Paper session CFP for the Third annual conference of the World-Ecology Research Network

 21-22 July 2017, Binghamton University, Binghamton, NY

In an era of global ecological destabilization, cities are being framed as the solution to a host of problems engendered by capitalism. Transnational networks such as C40 Cities, multilateral institutions, and major investors suggest that a new age of green city-building and redevelopment can at once dramatically alter energy and emissions trajectories and create defensible spaces to weather a more turbulent world. Expressed variously in cities globally, from eco-city construction to “green” slum removal to climate retrofitting, densification, and resilience initiatives, these imagined solutions propagate a common fallacy: that getting urban form “right” can resolve profound problems of capitalist accumulation (e.g. Hodson and Marvin 2010). These technocratic and entrepreneurial visions are increasingly coming under progressive and radical critique, even as renewed intractability in international climate and environmental negotiations (once again) forces urban action to the fore. However, the problem of capital accumulation in these initiatives has been insufficiently interrogated: the role of extraction, appropriation, and domination in both unevenly enabling these emerging forms of defensive urbanism, and as reproduced in new ways through their realizations.


In this session, we seek to address this lacuna in several ways, alternatively moving beyond and doubling down on green urbanism’s “methodological cityism” (Angelo and Wachsmuth 2015). First, we seek papers that explore alternatives to the bounded urban visions promoted by common urban emissions inventory methods and design proposals, theoretical interventions and counter-mapping strategies such as critical footprinting and global institutional ethnography capable of drawing out cities’ global linkages (e.g., Cohen 2016). We welcome papers that unpack definitional questions emerging around the concept of “urbanization” in contemporary planetary urbanization debates, most particularly as it articulates with and diverges from notions of surplus accumulation, and cities as creatures of surplus produced and appropriated (Brenner and Schmid 2015, Walker 2015, Storper and Scott 2016, Walker 2016). Recent research on climate retrofitting suggests profound divides emerging between cities and sectors that can and cannot afford to go green, and potentially to profit from that greening in new real estate-led accumulation strategies (Knuth 2016, Rydin 2016). This uneven geography of “prime” and “creditworthiness” has been profoundly shaped by histories of financialized surplus extraction and redistribution within, between, and beyond concentrated urban places; only deepened since 2008 by new forms of capital flight to downtown real estate and global resource-bearing land (Knuth 2015, Fernandez et al. 2016). If (some) cities (and some people within them) are buying a degree of safety in the Anthropocene, at what cost to others’?


Second, in prioritizing networked infrastructures and metabolisms, urban political ecology’s approaches to urban climate (re)development have chronically neglected housing, neighborhoods, downtowns, and other constitutive “bounded” spaces (Edwards and Bulkeley 2015, Knuth 2016) – geographies nonetheless of central importance for urban political economists, feminists, and other critical urban scholars and activists globally. We welcome papers that sharpen this lens on accumulation and appropriation in greening cities. Papers might take up critiques of “green” gentrification and/or displacement now arising in a variety of urban contexts (e.g. Checker 2011, Dillon 2014, Ghertner 2015, Anguelovski 2017). Alternatively, they might engage the mainstreaming and transformation of retrofitting/weatherization and other greening work once conceived as “alternative” (Hodson et al. 2016). These efforts often arose in anti-urban renewal organizing, sweat equity, and other unpaid labor sunk into the urban fabric by the urban poor, working class, and community organizations. As new urban programs formalize and financialize these practices, they raise important questions of appropriation and extraction. Nevertheless, Right to the City organizing provides new pathways for working class greening movements to make claims on their labor and urban spaces (Cohen 2015).


Interested participants should send abstracts to Sarah Knuth ( and Daniel Aldana Cohen ( by February 15th.




Angelo, Hilary and David Wachsmuth (2015) “Urbanizing Urban Political Ecology: A Critique of Methodological Cityism,” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 39.1: 16-27

Anguelovski, Isabelle (2017) “Retracted: Urban Greening as the Ultimate Urban Environmental Justice Tragedy?” Planning Theory 16.1: NP3-NP24

Brenner, Neil and Christian Schmid (2015) “Towards a New Epistemology of the Urban?” City 19.2-3: 151-182

Checker, Melissa (2011) “Wiped Out by the ‘Greenwave’: Environmental Gentrification and the Paradoxical Politics of Urban Sustainability,” City & Society 23.2: 210-229

Cohen, Daniel Aldana (2015) “The Urban Green Wars,” Jacobin

Cohen, Daniel Aldana (2016) “Petro Gotham, People’s Gotham,” in Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas, edited by Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Shapiro, Berkeley: University of California Press, pp. 47–54

Dillon, Lindsey (2014) “Race, Waste, and Space: Brownfield Redevelopment and Environmental Justice at the Hunters Point Shipyard,” Antipode 46.5: 1205-1221

Edwards, Gareth AS, and Harriet Bulkeley (2015) “Urban Political Ecologies of Housing and Climate Change: The ‘Coolest Block’ Contest in Philadelphia,” Urban Studies

Fernandez, Rodrigo, Annelore Hofman, and Manuel B. Aalbers (2016) “London and New York as a Safe Deposit Box for the Transnational Wealth Elite,” Environment & Planning A 48.12: 2443–2461

Ghertner, D. Asher (2015) Rule by Aesthetics: World-Class City Making in Delhi, New York: Oxford University Press

Hodson, Mike, Elisa Burrai, and Catherine Barlow (2016) “Remaking the Material Fabric of the City: ‘Alternative’ Low Carbon Spaces of Transformation or Continuity?” Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions 18: 128-146

Hodson, Mike, and Simon Marvin (2010) “Urbanism in the Anthropocene: Ecological Urbanism or Premium Ecological Enclaves?” City 14.3: 298-313

Knuth, Sarah (2015) “Global Finance and the Land Grab: Mapping 21st Century Strategies,” Canadian Journal of Development Studies 36.2: 163-178

Knuth, Sarah (2016) “Seeing Green in San Francisco: City as Resource Frontier,” Antipode 48.3: 626–644

Rydin, Yvonne (2016) “Sustainability and the Financialisation of Commercial Property: Making Prime and Non-Prime Markets,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 34.4: 745–762

Storper, Michael, and Allen J. Scott (2016) “Current Debates in Urban Theory: A Critical Assessment,” Urban Studies 53.6: 1114–1136

Walker, Richard (2015) “Building a Better Theory of the Urban: A Response to ‘Towards a New Epistemology of the Urban?'” City 19.2-3: 183-191

Walker, Richard (2016) “Why Cities? A Response” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 40.1:164-180



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