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Décroissance /Degrowth: Dispossession and displacement by another name?

Authors: Rachael Baker*, York University
Topics: United States, Urban Geography
Keywords: Degrowth, racial capitalism, historical materialism
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The paradigmatic formation of urban degrowth policies challenges conventional notions of infrastructural and capital expansion as pathways to increased economic prosperity and as a catalyst for activating the value of land in cities. Proponents of degrowth policies subscribe to achieving ecological sustainability, economic equality, and more just social relations through the systemic change of the economy, processes of production, and the reshaping of consumer practices. Under more austere post-financial crisis political and economic conditions, scholarly works that have focused on former North American industrial hubs like Detroit, Youngstown, and Flint have taken a more critical approach to analyze urban development policies that call for such degrowth practices as the razing of neighborhoods, privatizing public amenities, and initiatives to consolidate residential populations by reducing infrastructural service areas. Scholarship investigating degrowth policies and practices in Detroit, Michigan have centered racial capitalism as a driver of uneven redevelopment, urban shrinking, and disinvestment that is producing new urban natures defined by supposed abandonment, rewilding, and dispossession. This paper contrasts spatial and policy scholarship that tends to frame degrowth as a new school of urban theory with a historical materialist examination of strategies of enclosure, displacement, dispossession and segregation that have always intended to shrink and manage Black and people of color communities in North American cities. If new urban natures are being produced through degrowth policies, how do these natures contribute to racial formation and property relations?

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