SITUATED ECOLOGIES gathers art, design and research collaborations to contest and democratise ecologies.

Grounded Ecology: Tracing Transformations in Deltaic Urban Ecosystems

Grounded Ecology: Tracing Transformations in Deltaic Urban Ecosystems
Joshua Lewis who is a PhD candidate in our research projects presented at his half-time seminar last Monday. His  the presentation was followed by comments by UK geographer James Evans. The vent was held at Stockholm Resilience Centre, at Stockholm University, in Room 312. Supervisor is Henrik Ernstson. 
Grounded Ecology: Tracing Transformations in Deltaic Urban Ecosystems 
Abstract. Urban ecosystems are heterogeneous material assemblages whose patterns and dynamics are transformed through historically contingent and place-intensive – yet globally interconnected – urbanization processes. These transformations are achieved through unequal and contested political struggles that unfold in the daily life of human communities as well as the dynamics of ecosystems. Although the field of urban ecology (through concepts like urban resilience and policy tools like ecosystem services) is increasingly called upon by policymakers for scientific knowledge and political praxis in resolving a wide array of socioecological problems in cities, recent trends in the field run the risk of disregarding the locally relevant and historically contingent processes that shape urban environmental politics and ecological change. Building upon recent work in urban ecology and historical political ecology, I explore a methodological repertoire to build an historical understanding of a critical deltaic watershed in the city of New Orleans. In particular, I focus on the political and technical process by which deltaic ecosystems have been systemically enrolled into infrastructure networks to perform functions and services that strategically enable and constrain certain trajectories and spatialities of urbanization. I’m interested in how these systemic enrollments cluster and disperse in time and space to produce novel ecological dynamics, mobilize social movements, and generate new political arenas wherein urban ecosystems become proxy sites and discursive spaces for broader urban political struggles. This historical research becomes a reference point in exploring the emerging political and scientific debate around the historical causes of ecological regime shifts, the production of urban flood risk, and the potential of large-scale ecological restoration projects to promote urban resilience to coastal storms and sea level rise. In this half-time seminar, I introduce the research framework and theoretical concerns of the project, summarize the progress of data collection, and present some empirical findings to spur critical engagement and obtain feedback on the overall aims of the project. Two papers will be circulated to discussants and the committee prior to the seminar and will be available to others by request. This project is a part of the “Socioecological Movements in Urban Ecosystems” project, funded by Formas, and led by Henrik Ernstson.

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