I am a critical urban sociologist, geographer, and political activist previously based in Manila, and currently working on a PhD at The Bartlett Development Planning Unit (DPU), University College London (UCL). I am the recipient of the 2018 DPU 60th Anniversary Doctoral Scholarship Award, as well as the 2018 Gilbert F. White Thesis Award from the American Association of Geographers' Hazards, Risks, and Disasters Specialty Group (AAG-HRDSG).
My PhD research examines how ‘danger zone’ evictions, as a consequence and requirement of resilience seeking in post-Ondoy Metro Manila (2009-present), spatially reconfigure the city region and the peri-urban fringe.
I have published theoretical and empirical research articles in the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research (IJURR) and Radical Housing Journal.
The second journal article from the MA thesis is out. I am honoured to publish in the first-ever issue of Radical Housing Journal, an autonomous and fully open-access academic journal for “debat[ing] ideas and advanc[ing] knowledge, theory, and practices around a radical approach to housing”.
Out of the more than 70 submissions for Issue 1, 15 were selected, rigorously reviewed by three activists and scholar-activists, editorially evaluated, and accepted or rejected accordingly.
My article for the Long Read section (focus on critical analysis and theory-making) decenters ‘post-2008’ organising around housing struggles, the theme of this issue, using Manila as a frame. I make the case for a systematic state-led eviction crisis in the city region. Proceeding from this, I argue that Manila’s ‘post-2008’ is not the global financial crisis but rather the 2009 Ondoy flood disaster, and its ‘post-crisis housing situation’ is the mass eviction and relocation of informal settlers from ‘danger zones’ under the Metro Manila Flood Management Project and Informal Settler Families Housing Program. I introduce the concept of benevolent evictions to describe a new mode of dispossession whereby expulsions from the urban core to the periphery are facilitated through the systematic deployment of benevolence as a technology of eviction. Drawing on the experience of Alliance of People’s Organizations Along Manggahan Floodway (APOAMF), a community association in Pasig City, I examine how benevolent evictions, as materialised in The People’s Plan, reconfigured community participation and activist contestations, and end by considering the radical possibilities that emerge from the contradictions of cooperative housing models.
Workshop on Delta/Coastal Cities and Environmental Change, 2019 October 19-20, Shanghai, China
Expediting the full implementation of the Metro Manila Flood Management Project (MMFMP) in response to the 2009 Ondoy (Ketsana) disaster prompted the systematic eviction of informal settlers in ‘danger zones’, particularly along the waterways. As slums along embankments were demolished and 44,186 households were dispossessed, easements were recovered—their edges converted into revetment walls and ripraps, retrofitted to accommodate pumping stations, or paved into linear parks. In smaller creeks, overgrowth was left to colonise the strip of land where shacks and slums once stood. Manila’s riparian corridors are gradually being transformed by slum evictions carried out in the name of flood and disaster resilience. This paper explores the emergent changes in the landscape along the eight priority waterways identified in the project, by considering how these recovered spaces were envisioned in plans. Through a critical discourse analysis of project documents and plans, it describes how the implementation of the MMFMP via flood mitigation infrastructure developments, urban drainage improvements, and ‘danger zone’ evictions, is reconfiguring the metropolitan region’s waterways. Reading this spatial transformation of Manila’s peripheral landscapes as a question of urban justice, I end with critical reflections on its implications for informal settlers’ housing struggles.
Thus, my PhD research asks how ‘danger zone’ evictions, as a requirement and consequence of resilience seeking, spatially reconfigure Metro Manila and its peri-urban fringe. I hypothesise that these changes are clustered around three areas. Along the waterways–specifically the eight priority waterways under the MMFMP–green spaces, linear parks, and flood control infrastructure are sprouting. Along the city’s coast, particularly the stretch of Manila Bay, reclaimed master-planned enclaves such as the City of Pearl are being built. And in the suburbs–notably in Bulacan–relocation hubs are emerging.
The point of this project is threefold: to tell a different story of Metro Manila urban development post-2009; to critically interrogate the consequences of resilience seeking on the production and reconfiguration of urban and peri-urban space; and to theorise the new drivers and new modes of dispossession in vulnerable coastal Southern cities beyond processes of capital accumulation.
These contributions are important because they demonstrate that other forces and processes have the ability to systematically erase undesired bodies and landscapes and fundamentally remake the built environment.
I’m presenting my PhD research on 16 May before the people who make this PhD possible. I will talk about resilient city making in Manila via ‘danger zone’ evictions, particularly how the systematic dispossession of informal settlers along waterways, in the name of climate change adaptation and flood/disaster resilience, is spatially reconfiguring Manila and its suburbs. Green spaces and flood barriers are sprouting in the city’s riparian corridors and reclaimed enclaves are being planned along its coast, as relocation hubs are emerging in the peri-urban fringe. Manila and its periphery are being transformed neither solely nor primarily by capital, but also by flood and disaster risk and the anticipatory logics of ‘resilient’ futures. My research attempts to read this transformation through a critical genealogy and ethnography of the Metro Manila Flood Management Project and the Informal Settler Families Housing Program, the main proponents and primary beneficiaries of ‘danger zone’ evictions.
This event marks the 65th year of the DPU and is part of the #Bartlett100 celebrations. It is free and open to all; non-UCL attendees are required to register as indicated in the details below.
In this theoretical and empirical paper, we forward the concept of resiliency revanchism to characterise Manila’s disaster risk management (DRM) strategy, which we argue is predicated on the mass eviction and relocation of informal settlers. We trace the first shift in Philippine DRM policy to the 2009 Ondoy floods, and cast critical attention on the ways the disaster was constructed, as well as the manner by which flooding projections and solutions attend to the further marginalisation of ‘vulnerable’ yet undesirable populations. We deploy the concepts of “risk society” (Ulrich Beck), “territorial stigmatisation” (Loic Wacquant, also Tom Slater), and “aesthetic governmentality” (Asher Ghertner) to examine how the deliberate production of ignorance by disaster and climate expertise (knowledges produced by state officials, DRM practitioners, environmental and climate advocates, and academics) constructed anti-slum discourses of urban flooding and disaster, which in turn produced uneven landscapes of risk and resilience (via the creation of a ‘danger zone’/high-risk zone binary) that justified slum evictions in ‘building back better’.
In this paper, I forward the concept of benevolent evictions to describe a new mode of dispossession, whereby expulsions from the urban core to the periphery are facilitated through the deployment of benevolence as a technology of evictions. Drawing on the experience of a community association in Pasig City in Metro Manila, Philippines, I examine how benevolent evictions, as materialized in The People’s Plan, reconfigured community participation and activist contestations. I distil the politics of participation by troubling practices of inclusion in housing affairs and exclusion in flood control matters; and critically assess the implications of non-transgressive co-production models on organizing for housing justice. While democratizing housing solutions did not necessarily result in the democratization of participation, I argue that the contradictions that emerge present radical possibilities for rewriting the politics of participation toward the transformation of slum-state and citizen-state relations.
This is part of the session, “Philippine Futures: Ambivalence in the Claws of Dispossession“, organised by Noah Theriault (History, Carnegie Mellon University).
This paper explains how the slum—as both a geographic space and population—was discursively produced as the cause and the epicenter of flood disasters, and therefore the object of intervention of Metro Manila disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) policy. Using the case of Pasig City, it traces and elaborates how a standardized explanation of floods and disasters emerged in the wake of the 2009 Ondoy floods; how blame and responsibility were attributed to specific processes, geographies, and populations; and how these narratives became the basis for a disaster risk management policy premised on slum evictions. It situates this phenomenon in the emergence of a new political moment of permanent climate emergency, which ushered in a re-problematization of the slum (Ghertner, 2015), whereby the problem of the slum as a “problem of ecology” (Rademacher, 2009) came to be viewed as a problem of disaster risk. The affirmation of extant slum transgressions, alongside the redescription of the slum as obstruction to waterways, flood control infrastructure, and DRRM and resilience explain the anti-slum politics of ‘building-back better’ and resilient city making in the post-Ondoy moment.
Ghertner, D. Asher. 2015. Rule by Aesthetics: World-Class City Making in Delhi. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Rademacher, Anne. 2009. “When Is Housing an Environmental Problem? Reforming Informality in Kathmandu.” Current Anthropology 50(4):513–33.