Can nature speak in post-revolution planning? Trees, Floods, and Asphalt in Cairo’s Disruptive Capitalocene

Authors: Momen El-Husseiny*, American University in Cairo
Topics: Urban Geography, Africa, Middle East
Keywords: Postcolonial Theory, Posthumanism Planning, Nature, Cairo, New Cities
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 26
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In 2015, the president announced a new administrative capital (NAC) for Cairo at its desert edge, 72 kilometers away from Tahrir Square, where the 2011-revolution took place. The relocation of the government-complex from Downtown Cairo to the desert's edge acted as a colony-habitat and protectorate-settlement. Trees uprooted and relocated from the city to the desert's NAC represented a mode of ecological accumulation-through-dispossession at the service of power-and-capitalism. Such a post-revolution condition left the subaltern subjects voiceless and breathless with a massacre of trees in the city. Since 2018, however, every spring, a disruptive typhoon breaks with heavy rain flooding the roads of New Cairo, an affluent desert-city en route to NAC. The article engages with such climatic disruptions to theorize the post-revolutionary planning of extended urbanization at the age of capitalocene through tracing the material elements grabbed from the city. Building on the work of Gayatri Spivak, "Can the subaltern speak?" the article posits, "can nature speak?" Can the elements producing NAC —trees, asphalt, and floods, develop new unforeseen encounters? The paper argues that the frictions of nature are embodiments of the postcolonial/post-revolution's subaltern struggles. The article concludes that the 'more-than-human' elements are useful micro-narratives that expose capital and power's vulnerability when dislocating nature and people.

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