New research project: Socioecological Movements and Transformative Collective Action in Urban Ecosystems [MOVE]

In November last year in 2011 we received great news from the Swedish research council Formas that our application to study the influence on urban ecology by civil society organization had received extensive funding. A short description follows below. The project is international with case studies in Cape Town and New Orleans. 

Socioecological Movements and Transformative Collective Action in Urban Ecosystems

This project aims to link the study of collective action as it has been concieved and studied by social movement scholars, with biophysical studies of urban ecology. The project strives to understand how collective action can be viewed as not only producing cultural, social or political changes, but indeed also biophysical or ecological changes. The project builds on a ‘transformative collective action’ approach to study urban ecology and civic-led urban ecological changes (Ernstson 2011). The study compares how civic organizations in Cape Town and New Orleans, two port-cities with a long history of systematic apartheid and racial segregation, have produced both cultural and political changes, and indeed ecological changes. Through a co-learning mode of scholarly engagement (e.g. Melucci 1996), we work in historically marginalized Black/'Coloured' neighbourhoods in Cape Town, and African American neighbourhoods in New Orleans, to trace how ‘civic networks’ has engaged local green areas such as protecting and rehabilitating wetlands, urban farming, and tree planting, to forge ties, access state resources, and produce biophysical changes, but also changes in how urban nature is framed as part of new urban identities and as such how ‘urban nature’ can serve as vehicle to also address spatial justice. This projects builds and complements the ‘Ways of Knowing Urban Ecology’ project above but also uses quantiative methods like social network analysis (SNA) and biophysical assessment methods. It strives to combine ecological and social sciences to critically engage and influence the discourse on social-ecological systems and resilience.

Principal Investigator: Henrik Ernstson
Project Members: Joshua Lewis (PhD student), Thomas Elmqvist, Wayne Zipperer, Pippin Anderson, Susan Parnell and Mario Diani.
Institutional Partners: Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University; African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town; Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Tulane University, New Orleans.
Project Period: 2012-2014.


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