Affecting the more-than-human – exploring socio-ecological alignments in urban green space preservation

Authors: Mathilda Rosengren*, University of Cambridge
Topics: Urban Geography
Keywords: more-than-human geography, urban political ecology, urban ecology
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Napoleon, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 41st Floor


Informal urban green areas, where other-than-human bodies have been given space and time to develop without direct human interference, are increasingly being brought to the fore as crucial sites of biodiversity and urban ecology. Nevertheless, in cities with intensifying rates of human-made densification, these spaces may also become places of contestation. Challenging who and what belongs in the urban milieu, they highlight the prominence of both social and ecological diversity in urban space, and touch upon the multifaceted relations between such entities. This paper argues that in order to further our understanding of the current urban condition – as well as articulating alternative narratives for possible futures – it is essential to recognise how urban social constellations move beyond the human: that is, how they are inherently more-than-human. Drawing on empirical examples of preservation activities and experiences of local nature activist groups and municipality workers in Berlin, Germany, and Gothenburg, Sweden, this paper introduces the notion of affect as a means to explore and develop a more-than-human comprehension of contemporary urban green spaces. Grounded in the Deleuzian concept of ‘affective bodies’, it encourages an intentional moving away from a focus on (human) feelings and emotions in cases of urban nature preservation. This decentring of the role of the human, this paper argues, allows for novel ways of viewing socio-ecological relations: not solely as accidental entanglements, but also as more-than-human alignments carrying the potential for change.

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