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Unwanted and degraded: Rethinking the city’s relationship with rats rat

Authors: Nadja Imhof*,
Topics: Animal Geographies, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: animals, urban nature, more-than-human, political ecology, non-dualist, urban ecology,
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This presentation explores the management practices of urban rats regarding their framing and placement within the socio-ecological environment. The long shared history between rats and humans has created an abundance of reactions, narratives, symbolic meanings and practices regarding rats. In a time where “nature” is called back into the city, rats are actively taken out with new and bigger pest control campaigns (Poon, 2018; Willsher, 2018). Non-dualist ideas saying that humans and nature are inherently intertwined (Castree, 2001; Ginn & Demeritt, 2003; Zimmerer, 2000) have been widely accepted in the social sciences and yet, urban politics of nature continue to focus on a certain type of nature in urban environments for protection and conservation: green spaces, plants, bees and flowers. The question of what belongs in post-dualist ecosystems and how to manage them is still a matter of debates in conservation of protected areas and urban natures alike (Braverman, 2015; Castree, 2014; Lorimer, 2015; Mansfield & Doyle, 2017). Clearly, rats an other unwanted pests represents a part of a nature, that no one wants to have anywhere. Yet, they continue to exceed human efforts of managing and controlling them and thrive nevertheless.
Following rats to the places they appropriate, continuously transgressing the material boundaries and social framings humans have established for them helps to understand how the politics of nature and animals in urban settings work and how post-dualistic urban ecosystems could look like.

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