Urban Environment and Ecology

Home/ Urban Environment and Ecology
Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSGA2US4054

Semester and Year Offered: 2nd Semester, 1st Year

Course Coordinator and Team: Rohit Negi, Anna Zimmer

Email of course coordinator: rohit[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: None

Aim: The goal of the course is to ground students in the basic concepts, debates, issues, and methodologies in urban environment and ecology. From considering urban areas as ‘ecological deserts’, there has been a distinctive urban turn in ecology—scholars now attend to the resilience of particular ecological agents, as they realise that these phenomena are likely to multiply in intensity as the planet urbanises further. Similarly, there is a vibrant debate on the causes of and necessary interventions related to the environmental preconditions and effects of urbanisation, including land cover change, resource provisioning, urban heat islands, water and air pollution, and the treatment of solid waste and wastewater. This course offers students the vocabulary to grasp these concerns and builds engagement towards creative interventions.

Course Outcomes:

On successful completion of this course students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of the major environmental and ecological preconditions and impacts of urbanisation
  2. Place contemporary environmental change in a historical and spatial context
  3. Thoughtfully consider different analytical lenses to conceptualise concrete events and processes
  4. Conduct field exercises that effectively trace and communicate the materiality of the urban process

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

  1. Urban Ecology: The opening unit considers the relations between humans and non-human elements within the urban context. This first substantive module is intended to develop an ecological perspective, which is weakly developed in extant urban theory and planning.
  2. Metabolism and Pollution: This unit will take a closer look at metabolic thinking, and build knowledge of the causes as well as the political economy of waste and pollution.
  3. Environmental Governance: The unit will cover the relevant laws, regulations, and the larger philosophies through which urban environments are governed. The respective roles of the state at different scales and the market will also be explored.
  4. Urban Dimensions of Global Warming: The unit will critically examine this turn to the urban in climate studies, asking what stakes does the urban have in global warming, and what kinds of adaptive mechanisms are being adopted globally towards mitigation?
  5. (Urban) Environmental Justice: The unit will consider the everyday politics as well as the larger mobilisations that result from people’s intimate relations with toxicity.

Assessment Details with weights:

Assessment structure (modes and frequency of assessments): Reanimating the City: an essay in which which students develop an argument around the agency of a chosen non-human in a given geographical context (10%), Metabolism group exercise—students work in groups, research and present the metabolism of a specific commodity (10%). Photo-essay—students select a particular material element of our urban contexst and trace its story across the city/region via photographs and narrative (30%). Environmental Justice Interviews—students select a community facing environmental injusctice and conduct at least 5 long interviews with the residents (15%). In-class final examination (35%).

Reading List:

  • Biehler, D.D. (2013) Pests in the city: flies, bedbugs, cockroaches, and rats. Washington: University of Washington Press. Ch 3
  • Ernston, H (n.d.) Re-translating nature in post-apartheid Cape Town: the material semiotics of people and plants at Bottom road. In Heeks, R (ed.) Conference on ‘Understanding Development through ANT’. LSE.
  • McKinney, M. L. (2008) Effects of urbanization on species richness: a review of plants and animals. Urban Ecosystems 11(2): 161-176.
  • Cousins, JJ and JP Newell. (2015). A political-industrial ecology of water supply infrastructure for Los Angeles. Geoforum 58: 38-50.
  • M. (2004). Rethinking urban metabolism: water, space and the modern city. City, 8(3), 363-379.
  • Sharan A (2014) In the City, Out of Place: Nuisance, Pollution and Dwelling in Delhi, c. 1850-2000. Delhi: Oxford University Press. Ch 4
  • Whitehead, Mark. 2011. State, Science and the Skies: Governmentalities of the British Atmosphere. Chichestor: Wiley-Blackwell. Ch 2 and 3
  • Rosenzweig, C et al (2011) Climate change and cities: First assessment report of the Urban Climate Change Research Network. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Auyero, J and D Swistun. 2007. Confused because Exposed: Towards an Ethnography of Environmental Suffering. Ethnography 8 (2): 123-44.
  • Shapiro, N (2015). Attuning to the Chemosphere: Domestic Formaldehyde, Bodily Reasoning, and the Chemical Sublime. Cultural Anthropology 30(3): 368-93.
  • Truelove, Y (2011). (Re-)Conceptualizing Water Inequality in Delhi, India through a Feminist Political Ecology Framework. Geoforum 42(2): 143-152.