Assembling urban riskscapes: Climate adaptation, scales of change, and the politics of expertise in Surat, India

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The global risks of climate change have become tangible and urgent in cities—and in response, climate adaptation has recently emerged on urban political agendas worldwide, including in vulnerable coastal cities of East and South Asia. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in the Indian city of Surat, this article seeks to re-conceptualize climate adaptation efforts via the related but distinct analytical vocabularies of worlding and assemblage urbanism. In particular, the article analyzes the contested politics of expertise by way of which Surat has been reshaped over the past few years into a regional model of climate resilience, within unequal local–global assemblages of urban planning and power. This work of resilience-building is shown to revolve around Surat-based economic and political elites, who deploy mobile consultancy knowledges to render particular urban ‘riskscapes’ (in)visible, in ways conducive to specific forms of middle-class development. In turn, the article shows how this ‘official’ work of resilience-building is challenged and contested by fragmented civic–professional publics, mobilizing their own versions of counter-expertise towards alternative riskscapes. These heterogeneous knowledge practices, I suggest, link into and enable different visions and commitments to competing ‘scales of change’ for the city. By thus allowing us to grasp the situated tools, practices and knowledges through which ‘large-scale’ processes of urban change—development, climate resilience, justice—are shaped and contested around specific places and spaces, the article concludes that assemblage urbanism may contribute to new critical explorations of agonistic technical politics and democracy in the city.
Udgave nummer4
Sider (fra-til)602-618
StatusUdgivet - 2016

ID: 167233102