‘A Dirt Field’: Nature and Power in Local Planning


Research in urban political ecology (notably Neil Smith’s notion of the production of nature) provides needed legibility for people and things at the cognitive borderland between nature and society, a persistent division in the western worldview. As a social creation, this divide produces material impacts through local political processes. This research problematizes nature as a social object in City of Nayoras planning processes by politicizing hidden flows of power in which nature is often misrecognized or ignored. Bourdieu’s field theory provides an overtly political focus that gives legibility to socially hidden facets of an immanent nature. Ethnographic interviews and participant observation showed that discursive frames from the applied sciences and the abstract and financialized character of economic capital affected nature’s legibility. Applied academic knowledge was used in ways that regulate human behavior apparently unconnected with its technical content but with material impacts across political scales that stem from these frames. Use of knowledge from the natural sciences in local government may be a low cost-high reward strategy for improving local ecological outcomes through increased legibility of dynamic systems. Observations in Nayoras indicate that this knowledge may be consistently absent within mundane planning and maintenance within an urban purview in California.

Author Information
Rebecca Van Stokkum, University of California, Davis, United States

Paper Information
Conference: CITY2017
Stream: Sustainability: Ecology, Energy and the Environment

This paper is part of the CITY2017 Conference Proceedings (View)
Full Paper
View / Download the full paper in a new tab/window

Comments & Feedback

Place a comment using your LinkedIn profile


Share on activity feed

Powered by WP LinkPress

Share this Research

Posted by James Alexander Gordon