Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for Urban, National and Transnational/Global Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists
Primary Theme: Environment and Environmental Inequality
Secondary Theme: The Political
"The different social consciousness of the dispossessed labourers and of the urban workers, born in protest and despair, has to come through in new ways as a collectively responsible society. Neither will the city save the country nor the country the city. Rather the long struggle within both will become a general struggle, as in a sense it has always been" (Williams 1973: 301).
The political process of the subsumption of 'the rural' by 'the urban' is raised with urgency in the literature on planetary urbanism (Brenner 2013). The idea that there is no “constitutive outside” to the city under conditions of planetary urbanization finds wide circulation and has yielded penetrating insights into the contestations that produce the urban scale. But these debates have paid minimal attention to related expropriatory processes fashioning urban futures in the countryside (peri-urban and rural sites of greenfield infrastructure investments). Methodologically and in their field of inquiry, they have often obfuscated the co-constitution of urban and rural conditions. Meanwhile, urban and rural studies and their preoccupations remain largely disarticulated.
Yet, almost everywhere across the planet, rural expropriations are central to urban futures. Violent expropriations of land and nature drive the reorganization of a multitude of urban and rural spaces: from energy pipeline projects in the Dakotas and Louisiana; damming rivers for hydropower and water in Honduras and Brazil; the fierce protests of fisherfolk in southern India against nuclear power plants and other land-grabs that shape the planning futures of whole urban corridors; the massive urban waste disposal at dumping sites on the outskirts of developing cities; sand and stone quarrying in river beds and mountains for construction materials; or mining across forests for ore.
These developmental dynamics expropriate natures and livelihoods. Moreover, they constitute the very conditions of urbanity that urban futures often invisibilize. How are political, economic, cultural and climatological shifts negotiated across these scales? What alternative developmental and climate futures do these dynamics allow us to trace?
The regulatory and infrastructural regimes presently being instituted across these scales attempt to establish control over more-than-human nature (land and other 'resources' like water, ores, air, energy sources; and labor) for capital. What do these attempts to capture and conscript to capitalist logics mean for people across these scales, many of whom also constantly move across urban and rural scales as their lifeworlds are increasingly rendered precarious, and livelihoods 'illegal' or 'informal'? What are the ways in which contestations over nature re-shape urban futures?
This two-part panel investigates the relational constitution of urban and rural futures through processes of political, economic, cultural, climatological expropriation across scales (Hall, Hirsch, and Li 2011).
Part 1 focuses on rearticulating relationalities of struggle. The papers examine the expropriation of the Chilean Mapuche for urban expansion and consequent contestations; historical urbanization/ bourgeoisification and contemporary movements for the commons in the western Balkans; marijuana prohibition, exurban expansion, and scalar activist politics across California; and revolutionary expropriations of land for agricultural redistribution and factories for food processing implicated in Venezuela's food crisis.