The Climate Change of Your Desires: Climate Migration and Imaginaries of Rural and Urban Climate Futures

Authors: Kasia Paprocki*, London School of Economics
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Anthropocene, Development
Keywords: political ecology, climate migration, climate change adaptation, urban studies, agrarian studies
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: 8212, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

What are the social imaginaries contained within representations of urban climate utopia? What silent but corollary rural dystopias accompany them? In this paper, I investigate these questions through the experience of Bangladeshi migrants who have left rural coastal communities for construction work in urban slums surrounding Kolkata. The threats posed to their coastal villages by a variety of ecological threats (both loosely and intimately linked with climate change) drive their migration in search of new urban livelihoods. The labor of these migrants is both necessary to and invisible within the imaginary of Kolkata’s rapid urban growth, and integration into a global tech economy. The experiences of these migrants suggest that the demise of rural futures is not incidental, but necessary to the celebration of urban climate futures. The work of theorizing contemporary dynamics of rural-urban transition is being debated discretely in the fields of urban studies and agrarian studies, as both fields seek to understand rural and urban communities in relation to broader political economies. In this paper I bring these debates into conversation with one another to argue that the erasure of the rural in the context of climate change is in fact actively produced. This erasure is carried out through imaginaries of urban climate futures that not only don’t recognize the role of rural space in producing urban space, but which also fail to imagine just rural climate futures.

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