Public Speaking

 

Unauthorized Urbanism: Empire and Property in the Ecological Present

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill – November 9, 2018

Urban ecologies–from wetlands to coasts to vanishing pastures–are prime sites for capitalist accumulation. Such extraction is facilitated by the manipulation and blurring of licit and illicit practices of urban planning and demarcations of property. Drawing on ethnographic and archival research on land-water ecologies in Bangalore, India, this talk and book project argues that we understand the urban ecological present as rooted in projects of liberal property-making, empire, and difference.  The talk discusses emergent solidarities that entangle anti-land grabbing and social justice narratives with environmental concerns. It concludes by discussing the openings posed by viewing these solidarities through the lens of a restorative and decolonial humanism.

 

 

The Infrastructural Turn in Urban Studies and Political Ecology

King’s College London – October 10, 2018

Turning from traditional infrastructural questions of engineering and feasibility, scholars have asked what and how infrastructures reveal about socio-political, ecological, and spatial life. This panel is assembled to discuss the ‘infrastructural turn’ in general and in relation to the fields of political ecology, urban studies, and development studies.

 

 

 


Unauthorized Urbanism: Liberal Property-Making and the Coloniality of Rule

London School of Economics – October 9, 2018

Drawing on ethnographic and archival research in Bangalore, India, this talk and book project in progress argues that Bangalore’s logic of unauthorized urbanism can be located in liberal and colonial projects of property-making and the cultivation of proper legal subjects. Well-serviced, formal residential property was carved up largely for the economic and cultural elite.

 

 

From Urban Resilience to Anti-Racist Climate Justice in Washington, DC

London School of Economics and Political Science – October 8, 2018

Across America’s cities, extreme weather events have had the most severe effects on those who are already affected by housing segregation, environmental racism, and the predations of real estate capital. Fostering “resilience” is proposed by experts as an overarching end-goal for vulnerable groups, placing the burden of “bouncing back” at local scales. This talk questions this framework, and argue that we move from resilience to a broader conceptualization of abolitionist climate justice. Drawing from black radical thought, feminist geography, and recent fieldwork in Washington, DC, antiracist climate justice would mean: (a) an historical appreciation of legacy racism and its afterlives, (b) an intersectional understanding of the drivers of precarity, particularly those related to hunger and housing, and (c) the centering of voices and everyday solidarities of those deemed most at risk to climate change, even if those voices do not articulate within a discourse of liberal environmentalism.

 

Unauthorized City: Entanglements of Water, Property, and Rule in Bangalore

Duke University – September 20, 2018

Drawing on over a decade of ethnographic and archival research, this talk argues that the logic of unauthorized urbanism is core, and not anomalous, to Bangalore’s postcolonial, liberal, and modernist trajectory. Through this logic, various state forms alternatingly produce and penalize “unauthorized” urban development in the interest of capitalist accumulation. Crucially, in a city known both for its wetlands and wetland reclamation, the material and political entanglements between land and water or what I call “land-water ecologies” are especially consequential for this logic. In turn, unauthorized development translates into unsustainable water extraction, unequal water access, and risky flood zones. In other words, multiple relationalities between land and water undergird the political logic of unauthorized urbanism.

 


 

From Urban Resilience to Anti-Racist Climate Justice in Washington, DC

University of California, Davis

June 4, 2018

 

 

 


Climate of Dispossession: On the Coloniality of Urban Ecologies

Georgetown University – April 5, 2018

Climate change catalyzes slow and fast violence in our cities. Yet it is the slow, everyday violence of urban evictions, segregation, flooding, thirst, and hunger—all of which disproportionately affect the life chances of racial, ethnic, and caste minorities—that we often fail to account for in our conceptualization of climate justice. Drawing on urban historiography and archival and ethnographic work in India and the US, this talk argues that we consider the long arc of urban ecological dispossession through the lens of liberalism, difference, and coloniality. It then reflects on how we can imbue climate justice with radical, decolonial meaning, especially given the limitations of the Anthropocene narrative.

 

 

Dispossession, Liberalism, and the Coloniality of Urban Ecologies

University of Pennsylvania – March 15, 2018

Drawing on urban historiography and the archival and ethnographic work in India and the US, this talk seeks to expose how race and other forms of difference subtly encoded within liberal urban policy and planning have had, and continue to have, a bearing on unequal urban ecologies.

 

 

 

Situated Ethics of the City: Narrating Corruption and Land in Contemporary Urban India

National Institute for Advanced Studies – February 2, 2018

Since the publication of AT Ramaswamy’s Report exposing the magnitude of “land grabs” by powerful vested interests, activists have emerged to contest corrupt and irregular processes in Bangalore’s real estate, wetlands/lakes, and land via both direct action and the courts. Reflecting on over a decade of ethnographic engagement in peripheral Bangalore, and drawing from recent fieldwork, this talk analyzes the politics and ethics of land in contemporary urban India.

 

 

Situated Ethics of the City: Narrating Corruption and Land in Contemporary Urban India

Azim Premji University

February 1, 2018

 

 

Racial Liberalism and the Coloniality of Urban Ecologies

University of British Columbia, Vancouver – November 2, 2017

How do we understand lead poisoning in water pipes, land dispossession and evictions, and real estate speculation on wetlands—all of which disproportionately affect the life chances of racial, ethnic, and caste minorities—as projects of empire and liberalism? Drawing on urban historiography and archival and ethnographic work in India and the US, this talk seeks to expose how race and other forms of difference subtly encoded within liberal urban policy and planning have had, and continue to have, a bearing on urban ecologies. Drawing on critical race and postcolonial theory, the talk considers if and how liberalism can be recovered and repurposed for emancipatory urban futures.

 


Thinking with Flint: Structural Racism in Planning, Pipes and Policy

Boston University – February 23, 2017

The lead poisoning of Flint, Michigan is often framed as a case of environmental injustice given that the city’s population is majority black and poor. While I am sympathetic to environmental justice struggles and legislation, in this talk, I problematize liberal notions of racism based on malicious intent, and race as merely an explanatory variable for injustice.  Instead, I trace the history of structural racism at the core of liberal urban planning and infrastructure governance in post-industrial America. I use the Flint case and the concepts of racial liberalism and racial capitalism to redefine (and return to) the notion of environmental racism that was abandoned in favor of “environmental justice” in the 1990s.