How Messy Governmentalities Are Embedded in the Urban Politics of Climate Change

Authors: Vanesa Castan Broto*, , Linda Westman, University of Sheffield
Topics: Urban Geography
Keywords: climate change, climate urbanism
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 12:40 PM / 2:20 PM
Room: Executive Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper explores the significance of messiness in the climate change governmentalities that are deployed in urban settings. It starts with a critical analysis of current thought on the urban governance of climate change. First, current action emerges within a wave of urban optimism with limited historical sensitivity to previous climate change action. Second, the mobile nature of climate change policies is overlooked in studies that emphasize cities as the unit of analysis for climate action. Third, the focus on global cities or alternative locations that are constructed as exemplary sites takes attention away from the ordinary contexts of action where climate action is most needed. Current governance practices foster a particular engagement with the urban that has been characterised as a new form of climate urbanism (Long and Rice, 2018). This analysis constitutes the central motivation to call for studies of climate change governance that engage with the messiness of urban knowledge and action. Three theories of messiness are put forward. The first relates the idea of governance as messiness with postcolonial analyses of radical environmental action. The second emphasizes the messiness embedded in current methods of knowing the city, and the logic of situated knowledge. The third emphasizes messiness in the relations between the body, the society and the emotions characterizing the interactions of everyday life. By exploring messiness in current discourses of climate urbanism we seek to reveal alternative modes of engagement that could constitute a more progressive strand of climate urbanism.

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