Kin City: Urban Ecologies and Internationalism · BG Textseries 2024 · Call for Papers

Multi-layered collage: Elements include a satellite image of Berlin; the Agbogbloshie landfill in Ghana’s capital, Accra, where tons of e-waste (old smartphones, etc.) from cities (mostly in the Global North) are dumped; delivery drone with package; two refugee women carrying children and luggage; illustration of a Green Ban in Windsor, Australia – a form of worker-led strike for urban environmental causes; logistics worker with package. Artwork: Colnate Group, 2024 (cc by nc)
Artwork: Colnate Group, 2024 (cc by nc)

Colonial-capitalist urbanization has gradually transformed the earth into a planet of cities: In 1950, less than a third of the world’s ever-growing population lived in cities; in 2007, for the first time in history, more than half did. Given this development, it is not surprising that the ecological crises of this planet are closely linked to big cities, or more precisely to urban metabolisms, i.e. to socio-economic processes, especially growth- and profit-oriented production and consumption, which consume resources and energy, require an incessant supply of materials, goods and labor, generate waste, pollution and more. In other words: The growth and profit-oriented production and consumption in the metropolises leave an ecological footprint that destabilizes the planet’s ecosystems. At the same time, cities as “engines of growth” are becoming the engines of an ecological-economic vicious circle. Here, economic and ecological excesses are increasingly devastatingly intertwined and mutually reinforcing, causing, for example, pandemics, biodiversity loss, sanitation emergencies, resource wars, and the slow violence of climate catastrophe. Meanwhile, the growing instability of planetary eco-systems reveals that cities are particularly vulnerable to the consequences of the very crises they generate: Ravaged and consequently revolting, ecosystems play back the stress to which they have been subjected (Oxana Timofeeva, 2022); exposed to the feedback of the stress they generate, cities, as infrastructures of capital and life, are increasingly breaking down. How, then, can we politicize the dual role of cities as both drivers and ‘victims’ of the ecological-economic vicious circle?

The ecological-economic vicious circle drives both ecological destruction and economic violence (austerity, debt, etc.) – both on a global scale, but with unevenly and unjustly distributed local and regional consequences. This apocalyptic scenario not only calls into action emancipatory movements that respond to emergencies with community-based survival strategies. It is also appropriated by alarmists who fuel social polarization, desolidarization, and right-wing mobilization; and who make the recalibration of capitalist warfare and the implementation of green capitalism appear as ‘solutions’ without alternatives. Such authoritarian and capital-conformist responses to the polycrisis exacerbate existing imbalances, such as social inequality and environmental injustice. These are particularly pronounced in metropolitan areas or rural areas with large industrial activities that attract (and often house) masses of workers and replicate city-like conditions for profit accumulation to flourish, for example, in the form of so-called “steel cities” (Kateřina Frejlachová, 2019). Thus, politicizing cities as infrastructures of capital and life, should mean addressing them as antagonistic spaces that both underlie and produce conflicts between capitalist actors and those struggling to abolish or simply to survive capitalist violence and devastation. Based on this understanding, in the following pages we will try to explore social-ecological perspectives on equality and justice, as well as possibilities and imaginaries for cross-border alliances. That is, alliances that are not reducible to the commonality of origin, nationality, skin color, gender, etc., but are based on the common (if not always consciously shared) struggle within urban metabolisms against capitalist apocalypse.

The focus on existential struggles within urban metabolisms is not least intended to politicize cities in relation to their regional and global contexts: If capitalist metabolisms produce social, ecological, economic, and spatial inequalities and injustices within cities (and metroplitan-like spaces like rural factory cities) and at the same time provoke struggles against them, our challenge is to put into political perspective how these conflicts reflect the entanglements of cities with the ‘outside world.’ The emancipatory orientation of this approach is expressed in the title “Kin City” with the term kin, defined here as a kinship based on a deep sense of the connections and relationships that hold our world together (Deborah Bird Rose, 2011) and that potentially enable interwoven forms of social, spatial, economic, and ecological justice.

Call for Papers

The series of texts that will be published within the framework of the “Kin City” project – the 25th anniversary project of the BG and a follow up to “Allied Grounds” (2023) – are intended to give voice to seminal narratives, that, in their polyphony, transcend the divisions upon which colonial-capitalist globalization has been thriving and expand our understanding that we are all interdependent.

The Call for Papers is aimed at researchers, activists and cultural workers, who, in theory or practice, are engaged in emancipatory struggles, and seeks to forge links between them by interweaving urban and ecological issues within an expanded internationalist framework, taking into account class, decolonial and migration issues. The “Kin City” project will focus on the following five thematic strands and the BG calls for submissions related to at least one of these areas:

1) Privatization vs. commoning of access to essential urban resources (from housing to water): Why has reclaiming the infrastructure of life from capital become even more urgent in the wake of the climate crisis?

2) Environmental and climate (in-)justice in cities: What does it mean to be up against urban environmental racism?

3) Updating working-class environmentalism in the city as factory: What are the challenges of multisectoral labor struggles in the “green” transition of cities?

4) What does it mean to decolonize urban metabolisms? Cities as centers of (“green”) resource and energy coloniality

5) Escaping from or to the metropolis? The climate crisis as cause/driver of displacement and flight and the role of cities in this context

Texts of 1,500 words or 10,000 characters will be published in the BG under a Creative Commons license in English and German throughout the year. They can be submitted in either language to info (at) berlinergazette (dot) de until July 1, 2024 or November 15, 2024. Deadlines can also be arranged individually.

In an introductory essay, Magdalena Taube and Krystian Woznicki, the curators and organizers of the project, outline the various themes and how the project proposes to bring them together. The essay, which is still a work in progress, is an 18,000-word piece that will be published later this year as a multilingual booklet (print and open-access PDF). You can now access the draft, last updated on June 10, in a secure cryptpad, best viewed with Chrome and Firefox browsers:
https://cryptpad.berlinergazette.de/pad/#/2/pad/edit/cPWajKHNHz8-2Lg5+dBCcN5r/

3 comments on “Kin City: Urban Ecologies and Internationalism · BG Textseries 2024 · Call for Papers

  1. I am interested in presenting. My work is in clinical trauma response and my research on Balkan Route socio-cultural-environmental impact. Is there a site for papers?

  2. @Dr. Danica Anderson: Thank you for your message! Please submit your proposal/paper under info (at) berlinergazette (dot) de and please indicate which of the five thematic strands (see above) your proposal/paper relates to.

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