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

Project: Ways of Knowing Urban Ecologies (WOK-UE, 2011-2016)

This project ended on 31 December 2016. Funded by Swedish Formas, it produced a row of publications and outputs that you can check out here.


Original description of the project. 

Ways of Knowing Urban Ecology [WOK-UE]

This project seeks to critically examine the social, cultural and political dimensions of urban ecology and natural resource management in city spaces. Our analyses draw on diverse case studies, from Cape Town, New Orleans, Stockholm and Sydney, and are paralleled with extensive literature reviews from various disciplinary contexts that engage notions of urban ecologies. While research has demonstrated how functioning ecosystems can support safe and healthy urban environments, as well as spaces for recreation and food production, this project situates urban ecologies, and the ways of knowing and valuing them, in relation to unequal urban geographies of which they historically form part.

The project draws upon Urban Political Ecology, Southern/African Urbanism, Environmental History and Cultural Geography to examine notions of power, identity, participation and the politics of knowing in relation to urban ecologies. As a collaboration between Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University and the African Centre for Cities at University of Cape Town, we study a range of urban environmental issues that provide context for examining these notions, including food security, waste handling, green space struggles, biodiversity conservation and the ‘ecosystem services’ concept. We analyse the complex interplay between how animals, plants, ‘green spaces’, ecological processes and urban waste are enrolled on one hand into modes of empowerment by the marginalised, and on the other hand as part of powerful forms of governing and ‘silencing´ alternative understandings of urban natures.

Key questions are: Who can claim to be ‘in the know´ regarding urban ecology? What potentially liberating and/or oppressive roles do conventional understandings of urban ecology play in cities? How can urban ecology and the conventional practice of natural resource management be re-thought so as to better serve emancipatory agendas towards sustainable and more just cities? These questions are of pressing concern, not least in cities of Africa and the global south. In engaging community groups, civil servants and academics we bring in-depth case studies to inform and unsettle mainstream policy discourse towards reimagining how just and sustainable forms of urbanisation might be made possible. The project is divided in three major themes: “Urban Ecology as History, Culture and Empowerment”, “Provincializing Urban Political Ecology through Southern Urbanism”, and “Rethinking Urban Natural Resource Management”. Planned academic outputs: two special issues and one edited book.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Henrik Ernstson.
Project Researchers: Dr. Jane Battersby, Dr. Mary Lawhon, Marnie Graham (PhD student), Joshua Lewis (PhD student),Dr. Anna Storm, Professor Sverker Sörlin.
Institutional Partners: Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University; and African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town.