Chapter 42: Urban political ecology ‘beyond the West’: engaging with South Asian urban studies
Urban political ecology (UPE) has only recently witnessed a substantial investigation of non-Western cities. Yet much of this literature has concentrated thus far on perceived environmental problems, which seems to suggest that Southern cities are understood in UPE, as in some other fields of study, as being inherently problematic. To counter such assumptions, this chapter argues for a thorough engagement with work in urban studies that attempts to rewrite urban theory from a starting point of the South and/or from thorough comparisons across the globe. As one possible example of the benefits of such an engagement, the chapter then proceeds to highlight lessons that UPE can learn from two major narratives in South Asian urban scholarship on the complexity of the everyday state and the heterogeneity of urban society. Conversely, some of the key insights that UPE research on Southern cities can offer to the urban studies literature are next highlighted – and, specifically, the complex roles that environmental practices, knowledge and imaginaries play in shaping urban society and spaces, as well as often-overlooked adverse environmental impacts of urbanization, urban restructuring and urban conflicts. The chapter concludes that such connections between UPE and urban studies ‘beyond the West’ can even help to build new UPE readings of Northern cities that fully acknowledge the diversity of their urban spaces, societies and social perceptions, as well as the porous qualities of the states operating in these areas.
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