Rethinking urban nature through rats

Authors: Nadja Imhof*, Université de Lausanne
Topics: Urban Geography, Animal Geographies, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: urban nature, more-than-human, unruly
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 17
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The unruliness of rats highlights the conceptual limits of current approaches to natures in cities and challenges to ask the ethical and political questions of rat management. Rats are a complex nature-culture-entanglement reflecting myths, narratives, symbols, political and ecological dynamics and human history. Especially in cities, rats transgress the boundaries between nature and humans physically (walls, fences, concrete) as well as culturally (social associations, symbolism), while at the same time challenging dualist perceptions by not ever really belonging to either nature or culture. Letting go of long-held beliefs of a dualist and essentialist separation of human and nature (or the inhuman) has opened up new possibilities to see the world as relational, processual, emergent and becoming but at the same time has introduced new challenges. In a time where “nature” is called back into the city in the form of greening and renaturalisation projects, rats are “removed” and cleansed from the city with ever bigger pest control campaigns. The question of what belongs in other-than-human ecosystems and how to manage them is a matter of debates in conservation of protected areas and urban natures alike.
This contribution follows rats to the places they territorialise, continuously transgressing the material boundaries and social framings humans have established for them to understand how the (bio)politics of unruly natures in urban settings work and how other-than-human urban ecosystems could look like.

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