Rethinking Knowledge Systems for Urban Resilience: Feminist and Decolonial Contributions to Just Transformations

Citation:

Wijsman, Katinka, and Mathieu Feagan. 2019. “Rethinking Knowledge Systems for Urban Resilience: Feminist and Decolonial Contributions to Just Transformations.” Environmental Science & Policy 98 (August): 70–76..

Authors: Katinka Wijsman, Mathieu Feagan

Abstract:

Work in urban resilience planning recognizes the importance of knowledge diversity to understanding and acting on climate change, but falls short in adequately situating itself within ongoing historical processes that shape uneven urban playing fields in which planning happens. This paper uses insights from environmental feminist and decolonial knowledge politics to challenge knowledge systems analysis to explicitly question and alter structures of power in environmental knowledge making in North American cities. If knowledge systems analysis can investigate and intervene in governance structures through which environmental decision- and policy-making happen, this necessitates reflection on ontological, epistemological and ethical commitments (or ‘starting points’) as these carry material and discursive weight: they open up and foreclose ways in which resilience is practiced. Given increasing recognition that urban resilience needs to consider issues of justice and equity, in this paper we take cues from feminist and decolonial scholarship that has centered these themes for decades and which offer ‘starting points’ to rethink knowledge systems for resilience. Understanding urbanization as key process in the expansion of relations fundamental to the production of anthropocentric climate change, we argue that changing these relations is crucial if urban resilience planning is to contribute to alternative and socially just urban futures. Against tendencies of depoliticization that solutions-oriented work can sometimes exhibit, feminist and decolonial perspectives locate knowledge-making practices squarely within struggles for social justice in the city. We propose three strategies for those working on knowledge systems for resilience to advance their practice: centering justice and transgression, reflexive research practice, and thinking historically. Ultimately, this paper shows that taking seriously critical social sciences furthers fundamentally new ideas for what transitions to urban resilience could mean.

Keywords: urban planning, climate change, decolonial theory, feminist theory, knowledge systems

Topics: Coloniality/Post-Coloniality, Environment, Climate Change, Feminisms, Governance, Infrastructure, Urban Planning, Justice

Year: 2019

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