Urban policy ecologies? Bringing policy mobilities research and urban political ecology into closer conversation

Authors: Nathan McClintock*, Portland State University
Topics: Urban Geography, Urban and Regional Planning, Geographic Theory
Keywords: everyday politics, food systems, governance, policy mobilities, urban political ecology
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Washington 1, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Geographic scholarship on urban policy mobilities (UPM) and urban political ecology (UPE) share several intellectual commitments, including: attention to the localized, social embeddedness of global, national, and regional political economic processes; a relational ontology of networks/assemblages of actors, institutions, and flows of capital linking such processes; scrutiny of the inter-referencing and circulation of ideologies and discourses, which in turn mutate and transform in historically and geographically specific ways; and concern with the socio-material impacts of these ideologies and discourses as they are institutionalized and/or operationalized locally. Despite these similarities, scholarship that explicitly engages both UPM and UPE is oddly uncommon. I begin this paper by discussing some of the theoretical and methodological spaces in which the two traditions converge, explicitly or otherwise. I then present several interconnected (often overlapping) frames of analysis commonly used in UPE, which might push the boundaries of current trends in UPM research: materiality; embodiment; social reproduction; and racial capitalism. Attention to these, I argue, is especially important for understanding the circulation, transmutation, and adoption of ideas and practices that serve as both source and object of counter-hegemonic policymaking and programming “from below”. Drawing on the results of an empirical study of urban agriculture in Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, BC, I briefly illustrate how analysis informed by these insights from UPE can help us better understand the circulation and variegated adaptation of “best practices”, as well as the resulting remaking of the formal and informal institutions and actors that promote them.

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