This chapter seeks to explore some of the questions and challenges that the proliferation of urban insurgencies across the globe since 2011 raises for urban theory and practice. The chapter interrogates the political performativity of the vast literature on (urban) social movements and urban activism in light of these recent urban mobilizations and considers these insurgencies to be incipient urban political movements. These incipient urban political movements, we argue, call for a re-centring of ‘the urban political’, invite us to rethink the urban as a site of political encounter, interruption and experimentation; and urban insurgencies as the performative staging of new forms of democratization that nurture radical imaginaries of egalitarian urban being-in-common. This move, we maintain, also involves a theoretical shift of focus away from institutionalized politics, including the tactics, strategies and principles of organized urban social movements, towards a vantage point that considers other forms of emancipatory contestation and disruption.
Lazaros Karaliotas and Erik Swyngedouw
Lazaros Karaliotas and Giovanni Bettini
The role of the “urban” in the epochal changes that can be foreseen on the horizon, is a prominent theme in the plethora of academic and policy interventions concerned with the Anthropocene. Here, discussions over the vulnerabilities of cities to the impacts of the Anthropocene, and on policy arrangements capable of enhancing the resilience of urban centers hold a central position. In parallel, a series of more politicized interventions and movements posit the city as the terrain for environmental discourses and politics, arguing that urban contexts will be the stage for emancipatory environmental politics. The urban – and not the rural, as in other phases of environmentalism – is thus presented as the privileged terrain for the sprouting of a new set of local identities, struggles, and demands. Such discourses portray the local and localism (within urban contexts) as the cradle of resilience and the condition for envisioning more socio-ecologically sustainable futures. In this contribution we explore the role of urban localism and local resilience and trace the limits of localized responses to the Anthropocene. For sure, the strains the Anthropocene puts on cities symptomatizes the need to rethink socio-ecological and economic relations. Cities will increasingly become the terrain of struggle as well as experimentation. At the same time, the return to localism can hardly provide a conclusive answer to the question posed by the Anthropocene. This is particularly so within a context of planetary urbanization where the borders between the rural and the urban, the local and the global, the inside and the outside are constantly blurred and continuously redrawn. Here borders emerge as processes of contestation, partition, and connection. These evolutions, we argue, imply a dislocation of the local that poses serious challenges to localist agendas and politics – calling for a different understanding of the political identities that are constructed and the struggles that unfold in and through the urban environment.