues for critical social scientists in building collaborations, projects and […]

Reflections on ‘Opening the Bin’ (and waste research more generally)
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Reflections on ‘Opening the Bin’ (and waste research more generally)

On the 27th April, over fifty scholars met in Helsingborg, Sweden for a three-day workshop dedicated to waste research in the social sciences and humanities. Organised by Lund University, the ‘Opening the Bin’ workshop sought to critically investigate waste perceptions, materialities, politics, and practices. One of the first workshops of its kind, this gathering provided […]