Miami Beach Forever? Urbanism in the back loop

Authors: Stephanie Wakefield*, Eugene Lang College
Topics: Political Geography
Keywords: urbanism, resilience, biopolitics, experimentation
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Engaged with anticipatory risk governance and urban climate experimentation literatures this paper critically examines recent resiliency infrastructure experiments in Miami Beach, Florida, a key climate change site known as ground zero for sea level rise in the United States. Beyond mere technical innovations, what visions of urban life and futures are forwarded in these experiments, and how are they transforming the nature of urbanism? Rather than courageous, progressive utopian attempts to positively transform social-economic relations—as urban climate experimentation is often portrayed— these “elite utopian” projects seek to lock in a single, unitary future of high-end real estate and luxury lifestyles buttressed by an invisible background of service and other wage work. The paper further argues although that this dream of Miami Beach’s static future may be undone by the same experimental efforts to secure it, this is irrelevant from the perspective of the global elite who populate and develop the city's coastal zones. To conclude the paper argues that Miami Beach’s resilience experiments represent an emergent paradigm of “back loop urbanism,” a form of urban governance devised amidst dislocation, made up of distinct experiments that fold in local temporalities and spatial trajectories in unique and sometimes conflicting ways.

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