Rububiyah in the Climate-Impacted City: Lived Experiences and Caring Practices among Informal Gardeners

Authors: Efadul Huq*,
Topics: Urban Geography, Urban and Regional Planning, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: political ecology, urban, climate change, radical care, solidarity
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In climate-impacted Dhaka's expanding informal settlements, the urban materializes as a conflict between different productions of socio-natures. On the one hand, state-led planning, driven by imaginaries of 'pleasurable' cities, frames informal dwellers as polluters and evicts them to construct 'eco-sensitive' projects. On the other hand, informal settlement dwellers make life happen by planting community gardens, sharing kitchens, constructing houses and schools, celebrating festivals, and engaging in claim-making practices to assert their right to the city. Scholarship on the global south cities has long studied the injustices of "bourgeoise environmentalism" (Baviskar, 2003) and the grassroots insurgent practices of dwellers in securing their right to housing (Miraftab, 2009). However, an intimate understanding of everyday practices and sensibilities, particularly between humans and nonhumans, shaping dwellers' situated political contestations remains less explored. In this paper, I ground myself in the everyday happenings of the backyard and lakeside gardens of Dhaka's Korail, an informal settlement with over 100,000 residents facing eviction. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, I gather the gardens' emergent democratic and egalitarian possibilities under an idiom rooted in Muslim peasants' struggles in the Bengal Delta, Rububiyah. Rububiyah refers to the microscopic relations of care that sustain the whole of life. I explore how the gardens are multivalent sites where relations between dwellers, plants, and animals create conditions for embodying dignity and forming collective caring relations. The gardens serve as archives of community memories, as sites of conflict where state-NGO-citizen relationships are reconfigured and where urban natures are re-enchanted beyond dehumanizing, authoritarian urbanization models.

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