A fond farewell: reflections on Beijing

As our journey through Beijing draws to a close, a look back on the past seven blog posts surfaces the breadth and depth of stories cities have to tell. Binding these stories together is the common thread of how inextricably entangled nature is with the politics, powers, and discourses that create urban landscapes – and in Beijing’s floods, smog, plants, neighbourhoods, and trash, we uncover different ways in which these stories can unfold.

For UPE, the city is therefore a ‘hybrid’ of ‘society and nature’ (Swyngedouw 1996: 66), rather than an entity detached from nature. It ties together ‘people, cities, and things’ (Heynen 2014: 600) in contested urban environments, with various socio-political actors – government officials, scientific and engineering experts, migrants, and the man on the street – separated along lines that determine power, knowledge, and agency. These ‘people’ create the discourses that shape how the city is envisioned, governed, and experienced (Gabriel 2014). The city, then, is both the setting and subject of our stories.

Our examination of issues in Beijing through the lenses of UPE has also surfaced broader implications for the urban agenda, such as social cohesiveness, equity, and sustainability. Beyond that, it provides direction for urban policy that is more holistic, inclusive, and considered going forward.

With that, we draw the curtain on what has personally been an immensely enriching learning experience; I’ve come away with a new pair of lenses with which to see the world. I hope you’ve enjoyed this journey too!

List of References

Gabriel, N. (2014) ‘Urban Political Ecology: Environmental Imaginary, Governance, and the Non-Human’, Geography Compass, 8, 1, 38-48.

Heynen, N. (2014) ‘Urban political ecology I: The urban century’, Progress in Human Geography, 38, 4, 598-604.

Swyngedouw, E. (1996) ‘The city as a hybrid: On nature, society and cyborg urbanization’, Capitalism Nature Socialism, 7, 2, 65-80.

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