CALL FOR PAPERS (CFP) | “Perspectives from Urban Political Ecology and Disaster Studies”, 2021 Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers, 7-11 April, Seattle

VIRTUAL Session: Perspectives from Urban Political Ecology & Disaster Studies

Sponsored by the Hazards, Risks and Disasters (HRDSG), Human Dimensions of Global Change (HDGC), Cultural and Political Ecology (CAPE) and Urban Geography (UGSG) Specialty Groups

Session Organizers: Khristine Alvarez (University College London), Emma Colven (University of Oklahoma) and Dakila Kim P. Yee (University of the Philippines Visayas, Tacloban College)

Discussant: Dr. Jola Ajibade (Portland State University) 

Political ecology and disaster studies share much common ground. Both fields are committed to explaining the unequal distribution of environmental processes and risks; how socio-spatial positioning shapes our experiences of environmental processes/events; and the role of the state in creating and perpetuating environmental risks and inequalities. This is perhaps unsurprising given the strong influence of the hazards school (Burton et al., 1978) on early political ecology, and its intellectual origins in seeking to provide more critical perspective on hazards, and risk and vulnerability scholarship.

Yet curiously, these fields have since developed largely independently from one another. The last decade has seen the emergence of scholarship bridging political ecology and disaster studies (Collins, 2008; Grove, 2014; Ajibade et al., 2013; Ajibade, 2017; Marks, 2015; Colven, 2017; Saguin, 2017); however, this approach remains marginal. We believe that urban political ecologists and disaster researchers could learn from one another in ways that would produce more theoretically robust, critical research that better serves marginalized communities and directly engages with policy and praxis. Disaster researchers, for instance, are generally more effective at linking theory to praxis. They have also contributed to advancing conceptualizations of vulnerability, risk and resilience, which are comparatively under-theorized in (urban) political ecology. At the same time, urban political ecology’s radical Marxist roots, critical perspectives on power, and concepts such as metabolism might find new resonances in the field of urban disaster studies. 

The opportunity for engagement across these fields is pertinent at this current conjuncture. Coastal cities around the world are grappling with the realities of sea-level rise and increasingly severe storms; normative definitions of urban resilience that maintain the status quo have been adopted by city governments and transnational policy networks (Ajibade, 2017); and emergent research is demonstrating how urban adaptation projects often re-intrench inequalities in exposure, risk, and vulnerability (Alvarez & Cardenas 2019; Ajibade 2019), highlighting the urgent need for equitable and just adaptation and urban transformation.

We invite theoretical, empirical, and methodological papers that explore one or more of the following topics:

  • Hazard- and disaster-induced dispossession 
  • Managed retreat and resettlement programs
  • Bourgeois environmentalism and climate gentrification;
  • Environmental and climate justice movements;
  • Climate risk and insurance riskscapes;
  • Critical perspectives on disaster ecology;
  • (Global) racial capitalism and intersectional approaches to disaster research;
  • Participatory planning and community-led disaster preparedness and response;
  • Political ecologies of urban disasters;
  • The material production of hazardscapes;
  • Materialities and objects of urban disaster risk reduction;
  • Climate adaptation and spatio-temporal reconfiguration of cities
  • Resilience planning and socio-spatial fixes
  • Gender and urban disasters
  • Real estate development in marginal urban areas;
  • Critical studies on urban disaster policies and policy networks;
  • Studies that center marginalized and underrepresented communities;
  • Spatialities of urban adaptation to climate change and natural disasters;
  • Urban zoning, redlining and the production of environmental risk and vulnerability;
  • Vulnerability studies of communities in low-income, rental and mobile housing.

Interested participants should send a title and abstract of no more than 250 words to by November 6, 2020. Participants will be notified of acceptance by November 14 and asked to register for the conference and provide their PIN by November 19.

Relevant Literature

Ajibade, I. (2019). Planned retreat in Global South megacities: disentangling policy, practice, and environmental justice. Climatic Change, 157(2), 299-317.

Ajibade, I. (2017). Can a future city enhance urban resilience and sustainability? A political ecology analysis of Eko Atlantic city, Nigeria. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 26, 85-92.

Ajibade, I., McBean, G., & Bezner-Kerr, R. (2013). Urban flooding in Lagos, Nigeria: Patterns of vulnerability and resilience among women. Global Environmental Change, 23(6), 1714-1725.

Ajibade, I and Gordon McBean (2014). Climate extremes and housing rights: A political ecology of impacts, early warning and adaptation constraints in Lagos slum communities. Geoforum (55), 76–86.

Alvarez, M. K., & Cardenas, K. (2019). Evicting slums, ‘building back better’: Resiliency Revanchism and disaster risk management in Manila. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 43(2), 227–249. 

Bogard, W.C. (1989). Bringing social theory to hazards research: conditions and consequences of the mitigation of environmental hazards. Sociological Perspectives, 31, 147-68.

Burton, I., Kates, R.W. and White, G.F. (1978). The environment as hazard. New York: Oxford University Press.

Colven, E. (2017) Understanding the allure of big infrastructure: Jakarta’s Great Garuda Wall Project. Water Alternatives, 10(2), 250-264.

Eriksen, C., & Simon, G. (2017). The Affluence–Vulnerability Interface: Intersecting scales of risk, privilege and disaster. Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, 49(2), 293-313.

Grove, K. (2014). Biopolitics and adaptation: governing socio-ecological contingency through climate change and disaster studies. Geography Compass 8(3), 198-210.

Grove, K., Cox, S., & Barnett, A. (2020). Racializing Resilience: Assemblage, Critique, and Contested Futures in Greater Miami Resilience Planning. Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 110(5), 1613-1630.

Jon, I. (2019). Resilience and ‘technicity’: challenges and opportunities for new knowledge practices in disaster planning. Resilience, 7(2), 107-125.

Koslov, L. (2019). Avoiding climate change: “Agnostic adaptation” and the politics of public silence. Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 109(2), 568-580.

Marks, D. (2015). The Urban Political Ecology of the 2011 Floods in Bangkok: The Creation of Uneven Vulnerabilities. Pacific Affairs, 88 (3), 623-651. 

Mustafa, D. The production of an urban hazardscape in Pakistan: Modernity, vulnerability, and the range of choice. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 95(3), 566-586.

Ramalho, J. (2019). Worlding aspirations and resilient futures: Framings of risk and contemporary city‐making in Metro Cebu, the Philippines. Asia Pacific Viewpoint, 60 (1), 24-36.

Ranganathan, M. (2015). Storm drains as assemblages: The political ecology of flood risk in post‐colonial Bangalore. Antipode, 47(5), 1300-1320

Saguin, K. (2017). Producing an urban hazardscape beyond the city. Environment and Planning A, 49(9), 1968-1985.

Sultana, F. (2010) Living in hazardous waterscapes: Gendered vulnerabilities and experiences of floods and disasters. Environmental Hazards, 9(1), 43-53.

Weinstein, L., Rumbach, A., & Sinha, S. (2019). Resilient growth: Fantasy plans and unplanned developments in India’s flood-prone coastal cities. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 43(2), 273– 291. 

Yee, D. K. P. (2018). Constructing reconstruction, territorializing risk: imposing “no-build zones” in post-disaster reconstruction in Tacloban City, Philippines. Critical Asian Studies, 50(1), 103-121.

Zeiderman, A. (2012). On shaky ground: The making of risk in Bogotá. Environment and Planning A, 44(7), 1570–1588.

Op-ed | What ‘relief’ for the poor should really look like

This think piece is less about “what ‘relief’ for the poor should really look like” than why our generosity fails to give relief. Here, Josh Makalintal (University of Innsbruck) and I use relief goods as an entry point for illuminating unreflexive, unempathetic, and exclusionary practices of care and provisioning in times of emergency and disaster. We ascribe this impoverished culture of giving and helping to legacies of classed understandings and attributions of human dignity, which regard the poor as people who matter less and therefore require and deserve less. We consider what it means to think in terms of life rather than survival, and invite a critical reorientation from thinking of the poor to thinking from the poor.

Conference paper | Making the city: A critical review of Metro Manila urbanization and dispossession research

11th International Conference on Philippine Studies (ICOPHIL), Alicante, Spain

This paper is part of the first of two panels on Philippine critical urban studies co-organised with Dr. Noah Theriault (Carnegie Mellon University).

Urbanizing Metro Manila has involved cleaning up the city region through the erasure of poor informal settlements and the elimination of the people who dwell there, to facilitate the reconfiguration of urban space. Since the 1960s, following the trend of transforming postcolonial capitals into national symbols of progress (Singh, et al. 2019), large-scale infrastructural and architectural projects were undertaken by the Philippine state with the specific aim of ‘developing’ the metropolitan landscape into a showcase for modernity (Benedicto 2015) and later, remaking it according to imaginaries of a ‘world-class’ city (Ortega 2016). Throughout the years, this transformation has been accompanied by displacement, dispossession, and death. This paper reviews five decades of Metro Manila urban and housing research to track, identify, and critically assess the drivers of urbanization and dispossession in the city region. Centring attention on the period after the 1997 Asian financial crisis, I consider how contemporary scholarship has approached questions of urbanization and dispossession largely as a consequence of capital accumulation, and how this orientation of explaining the city in terms of neoliberalization consequently scripts understandings of urban expulsion primarily as outcomes of gentrification. I argue that the focus on capital accumulation tends to overlook other equally powerful processes and agendas that drive urban change and dispossession (i.e., disaster risk and resilience), and call for an attentiveness to both new and emerging empirics in the field. 


Benedicto, Bobby. “The Queer Afterlife of the Postcolonial City: (Trans)gender Performance and the War of Beautification. Antipode 47, no. 3 (2015): 580-597.

Ortega, Arnisson Andre C. Neoliberalizing Spaces in the Philippines: Suburbanization, Transnational Migration, and Dispossession. Lanham: Lexington Books. 

Singh, Ganeshwari, Simrit Kahlon & Vishwa Bandhu Singh Chandel. “Political Discourse and the Planned City: Nehru’s Projection and Appropriation of Chandigarh, the Capital of Punjab.” Annals of the American Association of Geographers 109, no. 4: 1226-1239.