Urban Ecologies: City Space, Material Agency, and Environmental Politics in Contemporary Culture (Ecocritical Theory and Practice) 0739195751, 9780739195758

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Urban Ecologies: City Space, Material Agency, and Environmental Politics in Contemporary Culture (Ecocritical Theory and Practice)
 0739195751, 9780739195758

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Urban Ecologies

Ecocritical Theory and Practice Series Editor: Douglas A. Vakoch, California Institute of Integral Studies, USA Advisory Board: Joni Adamson, Arizona State University, USA; Mageb Al-adwani, King Saud University, Saudi Arabia; Bruce Allen, Seisen University, Japan; Hannes Bergthaller, National Chung-Hsing University, Taiwan; Zélia Bora, Federal University of Paraíba, Brazil; Izabel Brandão, Federal University of Alagoas, Brazil; Byron Caminero-Santangelo, University of Kansas, USA; Jeffrey J. Cohen, George Washington University, USA; Simão Farias Almeida, Federal University of Roraima, Brazil; Julia Fiedorczuk, University of Warsaw, Poland; Camilo Gomides, University of Puerto Rico—Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico; Yves-Charles Grandjeat, Michel de Montaigne-Bordeaux 3 University, France; George Handley, Brigham Young University, USA; Isabel Hoving, Leiden University, The Netherlands; Idom Thomas Inyabri, University of Calabar, Nigeria; Serenella Iovino, University of Turin, Italy; Adrian Ivakhiv, University of Vermont, USA; Daniela Kato, Zhongnan University of Economics and Law, China; Petr Kopecký, University of Ostrava, Czech Republic; Yuki Masami, Kanazawa University, Japan; Mohammad Nasser Modoodi, Payame Noor University, Iran; Patrick Murphy, University of Central Florida, USA; Serpil Oppermann, Hacettepe University, Turkey; Rebecca Raglon, University of British Columbia, Canada; Anuradha Ramanujan, National University of Singapore, Singapore; Christian Schmitt-Kilb, University of Rostock, Germany; Marian Scholtmeijer, University of Northern British Columbia, Canada; Heike Schwarz, University of Augsburg, Germany; Murali Sivaramakrishnan, Pondicherry University, India; Scott Slovic, University of Idaho, USA; J. Etienne Terblanche, North-West University, South Africa; Julia Tofantšuk, Tallinn University, Estonia; Jennifer Wawrzinek, Free University of Berlin, Germany; Cheng Xiangzhan, Shandong University, China; Hubert Zapf, University of Augsburg, Germany. Ecocritical Theory and Practice highlights innovative scholarship at the interface of literary/cultural studies and the environment, seeking to foster an ongoing dialogue between academics and environmental activists. Works that explore environmental issues through literatures, oral traditions, and cultural/media practices around the world are welcome. The series features books by established ecocritics that examine the intersection of theory and practice, including both monographs and edited volumes. Proposals are invited in the range of topics relevant to ecocriticism, including but not limited to works informed by cross-cultural and transnational approaches; postcolonialism; posthumanism; ecofeminism; ecospirituality, ecotheology, and religious studies; film/media and visual cultural studies; environmental aesthetics and arts; ecopoetics; ecophenomenology; ecopsychology; animal studies; and pedagogy.

Recent Titles Feminist Ecocriticism: Environment, Women, and Literature, edited by Douglas A. Vakoch Ecoambiguity, Community, and Development: Toward a Politicized Ecocriticism, edited by Scott Slovic, R. Swarnalatha, and Vidya Sarveswaran Transversal Ecocritical Praxis: Theoretical Arguments, Literary Analysis, and Cultural Critique, by Patrick D. Murphy Urban Ecologies: City Space, Material Agency, and Environmental Politics in Contemporary Culture, by Christopher Schliephake

Urban Ecologies City Space, Material Agency, and Environmental Politics in Contemporary Culture

Christopher Schliephake

LEXINGTON BOOKS Lanham • Boulder • New York • London

Published by Lexington Books An imprint of The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc. 4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200, Lanham, Maryland 20706 www.rowman.com Unit A, Whitacre Mews, 26-34 Stannery Street, London SE11 4AB Copyright © 2015 by Lexington Books All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote passages in a review. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Information Available Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Schliephake, Christopher, 1985Urban ecologies : city space, material agency, and environmental politics in contemporary culture / Christopher Schliephake. pages cm. – (Ecocritical theory and practice) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-7391-9575-8 (cloth : alk. paper) – ISBN 978-0-7391-9576-5 (ebook) 1. Urban ecology (Sociology) 2. Ecocriticism. 3. Human ecology. 4. Social ecology. I. Title. HT241.S35 2015 3.04.2–dc23 2014039824 TM The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of American National Standard for Information Sciences Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992.

Printed in the United States of America

Contents

Acknowledgments

ix

Introduction: A Cultural Urban Ecology

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1 2 3 4

“(Eco-)Cosmopolitanism”: The Local, the Global, and the Ecology of World Cities “Force of Nature”: The Ecology of the Inner-City Drug Culture in The Wire “The City that Care Forgot”: The Complex Ecology of (Post-) Katrina New Orleans The More-than-Human City: Material Agents, Cyborgs, and the Invasion of Alien Species

1 43 91 139

Epilogue

185

Bibliography

195

Index

211

About the Author

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Acknowledgments

Writing a book is primarily a solitary undertaking. The process of turning those solitary efforts into what you have before you now, however, required the love, help, and patience of many people. Above all, thanks are due to my mother and father for believing in and supporting me all the way. And to my grandparents who continue to be the greatest role models I could ever ask for. My grandmother Rosemarie, who was an avid and passionate reader all of her life, did not live to see the publication of this book—this is for her. I would also like to thank my two doctoral advisors, Professor Hubert Zapf and Professor Serenella Iovino, whose kindness, dedication, and intelligence amaze me. They have made the writing of this book possible in the first place and without their guidance it would have never happened. Many thanks are owed to Professor Gregor Weber who has supported me ever since I enrolled at the University of Augsburg in 2005/06 and who continues to have great influence on my professional work. I am also grateful to everyone at Rowman & Littlefield and Lexington Books. Especially to the editor of the Environmental Theory and Practice Series, Doug Vakoch, for including my book in this great series as well as to Lindsey Porambo, Elizabeth DeBusk, and Megan DeLancey for their tireless efforts in getting it out into the world. I am lucky enough to have a great number of people who have touched my life in infinitely enriching ways and who make my life what it is. They are too numerous to list, but I owe a debt of gratitude to Konrad Zerbe for his friendship and the contribution of the cover image; and to Franziska Waßerberg for reminding me of what life is about. Lastly, I would also like to thank my favorite band Pearl Jam for their music that has been a constant source of inspiration and energy while writing this book. One of their songs equates the attainment of knowledge with the growth of a tree—as an ecocritic, I cannot help but think that there is a truth in that metaphor. If it is true, ix

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then I still have a long way to grow. Thanks to everyone who is along for the journey.

Introduction A Cultural Urban Ecology

In his landmark 1938 monograph study The Culture of Cities, the great writer and scholar Lewis Mumford undertook an examination of the city which conceptualized it as both a natural phenomenon as well as a cultural artifact: The city is a fact in nature, like a cave, a run of mackerel or an ant-heap. But it is also a conscious work of art, and it holds within its communal framework many simpler and more personal forms of art. Mind takes form in the city; and in turn, urban forms condition mind. For space, no less than time, is artfully reorganized in cities: in boundary lines and silhouettes, in the fixing of horizontal planes and vertical peaks, in utilizing or denying the natural site, the city records the attitude of a culture and an epoch to the fundamental facts of its existence. The dome and the spire, the open avenue and the closed court, tell the story, not merely of different physical accommodations, but of essentially different conceptions of man’s destiny. The city is both a physical utility for collective living and a symbol of those collective purposes and unanimities that arise under such favoring circumstance. With language itself, it remains man’s greatest work of art. (Mumford 1970, 5)

For Mumford the city thus figures as both a spatial organization and physical presence, allowing social interaction and communal representation, and as a form of culture which is closely related to the imaginary and can itself be viewed as a “work of art.” However, Mumford does not only refer to architectural forms, but rather invokes the “mind” as something which “takes form” in the city, which, in the reciprocal interplay between creation and perception, is “conditioned” by “urban forms.” His ideas are exceptional both because they underline the imaginary and creative impulse which is implicitly present in social urban life, and because they resonate strongly with Gregxi

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ory Bateson’s definition of ecology that he articulated in Steps to an Ecology of Mind in 1972. Bateson, rather cryptically, defined ecology as “the study of the interaction and survival of ideas and programs . . . in circuits” (Bateson 2000, 491), drawing an analogy to patterns of information processes and cybernetics. Central to his theory is a re-conceptualization of “mind” as an ecological process itself, as an, in the end, complex, dynamic and interrelated system of ideas that is itself embedded in and created through material forms and processes (Iovino 2012a, 62; Zapf 2008a, 149–50). As Gersdorf and Mayer put it in their discussion of Bateson’s work, his “conceptual expansion” of ecology “into the realm of metaphor opened the door for a re-definition of mind as a principle that is ‘immanent’ to all structures and objects, be they natural or cultural. . . . More than simply the secularized version of an autonomous, metaphysical power that regulates all human affairs,” they continue, “Bateson’s ‘mind’ becomes a synonym for a cybernetic system, one in which individual body, society, and ecosystem interact and communicate with each other for the purpose of survival” (Gersdorf/Mayer 2006, 15). It is in this sense that Mumford’s definition of “the city” above can itself be read as the description of such a “cybernetic system” of interrelated processes. Like Bateson, Mumford, too, conceptualizes the “mind” in a material way, as a principle shaped by the recurring interrelations and interpretations between an individual and his/her (urban built) environment. Although not explicitly stated in his own writing, Mumford’s take on the city can therefore be interpreted as an ecological one; one which is not only concerned with the reciprocal interaction between city on the one hand and countryside on the other, or between the different life forms inhabiting an urban environment, but which seeks to frame it as a spatial-material as well as a cultural practice related to imagination and (cultural) self-expression. This will also be the central idea of this study and the main definition of an urban ecology which seeks to view cities as spatial phenomena that have manifold and complex material interrelations with their respective natural environments, and that harbor “minds”—in the sense of Bateson—of their own: Ideas, imaginations, and interpretations that make up the cultural symbolic and discursive side of our urban lives and that are stored and constantly re-negotiated in their cultural and artistic representations. 1 I argue that an urban ecology which only takes into account the socio-spatial or material processes that frame urban life is incomplete, since manifestations of the cultural imagination have to be seen as integral parts of what we refer to as the “environment.” I want to show that it is through the imagination that meaning is attached to urban space, that “urbanity” is, in the end, a state of “mind” rather than a geographic or material entity that can be clearly separated from, for instance, the “country.” Although there is separation between “human-built” environments and “natural” environments that is apparent in

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landscape features, I claim that material processes constitute a connecting link between the two spheres that puts into question whether we can indeed perceive them as separate entities. Materials like waste, toxics, or petroleum, easily traverse the boundaries between these different forms of environment and illustrate that their boundary is one of porosity and instability. As I want to make clear, urban life, rather than constituting a solely human-dominated domain, is conditioned by the interaction with nonhuman life forms and agents—interactions that are themselves subject to public debate and cultural imagination. Urban politics are concerned both with the spatial organization of urban environments and the management of material substances; aspects that are tackled in aesthetic representations of urban life which often (explicitly or implicitly) deal with the effects of these policies on community levels. Although, in other words, spatial-material processes constitute the framework of urban life, it is on the cultural-discursive level that their inner workings and interrelations are reflected and imbued with meaning. It is in and through culture that urbanity emerges as an ecological system. And it is here that new forms of dealing with the environment—in every sense of that complex term—can be sought. The urban ecology outlined in this work, although interdisciplinary by nature, thus takes its main impetus from an analysis of examples taken from contemporary culture dealing with urban life and the complex interrelations between urban communities and their (natural and built) environments. As a “study of the mutually constructing relationship between culture and environment” (Bennett/Teague 1999, 5) it offers an ecocritical reading of our current urban world without raising a claim to be an all-encompassing analysis of the broadly layered and complex phenomenon of urbanity in general. Rather, the book seeks, on the one hand, to select specific examples which offer themselves as portrayals of the dense networks and dynamic interactions between urban societies, city spaces, and the larger environment—the, to borrow a term from David Abram (1997), “more-than-human world”—in which they are situated; on the other hand, it also tries to re-conceptualize the subject of urbanity within an ecocritical framework. For although ecocritcism has been defined, in the broadest sense, as “the study of the relationship between literature and the physical environment” (Glotfelty 1996, xvii) 2 and has evolved into a burgeoning field of literary and cultural studies, urbanity has, to a large extent, been missing from its main subject matters or was treated only marginally in its theoretical underpinnings. This study aims to address this gap both in practice as well as in theory and to reclaim our urban world for an environmentalist agenda in which the urban environment is viewed as an integral part of the densely related ecological systems of this planet. However, it would, of course, be wrong to suggest that urbanity has been an anathema in ecocriticism. As Murphy reminds us, ecocriticism “should

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not be misconstrued as a singular theory but rather as a movement with common concerns among its participants,” who “diverge wildly and widely on which theories and texts ought to be included or be made the focus of attention” (Murphy 2009, 4). Michael Bennett and David W. Teague have, for instance, been among the first to discover the topic of urbanity for ecocritical readings of environmental texts 3 which had thus far been “associated with a body of work devoted to nature writing, American pastoralism, and literary ecology” (Bennett/Teague 1999, 5). Their edited volume In the Nature of Cities had the twofold aim to “sharpen this focus on the nature of cities by exploring the components of an urban ecocriticism” by pointing “to the self-limiting conceptualizations of nature, culture, and environment built into many ecocritical projects by their exclusion of urban places” and to “remind city dwellers of our placement within ecosystems and the importance of this fact for understanding urban life and culture” (6). While the collected essays certainly managed to offer various examples of an analysis of how the environmental imagination is also at home in the darkened side alleys of a ghetto or the shimmering concrete of a downtown business district, they were, for the most part, under-theorized when it came to the question of how an urban environment relates to its wider surroundings and in how far it could be viewed as an ecosystem itself. Starting from Newman’s observation that “the environmental crisis threatens all landscapes—wild, rural, suburban, and urban” and that “South Boston is just as natural (and wild) as Walden Pond” (Newman 1998, 71), Lawrence Buell’s spell-binding study Writing for an Endangered World aspires to put these interrelations into focus, to “put ‘green’ and ‘brown’ landscapes, the landscapes of exurbia and industrialization, in conversation with one another” (Buell 2001, 7). 4 For “although,” as Buell remarks with regard to ecocritical readings, “their reach extends to any literary transaction between human imagination and material world, in practice they have concentrated . . . on ‘natural’ environment rather than environment more inclusively” (8). Buell thus calls for a shift of attention to “the interdependence between urban and outback landscape, and the traditions of imagining them” (8) in order to examine the “indispensableness of physical environment as a shaping force in human art and experience, and how such an aesthetic works” (9). It is especially the latter aspect that serves as a recurring concern of this study as well, focusing on the way in which cultural imagination and representation are shaped by and interact with contemporary urbanity, whereby the urban environment will be treated as a “built environment . . . created by human activity” (Kemp 2004, 22). 5 However, the urban environment will not be conceptualized as a static entity, but rather as an ever-shifting, dynamic space in which many, to borrow a term from Latour, “actants” 6 reside and function as mediators between human communities, city space, and the “more-than-human” or more-than-urban world. For the urban environmental

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imagination is, as will be argued, determined by the “physical environment” as well as by the fleeting, mutating bodies and material substances that move through it. William Cronon, in his great 1992 study Nature’s Metropolis, was one of the first to explore these material interactions, the “material ties,” from an environmental historical point of view “between city and country in an effort to understand the city’s place in nature” (Cronon 1991, 8). His study did not only uncover the flow of materials, substances, and commodities between the urban and rural landscape, showing how they depend on one another, but led to a questioning of the very categories by which we differentiate between city on the one hand and nature on the other. Writing about his early contempt for city life in Chicago and the admiration of Wisconsin’s agricultural countryside, he remarks: I began to doubt the ‘naturalness’ of the wall that seemed to stand so solidly between the country I thought I loved and the city I thought I hated. If that wall was more a habit of thought than a fact of nature, then decrying the ‘unnaturalness’ of city life in a place like Chicago was merely one way of doing what my own environmental ethic told me to oppose: isolating human life from the ecosystems that sustain it. Putting the city outside nature meant sending humanity into the same exile. And yet this is precisely what I and many other modern environmentalists have unconsciously often done. . . . The boundary between natural and unnatural shades almost imperceptibly into the boundary between nonhuman and human, with wilderness and the city lying at opposite poles—the one pristine and unfallen, the other corrupt and unredeemed. Gauged by how we feel about them, the distance we travel between city and country is measured more in the mind than on the ground. (8)

Cronon’s insights are vital to an urban ecology not only because he invites us to re-consider the city’s place in nature, but because his thoughtful analysis helps to uncover the artificial dichotomy between urban and non-urban landscapes, or, to be more exact, one that equates them with an unnatural and a natural one. These ideas are central, because they counteract one fateful fallacy in Western thought that has been prevalent since the early modern age, namely to uphold a rigid division between culture and nature, city and countryside; 7 and because they make clear that by excluding a human-dominated ecosystem like the city from our perception of the ‘natural’ world we will indeed only reach a very limited understanding of the complex patterns and interacting processes that shape our environments. Cronon’s work can thus be perceived as a deeply ethical project, one that re-introduces urbanity as an ecosystem in its own right that interrelates with the wider ecosystems of the “more-than-human” world. For millennia, humans have organized themselves in cities as their primary way of living. From here, they have significantly altered their natural

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environments and have made decisions that have severely affected habitats of other species, natural resources, and the flow of substances in the wider atmosphere—all in ways, that had, in turn, effects on the living conditions in cities and the ways communities choose to live together. By focusing on these issues, an urban ecology, as it is aspired in this work, is therefore primarily an ecological ethics (Clark 2011, 152; Zapf 2008b; Robbins/Hintz/ Moore 2010, 70–77), one that explores the inner-workings of human-dominated ecosystems and investigates their shortcomings in order to point out ways to make cities more sustainable, especially by illustrating to environmentalists and city-dwellers alike that cities are integral parts of our natural environments. In this context, it is remarkable that Cronon, too, invokes the “mind” as the central place from which we perceive our respective environments and interpret them, including the often arbitrary differentiation between city and country, culture and nature. Drawing on Bateson once again, an urban ecology is thus also faced with the necessity of creating a new “image” of the city (Bateson 2000, 416)—one that does not negate the different environments and transitions between it, but that breaks down rigid oppositions that “transform” the city into some strange other, an ugly concrete stain on an otherwise beautiful landscape. The city, too, is a form of nature. In his 1996 monograph study Justice, Nature and the Geography of Difference, the Marxist geographer David Harvey has also, echoing Cronon, called for the need to integrate urbanity into ecological thinking by famously stating that “there is nothing unnatural about New York City.” He argues that “it is inconsistent to hold that everything in the world relates to everything else, as ecologists tend to do, and then decide that the built environment and the urban structures that go into it are somehow outside of both theoretical and practical consideration.” He finally claims that “the effect has been to evade integrating understandings of the urbanizing process into environmental-ecological analysis” (Harvey 1996, 186). In the same vein, Roger Keil has warned ecologists that “it would be false to indulge in a naive conceptualization of nature as something outside of human society and human practice. Nature is not something ‘green’ outside the city and ecology does not just deal with wild things” (Keil 1995, 282). Both Harvey’s Marxist geography and Keil’s “Urban Political Ecology” 8 have repeatedly stressed the need to re-conceptualize the city as a human dominated spatial arena which is socially produced and “where the global ecological crisis manifests itself concretely” (282). They thus re-enforce the need to review ecology as a practice—a practice famously coined by Ernst Haeckel in 1866 as “the study of organisms in relation to each other and to the surroundings in which they live” (Clark 2011, 152). The implicit argument in their writings is that an ecology as a science is incomplete as long as it is reduced to the biological investigation of “the relationship between biological bodies or organisms and their animate and inanimate environments” (Gersdorf/Mayer 2006, 15), especially

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as long as it excludes human-dominated urban ecosystems and their impact on the “more-than-human” world. Accordingly, an “urban ecology” calls for the need to, on the one hand, broaden ecology’s outlook by integrating built environments and human communities into its theoretical frameworks, and, on the other, to integrate the natural environment, environmental processes, and material substances into (urban) geography in order to avoid an anthropocentric perspective that is narrowly focused on “the human dimensions of the city” (Hall 2006, 152). While this study is understood as a contribution to this project, it does not purport to be an example of an urban ecology as a science. Rather, in its focus on the analysis of cultural representations of contemporary urbanity, it uses the term in a metaphorical sense, 9 as a way to uncover the deep-seated and far-reaching interrelatedness and interactions between urban systems and their communities and the wider environments in which they are situated, focusing on spatial parameters (i.e., the interplay between natural and built environment in an urban setting), material processes (i.e., the urban metabolisms and flows of material substances that stem from man’s exchanges with the “more-than-human” world), and environmental politics (i.e., decisions of urban governments and communities that continue to shape the urban environments with far-reaching consequences for the global ecosystem). It will be argued that cultural media function as forms of selfrepresentation and self-reflection (Iser 1993) that stage these complex interconnections in ways that are analogous to ecological principles not only in how they render how space, materiality, politics, and cultural imagination relate to one another, but also in how they can be viewed as active agents in these processes as well. Thus, “culture” will be understood, with Peter Finke, “as an ecosystemically organized product of overall evolutionary processes” (Finke 2006, 175), as a means of portraying our urban worlds and of envisioning “potential” (208) alternatives or futures for them. Consequently, this study offers cultural ecological readings of different cultural texts, films, and television documentaries and series that put cities center stage and offer explorations into the nature of cities, reflecting on their inner-workings and the manifold interrelations with environmental problems and ecological processes of the global ecosystem. Thereby, cultural ecology will be understood in the sense of Hubert Zapf, as a way “to focus on the interaction . . . of culture and nature without neglecting the inescapable linguistic and discursive mediatedness of that interrelationship” (Zapf 2006, 51). Within this framework of a cultural ecology, imaginative literary texts and cultural forms of creative self-expressions do not only “stage and explore, in ever new scenarios, the relationship of prevailing cultural systems to the needs and manifestations of human and nonhuman ‘nature’” (54), but also reflect on deficits and alternative models of that reciprocal relationship. 10 In this sense, the cultural products explored in this book will be analyzed as media that, on

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the one hand, give a critical account of various aspects of our contemporary urban world, and that can, on the other, “transform” (Bateson 2000, 418) our ideas and images of cities by re-imagining their place in nature and showing how they are integral parts of ecological processes that manifest themselves not only locally, but globally. Since this project is thus a highly inter- or transdisciplinary one, the remainder of this introduction is meant to give an overview of the different theoretical implications of what one could call a cultural urban ecology. As a starting point, the term “urban ecology,” which has come to mean different things in different disciplines (Waage 2009), will be further explored, in order to illustrate aspects that a literary and cultural analysis can import from other theories and to underline how it can contribute to the analysis of our contemporary cities. In this context, three aspects will prove of vital importance: Firstly, an examination of city space as the arena where the urban built environment functions as the frame for social and ecological interactions; and of the representation of spatial dimensions in cultural media and texts, which can transform abstract space into “storied place” or contest hegemonic readings of it. Secondly, the implications of ecocritical conceptions of material agency which will help to re-figure cities as spaces of transit and transfer, where human bodies, material substances, and the built environment interact and merge in manifold ways, questioning whether cities can indeed be conceptualized as human-dominated ecosystems. And thirdly, an exploration of environmental politics as the policy-centered domain of urban life, where politicians, social interest groups, and urban communities are involved to discursively negotiate and decide on issues that have a vital influence on the questions of environmental impact, justice, and the sustainability of cities. Finally, a short overview of the cultural texts and media explored in this book will be given, also highlighting the imaginary quality of cities and urban discourse. URBAN ECOLOGY The term “urban ecology” has a wide variety of meanings and is used by a plethora of disciplines, including social scientists, natural scientists, and urban planners (McDonnell 2011, 9). It was first coined by the Chicago School of urban sociology in the 1920s, most prominently by Robert E. Park, R. D. McKenzie, and Robert Burgess, who drew analogies between the organization and spatial formation of cities to biological processes of plant and animal life, in fact perceiving the city as a “plantlike organism” (Bridge/Watson 2000, 14). 11 However, their aim was not, as Alberti notes, “to study ecological relationships but to understand urban systems, building on ecological analogies” (Alberti 2008, 9). Drawing on concepts originally developed in

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ecology, one of their primarily influential approaches was “conceptually linking urban spaces to distinctive social groups, creating a spatiality to the urban form and to cultural difference that was previously undeveloped” (Warren/Harlan/Boone/Lerman/Shochat/Kinzig 2010, 175). Thereby, the Chicago School also became a driving force behind the evolution of “human ecology.” McKenzie defined the term “as a study of the spatial and temporal relations of human beings as affected by the selective, distributive, and accommodative forces of the environment” (McKenzie 1984, 63–64), especially focusing on the “spatial relations” between individuals, social groups, and their institutions (64). As Andrew Ross points out, the conceptualization “of city space as an evolving, contested habitat” proved to be influential for urban studies and the “description of collective adaption to a given environment became a favored model for explaining the organization of urban space” (Ross 1999, 17). 12 In so far as the city is understood as a spatially organized environment, the approach of the Chicago School will also be an important influence for this study, while the overtly formulaic and economic models, especially of Burgess (Pacione 2009, 139–42), will not be included; rather, space will be re-figured not solely as a contested social arena (although this is certainly an important aspect), but as a vital inter-actant for community life, namely as habitat and a grounding framework for the development of a sense of place and identity. The latter aspect is, in fact, implicitly present in the Chicago School’s writings as well, notably in Park’s: The city . . . is something more than a congeries of individual men and of social conveniences, streets, buildings, electric lights, tramways, and telephones, etc.; something more, also, than a mere constellation of institutions. . . . The city is, rather, a state of mind, a body of customs and traditions, and of the organized attitudes and sentiments that inhere in these customs and are transmitted with this tradition. The city is not, in other words, merely a physical mechanism and an artificial construction. It is involved in the vital processes of the people who compose it; it is a product of nature, and particularly of human nature. (Park 1984, 1)

In this context, it is significant that Park, too, like Mumford and Cronon, invokes the “mind” and its intricate connection to urban life and space, underlining the cultural processes by which space is, in a reciprocal way, perceived, inhabited, and transformed. 13 The city as an integral part of the “vital processes of the people who compose it” will therefore serve as a guiding idea of this book as well, while the analysis of cultural media will explore how abstract space is interpreted, narrated, and, finally, negotiated by turning it into a “storied place” and how they can function as counter discourses against views that frame urban space merely in economic terms as something to be administered, planned, and rationalized. I would argue that

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cultural media are central to urban place-making processes and the way in which we define urban forms, illustrating how and why they matter. Although biology and the natural sciences have been the disciplines from which ecology originally evolved, the study of urban ecosystems is a relatively recent phenomenon in them (Sukopp 1998, 3–4). 14 For a long time, ecologists had neglected humans as biological agents in their studies (McIntyre/Knowles-Yánez/Hope 2000, 6). Only when the human impact on the Earth’s ecosystems became more and more dominant in the course of the 20th century and no “natural” landscape or habitat seemed to be untouched by human influence, was attention focused on cities as “the most human dominated of all ecosystems” (Grimm/Grove/Pickett/Redman 2000, 571). This re-imagination of urban structures as ecosystems of their own gave rise to new approaches which applied ecology’s traditional methods and theories to the study of urban environments. 15 This application of ecological principles for the study of cities was decisively influenced by the German scholars Herbert Sukopp and Rüdiger Wittig (1998) who, at first, conceptualized the exploration of “biological patterns and environmental processes in urban areas as a subdiscipline of biology and ecology,” before including a stronger human-centered perspective, defining urban ecology as “the study of nature within cities, humans within cities, and the coupled relationship of humans and nature within cities” (Endlicher 2011, 5). These two aspects of research have recently been described as “ecology in cities” and “ecology of cities” (Grimm/Grove/Pickett/Redman 2000, 573–74): “ecology in cities” puts emphasis on biological processes like the examination of urban forms of flora and fauna, whereas “ecology of cities” seeks to include “social and economic drivers” (574) into its conceptual framework. In other words, the latter aspect takes into account human elements like “information flow, culture, and institutions” in order to “acknowledge the primary importance of human decision-making in the dynamics of the urban ecosystem” (575), thus re-thinking, at the same time, the classical form of ecology as a science. As Marina Alberti perceives this trend in an ecologist’s approach to urban environments: “Only recently have they realized that we cannot study urban ecosystems unless we also understand how humans and their organizations function in them.” At the same time, she makes clear that this “social turn” in ecology is accompanied by an “ecological one” in social science: “Social scientists, on the other hand, have only recently started to recognize that people are biological organisms and that the natural environment may be a key factor in explaining many of the choices people make.” However, she also points out that “simply linking existing approaches in an ‘additive’ fashion may not adequately address the processes and behaviors that couple human and natural systems, because human and ecological processes may interact at levels that are not represented in each separate disciplinary framework” (Alberti 2008, 4). I would argue that it is exactly at this point of

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intersection that a cultural urban ecology has its place. I claim that cultural media are not only able to observe “human and ecological processes” in Alberti’s sense, but that they can, in ever-changing ways, imagine their manifold and complex interrelations in ways that are not possible in scientific “disciplinary frameworks.” 16 Cultural imaginative world-making is thus perceived as an “inter-actant” in the interplay between human and ecological processes in an urban ecology, as an integral part of the “hybrid phenomena that emerge from” their “interactions” (Alberti 2008, 6). While this is an important aspect that literary and cultural studies can contribute to the emerging field of “urban ecology,” what it can import from ecologists is a focus on the “interacting agents” (6) in urban environments, namely on the flows of material substances, energy, waste, and toxics, since these elements determine our urban lives and their “ecological footprints,” and also have, as will be shown, a great influence on how urbanity is represented and imagined in contemporary culture. Another school of thought that deals with the ecology of cities can be found in the political and social sciences, mostly referred to as urban political ecology. Grounded in 19th-century Marxist writings on the city as well as in more recent trends in radical geography that focus on “uneven development” and “the social production of nature” (Smith 2008; Fitzsimmons 1998; Swyngedouw 2004), urban political ecology is concerned with “re-naturing urban theory” and introducing “the urbanization process as both one of the driving forces behind many environmental issues and as the place where socio-environmental problems are experienced most acutely” (Heynen/Kaika/Swyngedouw 2005, 2). Drawing on social ecologists like Murray Bookchin who holds that “the imbalances produced in the natural world are caused by the imbalance produced in the social world” (Bookchin 1997, 25), urban political ecologists like Erik Swyngedouw explore “how cities are dense networks of interwoven sociospatial processes” (Swyngedouw 2003, 899). 17 Thereby, these studies follow a political agenda in so far as they focus their “attention” on “the political processes” that lead to the formation of specific urban environments (Heynen/Kaika/Swyngedouw 2005, 2) and perceive these processes as manifestations of “socio-metabolic transformations;” aspects, that are, in the end, vital for “engaging in a meaningful environmental politics” (3). As Roger Keil points out, urban political ecology explores the various decisions and operations that make and re-make environmental living conditions in cities (Keil 1995, 287), focusing both on “human agency” (287) and the “material aspects” of the “social relationship with nature” (285). He claims that “we need to discuss the cultural ‘symbolization’ of these material aspects” in order to “make nature . . . subject to democratic procedures” based on “plurality” and the re-enforcement of “policy formation as a political process” (285). Again, I argue that this perspective can benefit from a cultural urban ecology which explores our cultural representations and “sym-

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bolizations” of cities—firstly, because these media and texts critically engage with the shortcomings of contemporary urbanity; and secondly, because they can stage alternatives to predominant urban policies, re-imagining the socio-environmental processes that make up our urban worlds, and can illustrate ways to make them more sustainable. In the same vein, a cultural exploration of these texts can benefit from urban political ecology’s sensitivity to how material-discursive relations within urban environments tie in with environmental politics and issues of environmental justice. All in all, a cultural urban ecology as is aspired to in this study can benefit from all the theoretical approaches summarized above in that it is directed towards the spatial, material, and, political dimension of the subject. I want to show that the environmental humanities can themselves contribute significantly to these issues and theories, because urban forms and city life are intrinsically connected to the imaginary and to forms of cultural creativity. As Bridge and Watson put it: “Cities are not simply material or lived spaces—they are also spaces of the imagination and spaces of representation” (Bridge/Watson 2000, 7). 18 Therefore, even theories exploring urban space and the intricate interactions between social groups, institutions, and the “more-than-human” world make, as Matthew Gandy has pointed out, use of the imagination in that they conceptualize the urban environment as an ecosystem with various interrelations whereby the connection to and the construction of “nature” plays an important role (Gandy 2005). The creative forms apparent in the city’s form and the imaginary quality present in urban ecologists’ approaches connect them, at the same time, to imaginative literature and cultural media that have, since antiquity, reflected on man’s role in urbanized society and refigured the city as “place.” Lee Rozelle, for instance, has explored how “modernist representations of urban spaces can inform current ecocriticism in playful and exciting ways” (Rozelle 2002, 101), helping it to “reveal literary and cultural models of interdependence, diversity, and sustainability” (100). Drawing on this insight, a cultural urban ecology “thus not only posits the interrelatedness between culture and nature as a defining condition of human life, but establishes its symbolic exploration as a central domain of the literary” and cultural “imagination” (Zapf 2006, 55). The cultural media examined in this book will, in consequence, be perceived as “laboratories of human self-exploration,” on the one hand, in which contemporary urban life is reflected, and, on the other, as “imaginative biotopes” (61) where complex interconnections of this life, namely between the natural and built environment and between the “more-than-human/urban” world and the socio-cultural dimension, are made visible and alternative worlds are explored. A cultural urban ecology is therefore concerned with re-enforcing the imaginative quality of our urban worlds and functions, at the same time, as a place of transdisciplinary exchange. The theoretical foundations of this ex-

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change are taken from the different approaches to “urban ecology” outlined above. I use them as a starting point to think about dimensions that are crucial to urban life in general, namely the spatial, material, and political dimensions, whose interplay makes up, as I want to show, our urban environments. I argue that it is in the cultural imagination that these intricate connections are reflected and creatively negotiated, bringing about certain, sometimes divergent images of the city that serve as a convenient starting point to think about what the environment is or what it could be. Integrating the humanities into urban ecology means dealing with the aesthetic, creative, and imaginative impulses inherent in urban life and investigating how they can influence or alter the ways in which we perceive, negotiate, and ultimately inhabit our urban worlds. In the following, the three dimensions central to “urban ecology”—space, materiality, and politics—will be explored, making clear that culture should not be misconstrued as a fourth factor, but rather be seen as the connecting link between these different dimensions. CITY SPACE Towards the end of his seminal study Postmodern Geographies, Edward Soja characterizes his exploration of Los Angeles’s spatial dimensions and representations as “purposeful, eclectic, fragmentary, incomplete, and frequently contradictory.” Yet, he concedes that “so too is Los Angeles, and, indeed, the experienced historical geography of every urban landscape. Totalizing visions, attractive though they may be, can never capture all the meanings and significations of the urban when the landscape is critically read and envisoned as a fulsome geographical text.” (Soja 1989, 247). What may seem like an indefinite or unsatisfactory definition of urban space, lends itself, in fact, to a good starting point for a cultural ecological discussion of it, since Soja sketches out the city and its “manufactured environment” as a text that can be written, read, and finally, interpreted, without leading to a nonambiguous or clear image of it. It remains, in the end, incommensurable. Drawing on Henri Lefebvre, Soja perceives the urban as a space which is not so much determined by its mere “materiality,” but rather by its “literality” (247). The image of space as a static container, planned, registered, organized, is here broken up in favor of one that highlights openness, multiplicity of meaning, and perspective. City space here becomes a cultural practice itself, caught up in a never ending play of signifiers and signs which opposes a material-historical analysis. Rather, spatio-temporal analysis gives way to a narrative and imaginative exploration which highlights, once more, that the urban is a social arena which lends itself not only to empirical approaches, but to literary and cultural means of reflection and of world making. 19

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Urban space is, at the same time, as Soja notes, a “tightly planned and plotted urban environment” (Soja 1989, 238). Thereby, “nodality situates and contextualizes urban society by giving material form to essential social relations” (234), making urban space something which is both imaginatively planned and socially ordered and politically surveilled (235). Soja reflects on ideas first brought forth by Henri Lefebvre whose main argument, theoretically established in his 1974 study, The Production of Space, is “that (social) space is a (social) product” (Lefebvre 1991, 26). 20 He generally defines urban environments as socially produced, as a place where nature has been “reconstructed” or transformed into socially “produced space,” into, as he puts it, “second nature” (12; 68–72). Although this study does not share Lefebvre’s conviction that nature is altogether different from urban space or even absent from it in order to avoid constructing an artificial, bipolar pair of opposites which is neither possible to adhere to nor to be wished for, his insights are vital in so far as they put the focus on the dynamic processes of appropriation, construction, and transformation of physical space. On a metalevel, it thereby becomes possible to conceptualize the urban as a space which is actively (re-)created and formed by human activity, as a built environment which is nevertheless integrated into a natural environment with manifold reciprocal interactions. Thus, space is no longer thought of as a static entity or container, but as a process with various dimensions. In The Production of Space, Lefebvre deals with a whole array of different kinds of spaces that he seeks to bring together in a “dialectic of the lived and the conceived, the ‘real’ and the ‘imagined,’ the material world and our thoughts about it” (Soja 1996, 61). In the end, “social space” is, according to Lefebvre, made up of an interplay between “real-and-imagined spaces” (39–40; Soja, 1996, 62–65). 21 Lefebvre’s insights are vital for a cultural ecological approach to urban space, since he points to the importance of the imagination in our urban lives, making clear that artistic and cultural representations, too, are central ingredients of lived social space and can, in the long run, become sources of transformation and “resistance” themselves. 22 In what is now a classic text of the study of culture and cultural practice, The Practice of Everyday Life, Michel de Certeau conceptualized, almost at the same time, a similar model of city space, differentiating between spaces “from above” and “from below” (Dünne 2006, 319) and introducing a further dimension of space into the discussion, that of lieu or place. Beginning with his now famous description of a look from the 110th floor of the World Trade Center, 23 de Certeau writes: The ordinary practitioners of the city live ‘down below,’ below the thresholds at which visibility begins. They walk—an elementary form of this experience of the city; they are walkers, Wandersmänner, whose bodies follow the thicks and thins of an urban ‘text’ they write without being able to read it. These

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practitioners make use of spaces that cannot be seen; . . . A migrational, or metaphorical, city thus slips into the clear text of the planned and readable city. (de Certeau 1988, 92-93; emphasis in original)

De Certeau thus brings into discussion two opposing viewpoints of the urban as it were: That of the urban planners and politicians who try to take the city in in a “totalizing” gaze in order to plan, structure, and administer it in “programmed and regulated operations” (95). And that of the inhabitants, the “walkers” below who appropriate and view it in the “thick” of things. The city, accordingly, becomes a spatial practice of walking and story-ing or imagining as de Certeau further explains: “The act of walking . . . is a process of the appropriation of the topographical system on the part of the pedestrian; it is a spatial acting-out of the place; and it implies relations among differentiated positions,” whereby the pedestrian “moves them about and . . . invents others,” “thus establishing a conjunctive and disjunctive articulation of places” (97–99; emphasis in original). Hence, the walker becomes a practitioner of space, connecting and traversing the structures of the built environment, while also forming an intricate connection to it, because he or she forms “memories” (105–8) and narratives associated with it. The abstract, planned space of the city thereby becomes a personal, memorized relation of places. De Certeau’s insights are vital for our discussion at hand, because they make clear that beyond the physical materiality of the built environment and the mental operations of planning or imagining it, there are other practices at work in the city: Deeply personal bonds and connections that tie people to their urban habitat. Far from being an abstract, objective entity, city space has thus to be seen as an intricate palimpsest of places that take on different, often conflicting meanings for groups, communities, and individuals alike. This also helps to explain why “there is,” as Soja puts it, “room for resistance, rejection, and redirection in the nonetheless structured field or urban locales, creating an active politics of spatiality, struggles for place, space, and position within the regionalized and nodal urban landscape” (Soja 1989, 235). Arguably the most famous and important text dealing with the socio-political struggle between urban planners and local inhabitants is Jane Jacobs’s powerful The Death and Life of Great American Cities, an urban activist “attack on current city planning and rebuilding” and “an attempt to introduce new principles” thereof (Jacobs 1992, 3). 24 What Jacobs’s writings make clear is that urban space is a contested arena, where different perspectives in the sense of de Certeau—the planners’ gaze from above, and the local dwellers spatial practice of living below—clash and can stand in stark opposition to one another. The abstract space of planners and political interest groups, the maps and grids and nodal structures, contrast with a local sense of place as could be seen, for instance, during protests in Stuttgart and

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Istanbul, where inhabitants protested against the construction of fancy building projects in favor of historical park areas. As Sharon Zukin points out, in contrast to political visions and planning, inhabitants and dwellers possess a “moral right to the city,” “the right to inhabit a space, not just to consume it as an experience” (Zukin 2011, 6). She thereby invokes “authenticity” as an integral aspect of urban space, or, to be more exact, as a marker of place: “Authenticity in this sense is not a stage set of historic buildings . . . ; it’s a continuous process of living and working, a gradual buildup of everyday experience” (6). As Edward Casey notes in this context, “the overwhelming architectural and commercial uniformity of many cities makes the human subject long for a diversity of places, that is, difference-of-place, that has been lost in a worldwide monoculture based on Western . . . economic and political paradigms” (Casey 1998, xiii). He further argues that “this is not just a matter of nostalgia,” but “an active desire for the particularity of place—for what is truly ‘local’ or ‘regional.’ . . . Place brings with it the very elements sheared off in the planiformity of site: identity, character, nuance, history” (xiii). These comments make clear that, aside from urban planning, representation, and imagination, a cultural ecological reading of urban ecologies has to take into account the local interactions between inhabitants and their environments, the manifold cultural processes that, based on perception as well as the spatial practices of walking, inhabiting, and narrating, attach meaning to space. “Both spaces and places” are therefore, as Carter, Donald, and Squires put it, “constitutive of the city” (Carter/Donald/Squires 1993, xii): “Place,” then, “is Space to which meaning has been ascribed” (xii). The symbolic and imaginative process of place-making is deeply connected to, as Dolores Hayden reminds us, “the politics of identity” (Hayden 1997, 7) and the realm of “memory,” since the “urban landscapes” can literally figure as “storehouses for . . . social memories” (9). Yet, it would be wrong to suggest that places are static entities in an otherwise shifting environment. As David Harvey points out in this context, “in making places, we make ourselves, and as we remake ourselves, so we perpetually reshape the places we are in. . . . This implies that places are not, cannot be, fixed and stable, but are subject to perpetual transformations as conceptions, material practices, and lived experiences change” (Harvey 2009, 176). While urban life is, to a large degree, determined by spatial practices, it is nevertheless accompanied by “placed” activities and emotions as well: “To be at all—to exist in any way—is to be somewhere, and to be somewhere is to be in some kind of place. . . . We live in places, relate to others in them, die in them. Nothing we do is unplaced” (Casey 1998, ix). It would therefore be wrong to view city space merely as an abstract grid on a map; rather it, too, has to be seen as an environment in every sense of the word, as an arena to which we can be intricately bonded.

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Accordingly, Tony Hiss holds that “whatever we experience in a place is both a serious environmental issue and a deeply personal one” (Hiss 1990, ix), making clear that an urban sense of place is as vital to a sense of self and identity as it is to an environmental consciousness. Paraphrasing the geographer Yi-Fu Tuan, this sense of place is both a biological reaction to the surrounding environment and a cultural creation (Tuan 1977, 56–57), while a “place achieves concrete reality when our experience of it is total, that is, through all the senses as well as with the active and reflective mind” (18). The development of individual or collective “place attachment” is thus “a complex phenomenon that incorporates several aspects of place-people bonding” and “involves an interplay of affect and emotions, knowledge and beliefs, and behaviors and actions in reference to a place” (Low/Altman 1992, 4–5). Integrating these ideas into urban ecology and cultural explorations thereof is vital for being able to conceptualize the urban as a human habitat and for understanding the complex interactions between individuals, groups, and respective environments. However, as Hayden notes, “social scientists frequently avoided ‘place’ as a concept and thus have sidetracked the sensory, aesthetic, and environmental components of the urbanized world in favor of more quantifiable research” (Hayden 1997, 18). Re-integrating these aspects into urban research is vital both for reaching a more comprehensive understanding of what the urban is and, thereby, for re-thinking humanity’s place in the world. This is also, I would argue, why integrating cultural ecological examinations of urban writing and cultural media is central for an urban ecology which is not only concerned with the interrelations between various organisms in an environment, but also seeks to take into account their sociocultural frameworks, where urban space and place play a fundamental role for all cultural and biological processes. Gaston Bachelard’s classic phenomenological exploration The Poetics of Space, originally published in 1958, has convincingly shown how these aspects are tightly connected to poetic and imaginative world-making, how places are, in the end, culturally formed through works of literature and art. In the same vein, historian, novelist, and nature writer Wallace Stegner has argued that “no place is a place until the things that have happened in it are remembered in history, ballads, yarns, legends, or monuments” (Stegner 1992, 202), until, in other words, “it has had a poet” (205). Lawrence Buell, in his influential study The Environmental Imagination, has shown how “environmental texts” call “places into being, that is, not just by naming objects but dramatizing in the process how they matter” (Buell 1995, 267). Urban writing and cultural representations and explorations of cities are therefore an integral part of our collective world- and, eventually, place-making. I would claim that, using an expression by environmental historian David Glassberg, cultural artifacts can turn abstract city spaces into “storied places” (Glassberg 2001, 377; Schliephake

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2012, 95–98), reflecting on their specific meanings within an urban environment, exploring their intricate histories and narratives and showing how they relate to other places inside and outside of the city, illustrating their role and function within a wider, complex ecosystem. In this context, city space becomes an object of investigation not only for its central role in all urban environmental contexts, but also for taking “a closer look at how the imagination of place-connectedness itself works” (Buell 2001, 56). In consequence, it will also be argued that cultural media’s “specialities to evoke and create a sense of place” can become a central reference point for urban environmental activism and politics, because, as Buell reminds us, “an awakened sense of physical location and of belonging to some sort of place-based community have a great deal to do with activating environmental concern” about “its violation or even the possibility of violation” (56). Cultural media therefore also have the potential of criticizing the use of urban space or the political transformation of place and of contesting hegemonic readings thereof. Thus, the urban is, after all, central to an “environmental imagination” in the sense of Buell. And the imagination is, in turn, central to how urban space is planned, negotiated, and inhabited. It is in and through daily interactions between people, communities, and institutions that space comes to life. What role materiality plays in this context and how it affects our environmental imagination of urban spaces will be explored in the next paragraph. MATERIAL AGENCY Rachel Carson’s classic Silent Spring from 1962, which became one of the central texts that started the environmental movement (Bergthaller 2007), begins with the imaginative description of a “town in the heart of America where all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings” (Carson 2002, 1) in the midst of a pastoral landscape. However, at once, the lifegiving spring which returned year after year stopped and the environment changed into a deserted wasteland due to the emission of toxics at a nearby chemical plant (3). In her apocalyptic narrative, Carson presents her readers with the frightening vision of an ecology of death which has encompassed both the built and the natural environment, also reflecting on the fact that the transition between the two is a floating one. And although she holds that “this town does not actually exist,” she still makes clear that “these disasters have actually happened somewhere” (3). Many more of them have happened to small towns and big cities alike since Carson wrote her text, most of them, like in her vision, by man’s own making. Catastrophes like the Seveso disaster in Italy, which occurred only miles off Milan, where tons of toxic chemicals evaporated, contaminating a large area (Iovino 2012b), or the infamous Bhopal disaster in India in 1984, have shown that man has become, an often

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harmful, manipulator of the Earth and of the environment; a creator of what Kai Erikson (1991) has famously termed “a new species of trouble.” This includes both “radiation” and all kinds of “toxins,” substances, and chemicals that humans have produced and that have, in the meantime, taken on a life, an agency of their own. The idea of a “material agency” detached from human action, guidance, and rationale is still problematic for some who hold that matter is passive and humans are “self-aware” and “self-moving” (Coole/ Frost 2010, 8); yet, I would argue, introducing new materialist thought into urban discourse is vital for understanding the manifold interactions that take place within urban environments, many of which do not have human protagonists. “New materialist” thought in urban discourse means, then, “describing active processes of materialization of which embodied humans are an integral part, rather than the monotonous repetitions of dead matter from which human subjects are apart” (8). This thought entails, as Coole and Frost make clear, a new ontology with manifold ethical and environmental implications: the human species is being relocated within a natural environment whose material forces themselves manifest certain agentic capacities and in which the domain of unintended or unanticipated effects is considerably broadened. Matter is no longer imagined here as a massive, opaque plentitude but is recognized instead as indeterminate, constantly forming and reforming in unexpected ways. One could conclude, accordingly that ‘matter becomes’ rather than ‘matter is.’ (10)

Re-conceptualizing the urban as such a sphere where “material forces” play an integral part in the constant and reciprocal making and re-making of the environment entails both a problematization of the assumption of the urban as a human-dominated ecosystem and a re-thinking of urban environmental politics by integrating the products of human industry, waste, and emissions into the conceptual framework. The latter aspect is important, because I would argue, that the urban is the one social and spatial arena that sees the most densely packed accumulation of matter, be it organic or inorganic, artificial or natural, and the most complex and interwoven interrelations between humans and material agents. This becomes, for example, clear through urban ecologist examinations of the energy flows and ecological footprints of urban areas that are much higher than those of rural areas (Forman 2008, 81; Sukopp 1998, 4–5). Emissions of industries and vehicles, gas and oil tanks, household appliances and pesticides, production of garbage and flows of sewage—all these processes involve matter, they are, in other words, material processes (J. Bennett 2010). While most of these material agents permeating and moving through the urban atmosphere and ecosystem are a “product of human hands” (Erikson 1991, 12) they nevertheless possess a momentum that is, for the most part connected to a “toxicity” that can “contaminate

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rather than merely damage” (15) and that is, in the end, outside of human influence. One good example of the intricate interplay between human action and material products could be seen in New York City on November 24, 1966, when smog levels reached such a high point that 169 people died, because their bodies could not handle the enormously high level of air pollution. Another one is the contaminated landscapes after, for instance, a big city has been flooded and the material agents from oil cans, household chemicals, and industrial waste have mixed with the flood waters, permeating the whole area and sinking into the soil and built structures of the environment. It is then that, as Kai Erikson has noted, “the spectacle of a failed technology”—for instance, of failed levees—“can become the spectacle of a failed environment as well. This is an outlook born of the sense that poisons are now lodged in the tissues of the body, that the surrounding countryside is contaminated as well, that the whole natural envelope in which people live out their lives has become defiled and unreliable” (24). 25 Accordingly, the urban environment through the interplay of human action, built structures, and the agency of material agency is “alive with dangers” (24) so that the “risk society” in the sense of Ulrich Beck (1986) is, necessarily, also an urban society. In consequence, integrating the matter of our urban worlds into environmentalist thinking is vital both for the life quality in cities and the protection of the larger, global atmosphere alike. The more so, as city and country, natural and built environment entangle and mix in manifold ways—as in Carson’s gruesome imaginative vision above—whereby forms of matter and material agents serve as “silent travelers” (Kraut 1995) between these different spheres, interconnecting them into one big permeable whole. This could be seen, for instance, during the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, when an atomic power plant failed that was, on the one hand, primarily meant to supply metropolitan areas with electricity and power, but that was, on the other, located in a predominantly rural landscape, with its radiation contaminating the entire environment for millennia to come. Of course, one does not need to go as far as to disaster scenarios to recognize the material ties and flows within urban spaces. Maria Kaika, in her fascinating book City of Flows, has explored “the continuous flow of natural elements from the countryside into the city” (Kaika 2005, 4), reimagining the complex material interrelations of the urban with its surroundings “through an intricate set of technological networks” (4) in order to question the binary opposition between city and country. Focusing on “the flow of water between the natural, the urban, and the domestic sphere,” she “reveals that nature and the city are not separate entities or autonomous ‘space envelopes’, but hybrids, neither purely human-made nor purely natural” (5). In the same vein, William Cronon, in his epic Nature’s Metropolis, has explored the “material ties” between Chicago and its vast hinterland, showing how they interrelate through a complex network of goods and com-

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modities. Accordingly, he writes in his epilogue that the fact that Chicago functioned as “an intermediary between myself and the farms and factories from which our food and clothing actually came did not occur to me until” he took into account “how the things we purchased were actually produced,” how life depended on and “was shaped by the connections and disconnections between city and country” (Cronon 1991, 371–72). 26 That is why David Harvey has called for a neo-Marxist analysis of “how the accumulation of capital works through ecosystemic processes . . . ,” opting for a decidedly urban ecological viewpoint: “Energy flows, shifts in material balances, environmental transformations (some of them irreversible) have to be brought thoroughly within the picture. The circulation of money and capital have to be costumed as ecological variables every bit as important as the circulation of air and water” (Harvey 2006, 88). Harvey thereby follows an approach that has contextualized “people’s environmental practices within wider social and political-economic forces” (Braun 2008, 194) and that has, eventually, helped to conceptualize the urban as “dense networks of interwoven sociospatial processes” (Swyngedouw 2003, 899; Kaika 2005, 22). As Swyngedouw and Kaika further illustrate, “the myriad transformations and metabolisms that support and maintain urban life—such as, for example, water, food, computers, or movies—always combine physical and social processes as infuriately interconnected” (Swyngedouw 2003, 899; Kaika 2005, 22). Although one has to note against urban political ecological viewpoints that the material urban flows are “not solely determined by the imperatives of capitalism, since the ‘economy’ itself is embedded in numerous non-economic practices” (Braun 2008, 196), this focus on the circulation of materials has nevertheless enabled scholars and environmentalists to highlight the socio-ecological footprint of the city that is open to environmental politics and thus to change. It has also helped to integrate the city into a modern ontology brought forth by Bruno Latour (Latour 2008), conceptualizing the city as a “socionatural hybrid” and “arguing that the existence of modernity’s quasi-objects and hybrids can be extended to include spatial categories such as the modern city” (Kaika 2005, 24). Quasi-objects or hybrids in the sense of Latour are here understood as “intermediaries that embody and mediate nature and society and weave networks of infinite transgressions and liminal spaces” (24). 27 By underlining the material flows, circulations, and exchanges within an urban environment, it thus becomes possible to perceive the city as a hybrid collective in its own right, a complex and dense network of actants which, in the end, shows that “our ‘social’ worlds are always already ‘more-thanhuman’” (Braun 2008, 199). Thereby, it becomes possible to carefully examine the interwoven urban networks of human interactions with materials and objects to interrogate the environmental consequences of these interrelations. Interlocking urban ecology with new materialist thought means, before this

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background, also “rediscovering a materiality that materializes, evincing immanent modes of self-transformation that compel us to think of causation in far more complex terms,” making clear that humans are not the only actors in urban environments and that “materiality is always something more than ‘mere’ matter,” rendering it “active, self-creative, productive,” and, in the end, highly “unpredictable” (Coole/Frost 2010, 9). Karen Barad’s theory of “agential realism,” first brought forth in her thought-provoking monograph study Meeting the Universe Halfway (2007), helps to capture “matter’s dynamism”: “‘Matter’ does not refer to an inherent, fixed property of abstract, independently existing objects; rather, ‘matter’ refers to phenomena in their ongoing materialization” (Barad 2007, 151, emphasis original). In this context, Barad comes up with the neologism “intra-action” that “signifies the mutual constitution of entangled agencies . . . in contrast to the usual ‘interaction’, which assumes that there are separate individual agencies that precede their interaction” (33, emphasis original). 28 In her discussion of Barad’s theory, Serpil Oppermann points to one of its most important implications, namely “that things (or matter) draw their peculiarly agentic power from their relation to discourses that in turn structure human relationships to materiality,” calling for an approach that links “language and reality, discourse and matter together,” recognizing that “material practices . . . are always co-extensive with discursive practices” (Iovino/Oppermann 2012, 462; Oppermann 2012, 45–46). In a similar manner, Serenella Iovino holds that “between matter and meaning, there is a substantial reciprocity, co-implication” (Iovino/Oppermann 2012, 453) so that, in the end, “matter and discourse shape and interfere with each other” (454; Schliephake, 2013). This insight is important for an urban ecology not only because it stresses the agential potential of the complex interrelations between humans and objects in an urban environment, but because it also shows that urban discourse itself is already shaped by things and materials that exceed human agency and social constructs. The urban emerges as a “circulating system” in the sense of Iovino: Social identities, historical formations, linguistic processes, even the ‘objectivity’ of scientific knowledge are, in this framework, expressions of the dynamic, ‘vibrant’ and meaning-producing embodiments of the world. Recognizing that these embodiments are material and semiotic is the first step to redrawing the maps of knowledge and practice, and to rethinking object and subject, nature and culture not as juxtaposed term, but as a circulating system. (Iovino/ Oppermann 2012, 454)

How can these important insights be integrated into a cultural ecological exploration of contemporary urbanity? I propose two approaches: The first one draws on Stacy Alaimo’s concept of “trans-corporeality,” developed in

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her 2010 monograph study Bodily Natures. Drawing on Barad’s “intra-action” and other new materialist literature, she recognizes that “understanding the substance of one’s self as interconnected with the wider environment marks a profound shift in subjectivity” (Alaimo 2010, 20): “Imagining human corporeality as trans-corporeality, in which the human is always intermeshed with the more-than-human world, underlines the extent to which the substance of the human is ultimately inseparable from ‘the environment’” (2). 29 I would argue that her concept is especially applicable to urban environments, since it helps us conceptualize the dynamic interrelations in tightly packed and close spaces, “emphasizing the movement across bodies” and revealing “the interchanges and interconnections between variously bodily natures” (2) that the urban environment holds to an infinitely high extent. Thus, by embedding humans in a dynamic relationship with nonhuman actors, it becomes possible to develop critical positions on urban environmental politics that seal the human urban sphere off from nature and to re-imagine alternative approaches that take into account the interplay between built environment, human systems, and material agents like household appliances, emissions from factories and cars, flows of water and commodities, waste piles and toxic substances (J. Bennett 2010). In consequence, the urban space will in the following be conceptualized as a “trans-corporeal” space itself which stages these complex and reciprocal interactions. Secondly, in focusing on these theories and placing an emphasis on urban materiality, this work draws on what Serenella Iovino and Serpil Oppermann have termed “material ecocriticism” (Iovino/Oppermann 2012). As they point out, “material ecocriticism comes from the idea that it is possible to merge our interpretive practice into these material expressions,” taking “matter as text, as a site of narrativity, a storied matter, a corporeal palimpsest in which stories are inscribed” (451). Serenella Iovino further defines “material ecocriticism” in a way that makes clear why this approach lends itself to analysis of the urban “environment” in particular: Material ecocriticism heeds materiality as the constitutive element of ecological relationships, exploring the entanglements between material configurations and the emergence of meanings. As an interpretive practice, it concentrates on the links between matter and text, and in so doing it shifts its focus from nature to matter. . . . In this vision, the notion of ‘environment’ (a surrounding materiality in which individual beings arise) is displaced by the interplay of material subjects. For material ecocriticism ‘nature’ is rather equated with substance, the nature of things, and a continuing process of dynamic materialization and differentiation over time and space. (Iovino 2012a, 56)

This approach helps overcome materialist conceptions that define the urban in terms of a “production of nature” or that are based on a rigid opposition between urban on the one hand and nature or country on the other. It also

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helps broaden ecocritical examinations of the urban sphere by envisioning the intricate interrelations between human communities, objects, and material agents as a narrative text that can be read and, in the end, interpreted. In this sense, the cultural representations and media explored in this work will be treated as “matter” themselves which stand in “material dynamics with the world—a world seen both as bodily and cultural” (62) and which, more importantly, stage, in ever-changing ways, the mutually reciprocal inter- and intra-actions that constitute our urban spaces. “Material ecocriticism” uncovers the hidden connections and interrelations between matter and meaning, between the physical and organic components of urban spaces and their cultural and discursive frameworks. The materiality of our urban worlds, like space, becomes a text that can be read, interpreted, and negotiated. Urban “material ecocriticism” also means, before this background, developing new ethical positions, for instance, for holding administrations responsible for the effects of environmental pollution: toxics, emissions, or electrical smog may not be visible to the naked eye; yet, they entail consequences for the organisms and physical worlds that surround them, they are, in other words, imbued with an agency that significantly alters the living conditions in urban worlds. By pointing to their emergent effects and by analyzing the discourses that they incite, a new materialist “urban ecology” illustrates how culture and non-human nature constantly interact in an (urban) environment. One sphere in which this interaction becomes visible and which seeks to administer and manage it, will be explored in the next paragraph, namely urban environmental politics. ENVIRONMENTAL POLITICS The sociologists Kevin Fitzpatrick and Mark LaGory begin their study of the interaction between urban ecological processes, residence areas, and aspects of health protection or health risk in (predominantly) inner-city areas, Unhealthy Places—The Ecology of Risk in the Urban Landscape (2000), with a short anecdote about a fire that destroyed a warehouse complex in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1997. The warehouse stored hazardous chemicals so that, in consequence, an adjoining residence area was evacuated. However, the material agency that the event entailed exceeded these measures of first response: Hours after the fire started, black particles continued to rain down from the sky onto the clothing and skin of pedestrians in the downtown area. Millions of gallons of water used to douse the fire flooded the sewer system and washed into Village Creek, a stream that periodically floods low-income neighborhoods on the western side of Birmingham, near downtown. . . . In the first few days after the fire began, residents living in the low-income, mainly African-

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American neighborhoods near Village Creek reported smelling noxious fumes and experiencing a variety of physical symptoms including headaches and nausea. Dying fish and other signs of serious environmental problems were noticed in the stream that flows through their neighborhoods. It took almost a week, however, before any official response to residents’ complaints occurred. . . . The first legal actions were taken only after pollution began to wash ashore near higher-income, mostly White residential areas. (1–2)

Fitzpatrick’s and LaGory’s report illustrates manifold aspects of environmental politics that occur within urban systems worldwide. They not only show that the “city is a distinct social environment that over time has accentuated great inequities between people” (7), but also how social disadvantages like poverty, deteriorating housing, and poor nutrition interrelate and co-relate with environmental living conditions, health risks, and the exposure to pollutants. Moreover, they also outline the political decision making that leads to or, at least, strongly influences these inequalities by, for instance, deciding where to build chemical plants, sewage systems, hospitals, and schools, influencing property values and determining health protection or risk exposure. Urban planning is the key word, since urban planning processes make up, to a large extent, the patterns and structures of the social and built environment within cities. The quotation above shows how socio-economic factors are omnipresent in urban systems, even in the face of disaster scenarios, where protection measures or legal action is often taken only when the affluent part of the population is faced with severe and noticeable health risks. Yet, it would be wrong to suggest that environmental politics are merely driven by economic interests or only shape the social relations within a society; they also have to take into account the complex interactions of material agents, the flows of substances and commodities that make up our urban worlds and that are, in some instances—like the pollutants in the example above—outside of the reach of human influence, spreading within the urban environment and lastingly affecting the wider ecosystem. Environmental politics thus deal with the interrelations between the built environment, social systems, and material actants, determining the health risk scenarios for local inhabitants and the natural surroundings. They are the place where the ecological footprints of cities are determined and where decisions can be taken to make them more sustainable or unsustainable. For, as Fitzpatrick and LaGory remind us, “the city is . . . an ‘intentional’ or ‘built’ environment, and thus it can be reengineered to promote more desirable health outcomes” (7). While the latter aspect has been recognized ever since wide-stretching patterns of urbanization have become prevalent since the 19th-century (Swyngedouw 2003, 900; Heynen/Kaika/Swyngedouw 2005), public attention to measures of urban environmental politics and vibrant calls for environmental justice are a relatively recent phenomenon that underlines the

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intricate relationship between political decisions and environmental impact. Accordingly, as Richard Andrews puts it, “environmental issues are issues not just of science or economics but of governance,” while “environmental policy includes not just what the government says about the environment, not just what is labeled as environmental policy, but everything the government does that affects it” (Andrews 1999, x). His far-reaching concept is crucial to a conscious urban ecology, because, as he points out, “environmental policy is not just about managing the environment, but about managing ourselves” (xi–xii). The latter comment together with Fitzpatrick’s and LaGory’s observation about the possibility of policy change illustrate the insight that alleged natural hazards or risk exposures are, by no means, natural at all, but the outcomes of dynamic socio-political processes that can be opposed and met with alternative visions. This echoes Ulrich Beck’s influential insight that environmental problems are fundamentally based on how human society is organized (U. Beck 1986, 81). He thereby comes up with the concept of “risk positions” which takes into account the various degrees of environmental health risks and hazards that different social groups and communities are exposed to and which “provides a model of the interaction among technology, social dynamics, and the process of ecological degradation” (Pellow/ Brulle 2005, 5). By uncovering the deep-seated political agendas and social inequalities at the heart of environmental neglect and pollution, “the politics of ‘risk society’ thus has the potential to challenge the fundamental premises on which industrial society is constructed,” questioning the costs of the idea of “progress” and highlighting the grievances on which this progress is based (7). That is why Peter Wenz argues that “the issues of social justice and environmental protection must be addressed together. Without environmental protection our physical environment could become uninhabitable. Without justice our social environment could become equally hostile” (Wenz 1988, 2). Both issues have come to the fore in small community and grassroots movements that have become vocal parts of the political discourse since the 1970s and 80s, demanding what has turned into a vibrant political buzzword: environmental justice. The struggle for equal health conditions now makes up the central focus of environmental justice groups and organizations all around the globe, based on the World Health Organization’s definition of health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, not just the absence of disease or infirmity” (quoted after Bullard 2005a, 2). The movement is thus concerned both with exposure to environmental health risks and pollution created by, for example, industries, but it has significantly widened its approach, taking into consideration equal access to greenspace as well as aspects of sanitation infrastructure or waste disposal; in other words, issues that make up integral parts of the ecology of cities and communities. That issues of environmental justice are indeed intricately bound up with

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urban planning and environmental politics could be seen on August 2, 1978, a date that helped to give birth to the movement in the U.S.: a small community called Love Canal made the headlines when, after days of pouring rain, toxic waste from a chemical factory, Hooker Chemicals, was washed to the surface, causing severe health problems among residents. As it turned out, the community had been built on an old landfill created on an old navigation canal, where Hooker Chemicals had dumped its waste (Dobson 1998, 18; Szasz 1994, 5). This episode helps illustrate one of the central insights upon which the environmental justice movement is based, namely the recognition of “the material interconnections between specific bodies and specific places, especially peoples and areas that have been literally dumped on” (Alaimo 2010, 28). Moreover, issues of class and especially race have been central to the movement, since it can be observed that, be it in episodes like Love Canal or the one quoted at the beginning, working-class communities or communities of color have been disproportionally affected by environmental health hazards, a phenomenon that has been aptly described as environmental racism. 30 Yet, despite the growing recognition of severe environmental problems among poor inhabitants and ethnic minorities, “poverty and pollution” remain to be “intricately linked,” as Robert Bullard points out, who also holds that “all communities are not created equal. Some neighborhoods, communities, and regions have become the dumping grounds for household garbage, hazardous wastes, and other sources of toxins” (4–5). Issues of environmental injustice remain deeply anchored in urban communities and are, for the most part, outcomes of failed urban planning and flawed environmental policies. Bullard tackled these aspects in his two groundbreaking studies Unequal Protection: Environmental Justice and Communities of Color (1994), and Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class, and Environmental Quality (1990), where he, among other aspects, focused on the politics of waste disposal and “on the connections between race and waste facility siting” (Bullard 2005c, 43) in American cities. 31 Bullard’s studies outline the intricate connections between environmental politics and urban ecology, namely how “ineffective land use regulations” can create “a nightmare” for urban “neighborhoods” (45) by exposing them to environmental risks and pollution. This aspect also points to the ecological footprints of cities in general: Issues like waste disposal, toxic emissions of industry, sewage facilities, and power plants are not only questions of their geographical location and their respective impacts on adjoining neighborhoods, but questions of their environmental impact in general. Therefore, many scholars and environmental activists now demand a shift of focus from a human-centered environmental justice to an all-encompassing ecological justice which takes into account non-human-dominated habitats and ecosystems and “the-more-than-human world” (Schlosberg 2009). Both perspectives have their justification and both

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have to be naturally thought together and integrated into environmental politics that recognize the manifold entanglements between human actions and the wider environment for neither are issues of environmental risk merely social problems nor is pollution a phenomenon that solely impacts human settlements—quite the contrary: these are all integral aspects of the complex urban ecology which has to be perceived as being embedded in a wider ecosystem of material flows with intricate interrelations that are not only guided by political decisions alone. These issues make up, in the words of Jane Jacobs, “the kind of problem a city is” (Jacobs 1992, 428). A problem that she has aptly investigated in her brilliantly crafted The Life and Death of Great American Cities, where she harshly criticizes the urban planning policies of the early 1960s and sketched out an all-encompassing tapestry of the complex factors that make up urban life, starting with sidewalks and neighborhood parks before tackling questions of diversity and alternative approaches to environmental politics. Drawing on the life sciences, she treated cities as “problems of organized complexity,” opting for what we may call an ecological approach. In her approach to urban politics, she tried to take into account the interrelations between urban communities, the built environment, and overarching social and political factors, choosing a dialectic between a macro and a micro approach that she plotted against a simplistic urban planning: “The theorists of conventional modern city planning have consistently mistaken cities as problems of simplicity and of disorganized complexity, and have tried to analyze and treat them thus” (435). Jacobs’s work tries to reverse this trend and shows that an environmentally conscious approach to urban planning— in all facets of that complex word—has to be necessarily based on ecological thinking, if it wants to take into account the different aspects that determine the quality of urban life. Jacobs, together with the many accounts of brave grassroots protest movements and community struggles that Bullard presents, makes clear that environmental politics is not only the issue of a group of select individuals and organized interest groups, but continues to be shaped, opposed, and changed by local dwellers and inhabitants that stand in for their, to use a phrase by Lefebvre and Harvey, “right to the city” (Harvey 2012). In urban planning and politics, the common people have become a force to be reckoned with and part of a public debate which is “not anchored in a debate about whether decision makers should tinker with risk management,” but “seeks instead to prevent environmental threats” (Bullard 2005b, 25). A cultural ecological examination of urban politics should thus not primarily be concerned with the process of decision making at the government or administration level and an assessment of its consequences, but has to start one level “below,” at the level of local communities and inhabitants, to find out how they are affected by these policies and how they attempt to set their own

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environmental agendas. Cultural texts and media should thus not only be seen as a means to reflect on shortcomings and failures of urban environmental politics, but also as a way of imaginatively staging alternatives and of exploring ways to make them more sustainable. Hubert Zapf’s triadic functional model of imaginative literature 32 focuses on exactly these capacities of cultural media and texts and highlights the reciprocal interrelation between them and their specific socio-historical contexts. In Zapf’s words, literary works of art in this view are two things at the same time: they are laboratories of human self-exploration, in which, as it were, basic assumptions of prevailing systems or interpretation are ‘tested’ in the medium of simulated life processes; and they are imaginative biotopes in which the dimensions and energies of life neglected by these systems find the symbolic space to develop and express themselves. (Zapf 2006, 61)

Cultural texts and media can therefore themselves become central ingredients of our environmental discourse and politics. Indra Sinha, for instance, in his 2007 novel Animal’s People, presents his readers with the description of a fictional city named Khaufpur (which means, literally translated from Urduk, “city of terror”). It is the story of a city modeled on the Indian city Bhopal which saw the 1984 Union Carbide disaster and became, in turn, the breeding ground for an environmental justice movement that has since struggled to gain attention and, eventually, compensation for the hundreds of thousands of local dwellers that have suffered from the long-term health effects and risks of the horrendous gas-leak that has contaminated a wide environment. At the center of Sinha’s novel stands, however, not one of the speakers of that movement, but rather a social outsider simply called Animal who walks on all fours, suffering from an extreme curvature of the spine since he was small, born just shortly before the factory leak: “I used to be human once,” he relates to a reporter who records his story on a tape-recorder, highlighting the interplay between memory and technology and questioning the reliability of his narrative: “So I’m told. I don’t remember it myself, but people who knew me when I was small say I walked on two feet just like a human being” (Sinha 2007, 1). Opting not to live in the local slum, he squats in the abandoned factory instead that, although it borders on the contaminated city space, nevertheless feels shut out from its surroundings. Allison Carruth, in her discussion of the novel, illustrates how we can, “dwelling on the cultural and physical geography of Khaufpur, . . . read the novel as not only a retrospective story of industrial disaster but also a speculative fiction” of what she terms “the mutagenic city” which seeks to “apprehend the city as an ecosystem” itself (Carruth 2011, 90). She convincingly shows how Sinha’s “multivalent imagination of Khaufpur’s cityspace as contaminated, exploited, resilient, exceptional, and banal” (89) combines with a carefully crafted “toxic discourse” in

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the sense of Buell (Buell 2001, 30–54); one that recognizes the manifold political contexts and consequences which led to the pesticide factory’s building and failure on the one hand, and one that renders the sustained effect of the toxics on the built environment and the bodies of the local inhabitants alike without giving way to overtly sentimental or didactic ways of storytelling on the other (Carruth 2011, 88). Rather, the novel re-envisions ways of apprehending and perceiving environmental politics as an arena where city space, material agents, “bodily natures” (Alaimo 2010), and questions of environmental justice mix and mingle in manifold ways; where they come, in the end, to be equated with one another, interrelated in a complex system of relations where political decisions, urban planning, social inequality, and risk exposure pose an intricate set of ethical problems that make up our urban ecologies and determine whether our urban worlds will prove to be sustainable in an undecided future (Haughton 2003). Animal’s People stages also what Rob Nixon, in his insightful reading of the novel, has called “slow violence,” the long-term spatio-temporal effects of biocidal, hazardous, and toxic contamination of environments, especially of the socially disadvantaged segments of the population; a concept that he has fully sketched out in his eye-opening and infinitely inspiring book Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (2011). In Nixon’s reading, Animal’s People “offers a powerful instance of a writer dramatizing the occluded relationship of transnational space together with time’s occlusions” (Nixon 2011, 46) by rendering “Khaufpur as both specific and nonspecific, a fictional stand-in for Bhopal, but also a synecdoche for a web of poisoned communities spread out across the global South” (48), and by demonstrating “the complex entanglements between environmental fallout and the socioeconomic fallout” (49). The novel problematizes pressing concerns of contemporary environmental justice by asking how to hold foreign industries like Union Carbide accountable for technological disasters like the spreading of toxic gases in development countries and by illustrating how the immediate, spectacular effects of such an event wear off with time so that, in the end, its victims are left alone in their fight for recognition and in their plight of facing the ongoing contamination in their daily lives. Sinha succeeds in tackling this problem, in Nixon’s words, by giving his “novel a local materiality while exposing the web of transnational forces that permeate and shape the local” and by dramatizing “the costs of uneven development when their delayed effects are intimate but their genesis is far-off in time” (52). These aspects are not only crucial to tackling environmental problems in third-world countries or cities like Guiyu in China, a city which is, literally, one of the largest dumpsites of electronic wastes worldwide, where the inhabitants suffer from the nauseating emissions of the local industry that makes a huge profit by melting old computer parts in order to gain valuable raw materials; 33 I would argue, that they are crucial to conceptualizing urban environmental politics in

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general, since they help us grasp the long-term effects of local industries, air and water pollution, or the accumulation of waste. Nixon’s idea of “slow violence,” “a violence that occurs gradually and out of sight, a violence of delayed destruction that is dispersed across time and space, . . . that is neither spectacular nor instantaneous, but rather incremental and accretive, its calamitous repercussions playing out across a range of temporal scales” (2) can help to hold political systems accountable for toxic exposures that usually do not show themselves as imminent as in Bhopal, but rather play themselves out over a longer stretch of time with the same horrendous effects. Moreover, as Nixon further states, “it is those people lacking resources who are the principal casualties of slow violence,” since “their unseen poverty is compounded by the invisibility of the slow violence that permeates so many of their lives” (4). A cultural ecological approach to urban environments thus has to take into account both the unseen threats built into the urban ecosystem and the way in which social disadvantage is reflected in spatial terms by residing in un-lucrative, affordable areas often located near places of risk—garbage dumps, chemical industry, or canals prone to flooding. “To confront slow violence requires,” according to Nixon, “that we plot and give figurative shape to formless threats whose fatal repercussions are dispersed across space and time” (10). And it is in this context that cultural media and aesthetic representations come into play again as imaginative and reflective sites of environmental concern that can stage the long-term effects of environmental pollution and how this pollution is related to political decision making and social stigmatization. Nixon thereby sketches out a cultural ecological project to investigate the environmental politics of our urban worlds and of those “sights unseen” (15) that determine their ecological footprints for both the wider atmosphere and the local inhabitants alike. A cultural “urban ecology” is, consequently, also an exploration of how cultural processes and imaginative world-making interact with political discourses and decisions that manage and regulate the distribution of health risks and material exposure in urban spaces. A CULTURAL URBAN ECOLOGY—SUMMARY OF THE CHAPTERS To sum up this theoretical exploration of a cultural urban ecology, let me briefly summarize its main principles: By drawing on approaches to “urban ecology” developed in the social and natural sciences, space, materiality, and politics have been recognized as integral dimensions of urban environments. Although these approaches to urban ecology have made apt use of the concept of an “ecosystem” in their analysis of urbanity, the cultural imagination has largely been missing from their conceptual framework. As my overview

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has shown, culture has to be conceptualized as a vital and integral part of urban life. Yet, rather than including it as a fourth factor, I see culture as the connecting link that is inherent to every dimension of urban environments and that combines them into a heterogeneous, often conflicting whole. Apart from the spatial-material and socio-political level, the cultural-discursive level comes to the fore as the grounding basis for urban ecologies. Cultural media and texts do not solely constantly create and bring forth certain images and interpretations of cities, but they are involved on much more fundamental levels in the creation of community identity, place-making processes, and counter-discursive political protest. Culture has thus to be seen as an active factor in urban ecosystems that can both reflect on shortcomings and illustrate alternative ways of living. The focus on the parameters of space, materiality, and politics helps to illustrate this claim: Urban worlds have long been perceived as spatially organized environments, in which the social distribution of access to mobility and resources plays a fundamental role and in which the natural environment is transformed into a built environment. Apart from these abstract processes, there are also creative operations of place-making at play in the city, namely that of the cultural negotiation and transformation of urban spaces into “storied places.” This has a fundamental importance for the way in which urban communities reflect on their identity and orientate themselves in the dense, interrelated networks of streets, buildings, and institutions. Culture, in other words, turns city space into an environment. Moreover, the circulation of and exposure to materiality has been analyzed as a characteristic feature of urban life. Rather than constituting an ecosystem dominated by humans, the city has to be seen as a hybrid environment, where humans and non-human agents constantly interact and re-make the living conditions in urban worlds. The material side of urbanity has to be perceived as an “actant” in the sense of Bruno Latour that is reciprocally entangled with the discursive-symbolic side of urban culture. Cultural media and texts help to reflect on the physical and organic effect of urban material culture, while the agentic quality of materiality influences the ways in which it is rendered in human meaning-making processes. Thereby, it becomes possible to criticize an anthropocentric perspective on urban systems and to highlight the “transcorporeal” (Alaimo 2010) quality of its formation. The latter aspect ties in with the political dimension and regulation of urban environments: Urban space comes to the fore as a social arena where manifold environmental problems and injustices articulate themselves. By focusing on the spatial and material networks in cities, it becomes possible to investigate the distribution of environmental risks within a city and to develop new strategies in tackling problems posed by urban materiality (e.g., waste disposal, sewage, greenhouse gas emission). A cultural urban ecology sees cultural media and texts as a repository of cultural critique that can reflect on shortcomings of urban

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politics and as a repository of cultural imagination that can envision new ways of shaping and managing our urban worlds. In sum, a cultural urban ecology uncovers the imaginative quality inherent in urban space, materiality, and politics and uses this quality to analyze urban environments as ecosystems, in which everything, space and place, matter and meaning, politics and community are inextricably connected. As stated above, this study makes use of an ecocritical viewpoint which seeks to “reveal literary and cultural models of interdependence, diversity, and sustainability” (Rozelle 2002, 100). At the same time, it will focus on various cultural media and genres that do not necessarily belong to the recognized literary canon of ecocritical texts, but that come from different contexts, including non-fictional urban writings, television series, television documentaries, and films. Thereby, the work follows the path paved by scholars like Patrick D. Murphy (2009) or Jhan Hochman (1998) that have moved beyond nature writing or imaginative literature in general in examining cultural representations of environmental relations, looking for ecocritical aspects in media and genre that had thus far rather been marginalized in ecocritical discourse. That is why this study shares Robert Kern’s “assumption that all texts are at least potentially environmental . . . in the sense that all texts are literally and/or imaginatively situated in a place, and in the sense that their authors, consciously or not, inscribe within them a certain relation to their place” (Kern 2000, 10) and that “ecocriticism becomes most interesting and useful . . . when it aims to recover the environmental character or orientation of works whose conscious or foregrounded interests lie elsewhere” (11). Our urban worlds are, before this background, not only an integral part of our environments, but also the arena where mankind’s relationship to them is staged and can be tested in ever newer ways. Urban life and urban discourse are infinite repositories of the imagination—a recognition that is vital in a cultural ecological sense in so far as it uncovers the environmental potential that harbors beneath the cobblestones of our urban worlds and paves the way to make them more sustainable. Chapter One, “(Eco-)Cosmopolitanism: The Local, the Global, and Contemporary World Cities,” takes as a starting point Ursula Heise’s call for developing an “environmental world citizenship” (Heise 2008, 10), which is no longer solely based on local place, but emphasizes the increasing interconnectedness of societies around the globe. In contrast to predominant explorations of urbanity that focus on the local embeddedness and the specific territory of individual cities, this chapter seeks to view the process of urbanization as a global phenomenon which is interrelated with various demographic, economic, and ecological processes. Therefore, various examples of non-fictional urban writing including Mike Davis’s Planet of Slums (2006), Doug Saunders’s Arrival City (2011), and Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers (2012) will be explored as cultural texts that entail a re-imagi-

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nation of contemporary urbanity as a world-spanning phenomenon with manifold environmental implications. These books show that the global ecological crisis is rooted in the urban ecology of world cities, where failed environmental politics not only lead to an agglomeration of waste and a high emission of CO2, contributing to the greenhouse effect, but are connected to environmental injustices that have adverse effects both on the local, socially disadvantaged segments of the population and the global atmosphere alike. The chapter is therefore also concerned with the transformation of an urban “sense of place” to an environmentally conscious “sense of planet.” Chapter Two, “‘Force of Nature’: The Ecology of the Inner-City Drug Culture in The Wire,” takes on another perspective: one that is focused on the ecology of the inner-city of Baltimore, an old rust-belt city that has long suffered from processes of de-industrialization and sub-urbanization; processes that have, in turn, contributed to a structural neglect of the city’s inner-city areas that have, for decades, been caught up in a vicious circle of crime, poverty, and drug-trafficking. In order to analyze the far-reaching interconnections of these aspects, this chapter will focus on these issues through the lens of the HBO-series The Wire (2002–2008). Starting from an exploration of the work of its mastermind, David Simon, this part is also concerned with perceiving the television series as a medium of reflection and as a cultural ecological project that does not only aspire to reflect on urban problems that have become prevalent in many cities worldwide, but that can also be interpreted as a culture-critical counter discourse against a radical rhetoric that tends to render the crime-infested and drug-ridden inner-city neighborhoods as an underworld or an urban other. Rather, The Wire seeks to present its viewers with alternative visions, re-imagining Baltimore’s city space as a storied place and tracing the intricate networks and political agendas that contribute to the abysmal state of the inner-city areas. Focusing on America’s “War on Drugs” it shows how radical approaches to law enforcement have negatively affected both the city’s institutions and the urban poor. The Wire therefore asks its viewers to perceive the drug trade not as a criminal issue, but as a public health issue which takes into account the wider social contexts and complex communities in which the drug trade takes place. On a meta-level, it thus deals with how urban environmental politics, city space, and material substances interact to shape our urban worlds and how they can be re-shaped in order to include those segments of the population that have been cast out by various structural processes. Chapter Three, “‘The City that Care Forgot’—The Complex Ecology of (Post-)Katrina New Orleans,” examines the manifold implications and consequences of Hurricane Katrina that hit New Orleans on August 29, 2005. In contrast to narratives that have rendered the storm as a “natural catastrophe” or even an “act of God,” this chapter argues that the flooding of New Orleans was not solely caused by the impact of the hurricane, but that it has its roots

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in a long tradition of misguided environmental politics and urban planning which has produced a flawed flood protection system and contributed to the destruction of marsh- and wetlands as a natural barrier against storms. The chapter thus seeks to re-conceptualize the destruction of wide parts of the city as a “natural-technological disaster” and to render the interrelatedness between the urban built environment and the natural environment, perceiving the city not as a sealed-off entity, but as an open space embedded in a wider ecosystem. Before this background, the social disadvantages and grievances that became apparent in the aftermath of the storm can themselves be seen as symptoms of structural neglect and deep-seated environmental injustices that have plagued a great percentage of New Orleans’s population for a long time. These issues will be explored with the help of the television documentaries When the Levees Broke (2006) and Trouble the Water (2008) that will be seen as cultural media that have not only become central ingredients of the cultural memory by depicting the horrendous effects of the hurricane, but that can also be read as angry political statements, uncovering its technological and social aspects. Finally, this outlook will be supplemented by a close reading of the HBO-series Treme (2010-present) that will be interpreted as a cultural ecological medium which portrays the plight and problems that the storm’s survivors were faced with in its aftermath and focuses on their cumbersome reconstruction efforts, and that also argues for New Orleans’s ongoing relevance by drawing on its rich cultural traditions in an attempt to revitalize paralyzed life energies. The last chapter, “The More-than-Human City: Material Agents, Cyborgs, and the Invasion of Alien Species,” will deal with cinematic visions and interpretations of urbanity which dramatize city space not as a “humandominated ecosystem” in the sense of dominant theoretical models of urban ecology, but that re-envision it as a place where human and material agents merge and mingle in manifold ways. By the analysis of Fritz Lang’s classic Metropolis (1927/2010), Bong Joon-ho’s South Korean monster movie The Host (2006) and Neill Blomkamp’s South African version of an alien ghetto, District 9 (2009), it will be shown how these films question the anthropocentric view of the urban as a human habitat, re-figuring it as a space of hybridity and “trans-corporeality” (Alaimo 2010). Therefore, this chapter will propose an urban “posthuman environmental ethics” in the sense of Stacy Alaimo, one “that denies to the ‘human’ the sense of separation from the interconnected, mutually constitutive actions of material reality” and one “in which human bodies . . . are inextricably interconnected with material worlds” (24–25). Accordingly, the urban will be perceived as a space of interaction between the socio-cultural dimensions of human life and the “more-than-human” world, making clear that environmentally conscious urban politics and planning will have to take into account the manifold actants

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that move through and interact in our dynamic, ever-changing urban worlds if cities are to become sustainable for the planet and our future generations. NOTES 1. Cf. on this aspect Westwood/Williams 1997. 2. Cf. on a discussion of ecocriticism also Buell 2001, 267 n. 4, Garrard 2012, and Kern 2000. Scott Slovic, too, has defined the term ecocriticism in a way that lends itself to an “urban ecology”: “the term means either the study of nature writing by way of any scholarly approach, or, conversely, the scrutiny of ecological implications and human-nature relationships in any literary text, even texts that seem (at first glance) oblivious of the nonhuman world” (Slovic 2008, 27, emphasis in original). 3. Cf. for ecocritical readings of urban writing Rozelle 2002, Moe 2011, and Waage 2009. 4. An early forerunner of this approach has, of course, been Raymond Williams who, in The Country and the City (1973), has explored the “experience” of rural and urban life as reflected in literature and their reciprocal interrelation. 5. In general, Kemp’s definition of environment reads as follows: “The environment in which an object finds itself is a combination of various biological and physical elements that surround it and in which it interacts. Although it is common to refer to ‘the’ environment, there are in fact many environments, all capable of change in time and place, but all intimately linked and in combination constituting the whole earth/atmosphere system” (Kemp 2004, 22). 6. In Latour’s concept of a society, both humans as well as materials, things, or landscapes can act upon an individual. The latter are thereby attributed an agency of their own, i.e., a potential for action that can be activated by humans or that acts on its own. For instance, in an urban environment, garbage can be seen as an actant because it can poison the landscape, and because it forces society to make decisions regarding its removal (Latour 2008 and 2010b). Accordingly, Latour calls for a political ecology which takes account of our material world, looking for ways to integrate things and their agency (“hybrids” or “quasi-objects”) into our ethical frameworks (Latour 2010a; J. Bennett 2010). 7. As Keil puts it, “ecology deals with nature and nature has been the historical antipode of the city. In fact, the kind of nature we think of when we use the term today emerged ‘with the city as its opposite’” (Keil 1995, 286). Also Böhme 1989, 56–76. 8. Cf. Keil’s essays on “Urban Political Ecology” (2003 and 2005) in the journal Urban Geography. 9. Cf. for another example that uses urban ecological theory from the natural sciences for literary analysis Waage 2009. 10. Cf. Zapf 2006, 56. 11. On the intellectual roots of the Chicago School and its main works cf. Gottdiener 1992, 26–34 and Waage 2009, 298–300. 12. Cf. for a critical discussion of this model Ross 1999, 17. For an overview of newer models of urban ecology influenced by the Chicago School: Gottdiener 1992, 35–41. 13. In this context, the influence of Georg Simmel on the Chicago School became apparent, who sought to explore the influence of urban forms on (collective) forms of mind as well (cf. Simmel 2006). 14. For a historical overview see Weiland/Richter 2011. Cf. also McIntyre 2010, and Douglas 2010. 15. As Gaston points out, “ecology has variously been described as the scientific study of the processes determining the abundance and distribution of organisms, of the interaction between organisms, of the interactions between organisms and the environment and of the flows of energy and material through ecosystems,” while “urban ecology is quite simply therefore the study of these issues within urban systems” (Gaston 2000a, 1). 16. In this context, I share Hubert Zapf’s view that cultural media like literary texts or films are “characterized not by direct imitation but by the defamiliarization and symbolic transforma-

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tion of ‘reality’ and ‘nature’” and can stand in a reciprocal relationship with its surroundings, influencing “the larger system of cultural institutions and discourses” (Zapf 2006, 53). 17. Urban political ecologists try to address a gap that they perceive in recent environmental studies: “in the burgeoning literature on environmental sustainability and environmental politics, the urban environment is often neglected or forgotten as attention is focused on ‘global’ problems like climate change, deforestation, desertification. . . . Much of the urban studies literature is symptomatically silent about the physical-environmental foundations on which the urbanization process rests” (Heynen/Kaika/Swyngedouw 2005, 2). 18. Donatella Mazzoleni, for instance, underlines the architectural forms and aesthetics inherent in the urban built environment which, in the end, influences our perception of it and can lead to a conceptualization of the city as a “body” in analogy to a living organism (Mazzoleni 1993). In this context, Peter Nas holds that this space is organized by cultural symbols and expressions, which are connected to its history and reflect social appropriations and negotiations of it: “The symbolic order of the city is a negotiated order influenced by all sorts of actors. As a result, the symbolic ‘order’ often proves to be an ambiguous, amorphous, fragmented and incoherent, a symbolic configuration of hybrid and shifting, deconstructed images arisen from tensions, conflicts and social changes” (Nas 1993, 5–6). 19. Of course, it would be wrong to state that the “spatial turn” that Soja’s work has catalyzed (Bachmann-Medick 2010, 284–328) is primarily an imaginative adventure—it is certainly not, but it has nevertheless shifted the perception of space as a container, to space as a socio-cultural practice where creative impulse and the imagination play a vital role. This approach has recently been taken up in Bertrand Westphal’s concept of “gécritique” (or “geocriticism”) (Westphal 2007). 20. Henri Lefebvre has, for the most part, been re-discovered and re-introduced by Soja into critical social discourse and is now widely regarded as the great theoretical forerunner of the spatial turn in human geography. Many of the main ideas presented by Soja had all been present in Lefebvre’s writing on space which had always been centered specifically on urban space, which he, too, sees as a cultural practice, strategy, text (Döring 2010, 91). 21. Lefebvre thereby comes up with a “triad” of pratique spatiale (spatial practice), représentations de l’espace (representations of space), espaces de représentation (spaces of representation) (Lefebvre 1991, 38). While these characterizations entail a physical aspect, Lefebvre connects them to mental subjective states as well—espace perçu (perceived space), espace conçu (conceived space), espace veçu (lived space). 22. Cf. on the discussion of spatial practice in the social sciences and Lefebvre’s ongoing relevance Löw 2001 and 2010 as well as Rau 2013. 23. In the same vein, Soja perceives Los Angeles “looking down and out from City Hall” (Soja 1989, 236). 24. As Sharon Zukin has characterized Jacobs’s text, it is “a call to arms against the fatal machinery of modern urban planning, which brought in the bulldozers and ‘cataclysmic money’ of urban renewal projects to destroy old, but still vibrant, neighborhoods” (Zukin 2010, 11). 25. This echoes Carson’s insight that “the central problem of our age has therefore become the contamination of man’s total environment with such substances of incredible potential harm—substances that accumulate in the tissues of plants and animals and even penetrate the germ cells to shatter or alter the very material of heredity upon which the shape of our future depends” (Carson 2002, 8). 26. For a further overview “towards urban materialities” see Watson/Bridge 2011. 27. As Braun makes clear, in Latour’s framework, “agency . . . is not conceived as a property inherent to objects, but an emergent effect, achieved through connection with other things” (Braun 2008, 198). Furthermore, “because agency is distributed across the networks in which entities are constituted . . . it neither belongs solely to humans, nor is defined solely by consciousness or intentionality” (198). 28. Rather, as Barad further points out, “the notion of intra-action recognizes that distinct agencies do not precede, but rather emerge through, their intra-action,” whereby “the distinct agencies are only distinct in a relational, not an absolute, sense, that is, agencies are only distinct in relation to their mutual entanglement; they don’t exist as individual elements” (33, emphasis in original).

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29. As Alaimo makes clear, her approach also incorporates important ethical issues: “if the material environment is a realm of the often incalculable, interconnected agencies, then we must somehow make political, regulatory, and even personal decisions within an ever-changing landscape of continuous interplay, intra-action, emergence, and risk” (Alaimo 2010, 21). Cf. also Morton, 2011. 30. That is why the EPA has included these aspects in its definition of environmental justice as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies” (quoted after Bullard 2005a, 4). 31. Bullard’s prime example is Houston, Texas (cf. Bullard 2005c, 44–45). 32. On Zapf’s triadic functional model Zapf 2006, 62–66. Also Zapf 2002 and 2008a, 155–161. 33. Cf. on the increasingly transnational background of issues of environmental pollution and environmental injustice Pellow 2007.

Chapter One

“(Eco-)Cosmopolitanism” The Local, the Global, and the Ecology of World Cities

Urbanization patterns have, in urban ecology, mostly been analyzed or referred to as local phenomena. Cities have been seen as self-adjusting or even closed ecosystems that are sealed off from the larger surroundings in which they are situated and that function according to their own, for the most part, anthropocentric rules. Rather than challenging the dichotomy between city and country or culture and nature, this view has re-enforced binary thinking. It has also contributed to narrow conceptualizations of the “urban” per se, as a sphere that can be easily defined and that stands in clear contrast to its (natural) surroundings. Although “urban ecology” has been successful in analyzing cities as environments in which humans and non-human agents, organisms, and the physical world are intricately connected, it has, for the most part, failed to relate urban environments to the overarching ecosphere of this planet. Yet, an “urban ecology” is incomplete as long as it overlooks the dense interrelations and feedback processes that tie urban systems and rural and natural landscapes together. Although cities are characterized by local histories and climates, they have, I would argue, also to be seen as spatial-material nodal points of worldwide migration, travel, and trade. Apart from the regional characteristics of specific cities, an urban ecology has to bring the global impact of urbanization thoroughly within the picture. Urban ecosystems are, before this background, thought of as open and porous systems, constantly interacting with the global ecological and socio-economic networks in which they are embedded. This chapter thus calls for the development of an urban “eco-cosmopolitanism,” which links the local and the global of cities together in order to highlight the environmental impact of contemporary urbanization patterns. 1

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This impact can be seen from statistics and numerical data alone: In his great 2011 reportage Arrival City—How the Largest Migration in History is Reshaping Our World, the Canadian journalist Doug Saunders presents his readers with statistics which underline that the twenty-first century will be, for the first time in the history of mankind, an urban one on a global scale, with more than 75 percent of the world population living in cities (Saunders 2011, 22). This urban century will also see the growth of “megalopolises” (Swyngedouw/Kaika 2000, 577) that will make large contemporary metropolitan areas like Mumbai or Shanghai (both with around 12 million inhabitants) pale in comparison, exceeding even Tokyo which now counts over 36 million residents, including the city’s outskirts (Glaeser 2011, 1). Considering the fact that these three metropolises now harbor almost three times as many people as all of the urban centers at the beginning of the 20th century combined (approximately 22.1 million people) 1 helps to illustrate humanity’s ever-growing impact on the “Earth’s ecosystems” as well as on “biophysical processes, ecological systems, and evolutionary change” (Alberti/Marzluff/ Shulenberger/Bradley/Ryan/Zumbrunnen 2008, 143). Most of these environmental impacts are direct results of the dynamic world-wide urbanization that, together with the constant rise of global population rates, 2 will pose the gravest environmental and ecological challenges in the near future. Therefore, it is no surprise that urban (eco)systems and patterns of urbanization 3 will prove to be central objects of study in both the natural and the social sciences giving way to new transdisciplinary approaches that can already be seen in contemporary theories of urban ecology (Grimm/Grove/ Pickett/Redman 2000, 571–572). As Grimm and his colleagues point out, this trend has mainly to do with the environmental impact of urban areas: “For example, although urban areas account for only 2 percent of the Earth’s land surface, they produce 78 percent of greenhouse gases, thus contributing to climate change.” Urbanization, as they make clear, “interacts with global change” and “must depend on proper management to maintain an acceptable quality of life for the foreseeable future” (572). Their argument highlights the fact that urbanization is no longer merely viewed with regard to local, specific socio-cultural aspects, but has come to the fore as a global phenomenon that is intricately bound up with manifold ecological processes and economic networks and, in consequence, as the central arena where issues of human environmental impact and ecological sustainability are played out. Especially the latter aspect is crucial, since the urban is no longer solely defined with social aspects like infrastructure or geopolitical questions of location, population size, and land cover, but also with the help of the “ecological footprint” or the “global hinterland” of cities (Gaston 2010b, 10–21; Hall 2006, 155). As Hall makes clear, cities consume “three-quarters of the world’s resources” and generate “a majority of the world’s waste and population”

“(Eco-)Cosmopolitanism”

3

(153). While these “environmental problems” affect the urban areas themselves with varying impacts on different parts of the urban population (154), they usually encompass a far larger area than the actual urban built environment. “Maintaining contemporary cities requires,” as Hall notes, “that they draw upon and impact upon vast areas of land and water from beyond their own immediate geographical hinterlands” (155). For instance, “the ecological footprint of Vancouver is estimated as 180 times larger than the city’s surface area, while that of London is . . . 125 times larger” (155). Thereby, the concepts of the urban ecological footprint and global hinterland are vital tools for rendering “the disproportionate impact of cities upon the environment” (155) as well as for showing how individual cities interrelate and interact with other cities, geographical areas, and the “more-than-human world” that may seem remote, but that are, in fact, hauntingly close, knit into the same global fabric of the Earth. They also help to overcome approaches that are grounded in a local focus on, for instance, the planning of an individual city without taking into account or exploring the impact on the overarching patterns of the global ecological frameworks and their reciprocal interrelations (Mansfield 2008). 4 While statistics and numbers help to illustrate the global impact of urbanization in economic or energy consuming terms and while the concepts of “global hinterland” and “ecological footprint”-analysis have become vital tools in recent developments of urban ecology, they tell only half the story. For although they are certainly important for assessing the environmental consequences of urbanization, it is nevertheless necessary to look at the different contexts and socio-cultural and political backgrounds of urbanization patterns which vary significantly on a global level, especially in the developing world. I would argue that in contemporary urban discourse, the local and the global have to be thought together in order to safeguard, on the one hand, an urban development that takes into account the specific sociohistoric constellation of urban growth in order to come up with concepts that can be integrated organically into existent urban planning; and, on the other, to minimize their environmental impact by considering how the local reciprocally relates to the global in terms of carbon emission, waste production, and resource consumption, embedding the urban in the material flows and ecological processes of the “more-than-human” world. It is against this background that a cultural urban ecology gains importance. Since I view cultural media and texts as repositories of cultural knowledge and creativity, I hold that culture can be seen as one of the primary indicators of the environmental impact of urbanization patterns. Apart from the analysis of numerical statistics, an urban ecology has to take into account the ways in which these complex and highly interrelated processes are represented and reflected on in cultural texts, since these texts help to bring abstract data together with lived experience. I want to show how contemporary

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non-fictional urban writing invites an urban “eco-cosmopolitan” perspective by fusing the distinct localities of cities and how they relate to global economic and ecological patterns. And I want to show how these texts focus on the marginal zones of world cities, where the environmental impacts of urbanization play themselves out acutely. However, “slums” and other peripheral zones are hereby not regarded as static or downtrodden environments, but rather as dynamic and vibrant spaces that interact with their surroundings economically, socially, and culturally. Urbanization, as I want to point out, does not happen in the shiny business districts of world cities, but on their outskirts. Millions of predominantly poor rural-urban migrants change the face of our Earth on a daily basis. It is on them and their living conditions that environmentally just and ecologically sustainable urban politics have to focus in order to safeguard the productive and regenerative qualities that cities can entail. Before three non-fictional texts that invite such an urban “eco-cosmopolitan” perspective will be analyzed, the notion of “eco-cosmopolitanism” will be further discussed with the help of theories which highlight the entanglement of the local and the global in our present age. CITIES AS LOCAL AND GLOBAL ENTITIES: GLOBALIZATION, BIOREGIONALISM, COSMOPOLITANISM The first of these perspectives is the one that has arguably become the dominant one in popular discourse and which uses a buzzword that seeks to render the spatial transformations on a global scale, attributing them to a change in geopolitical and economic patterns in the decades after the Second World War: Globalization. As David Harvey makes clear, “‘globalization’ has become a key word for organizing our thoughts as to how the world works” (Harvey 2000, 53), 5 whereby spatial structuring plays a vital role: “It constructs a distinctive geographical landscape, a produced space of transport and communications, of infrastructures and territorial organizations” (54). As he further points out, the latter aspect is intricately bound up with a process of “hyper-urbanization . . . accelerating to create a major ecological, political, economic, and social revolution in the spatial organization of the world’s population,” where “world cities and city systems . . . have been forming with rapidly transforming effects on how the global political economy works” (64). Globalization has therefore become a way to circumscribe the “increasingly interconnected nature of environmental problems” as well as of “the world economy” (McGranahan/Jacobi/Songsore/Surjadi/Kjellén 2001, 6). While the former implication has only recently entered the discussion, the latter one has been prevalent ever since the 1950s, when economists and scholars tried to capture the uneven development of the world economy, structuring the world into center and periphery (Zanoni/Janssens 2009, 5).

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5

The term “world city” or “global city” has thereby been coined to define urban systems that function as vital nodes in the global economic network (Sassen 1991; Wilson 2003) and which are direct geographical outcomes and driving forces of the dynamic process of globalization at the same time. The overtly scalar economic models and definitions of “world cities” have lately been complemented by another perspective that focuses on integrating “the ecological problematic or the local politics of policy-making in world cities” (Keil 1995, 281) and which seeks, among other aspects, to consider “the environmental dimension of the social polarization of world cities” (282). This view is born out of the insight that “the local urban and global environment can no longer be viewed as separate entities” (282). The “global ecological crisis” is hereby thought of as a direct outcome or correlate of the distinct socio-political formations of urban systems and implies “the crisis of the social forms” in which they are organized (284). Accordingly, urban ecology is, before this background, defined as “the sum of our social practices in cities related to our natural environment” (287) and as a political tool itself, since it seeks to embed the local into the global by “creating urban civil societies that live up to the challenge of globalization” (288). It is exactly this view of “world cities” that will be taken on in this chapter as well, one that does not merely look at urban systems as economic nodes within an overarching network, but one that conceptualizes them in terms of their environments. World cities are hereby thought of as spatial arenas, where local politics and global networks meet and where the ecological outcomes of this interchange manifest themselves in socio-cultural as well as environmental terms. It is here that flows of commodities, materials, money, and waste determine living conditions and environmental impacts on the climate and the “more-than-human world.” The term “world city” is, eventually, an apt way to link the local and the global together and to highlight that “everything is connected to everything else.” 6 In a cultural ecological sense, this latter aspect has not only been recognized with regard to the ecological processes in cities, but also with regard to their spatial 7 and cultural fabrics. As Zanoni and Janssens point out, “the culture-centered perspectives . . . conceptualize globalization as a cognitive, textual, cultural phenomenon leading to increasingly dynamic and complex (social) identities in the contemporary world” (Zanoni/Janssens 2009, 6). Thereby, these new perspectives abandon earlier ideas of globalization as a “homogenizing force” (6) giving way to new concepts that are characterized mainly by diversity and hybridity. While world cities might be, on the one hand, marked by the flow of commodities and the settlement of enterprises and shops that make urban areas look more and more alike all around the world, there is nevertheless, at the same time, an interplay between different socio-political and ethnic groups and cultural forms that can serve as the breeding ground for cultural creativity and innovation (15–16). 8 According-

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ly, instead of a focus on anonymous and over-arching processes or transnational corporations, these approaches are accompanied by a growing sensibility for the importance of community and grassroots movements. Instead of attributing to local dwellers, especially, those at the periphery, a merely passive role, they are now seen as active agents in these local and global processes who create and negotiate cultural goods and formations in their own way (7). This can give way to new forms of cultural expression and ways of dealing with globalizing forces, including “counter narratives” (14) and “counter spaces” (Maciocco 2010, 15) that reject economic and ecological paternalism and exploitation. And although these hybrid cultures can also suffer from “homelessness and alienation” (Zanoni/Janssens 2009, 14), they are nevertheless vital actants in the ecology of world cities, constantly renegotiating their place in a global world and a larger environment. Zanoni and Janssens point to an important aspect that, once again, stresses the importance of including cultural analysis in urban ecological concepts: The stress on the social, cultural and economic dimensions of sustainability rests on the assumption that to make contemporary cities sustainable, we cannot but start from the people that inhabit and make them. These people are members of cultural groups and (glo)local communities, their daily social relations are embedded in the surrounding urban context but also affected by global events, and their understanding of life, including their needs, opportunities and aspirations, is culture-bound. In other words, contemporary cities are facing today a sustainability challenge that is increasingly complex and that cannot be understood without acknowledging the people’s simultaneous multiple locations, within communities and cultures, at the local and global levels. The current dialectical relationship between the local and the global and sameness and difference fundamentally challenges traditional notions of sustainability, demanding us to think at once not only across generations, but also across borders. (20)

Zanoni’s and Janssen’s comment is vital because it makes clear that cultural representations and texts are actually the places where the local and global aspects of the city, something that is very hard to digest with economic maps or ecological footprint analysis, manifest themselves, become visible and open to analysis and reflection. A neologism that has been introduced into the debate for some time and that is also cited in the quotation above, “glocalization,” highlights the fact that “the global and the local are seen as mutually constitutive” (6). The term “glocal” is an apt way of rendering how processes and actions that may seem very remote and distant have immediate impacts on the local surroundings and, in turn, how local policies affect the wider environment; and of illustrating how hybrid forms of culture can be characterized that may be rooted in a distinct place, but that nevertheless take on a wider perspective, reflecting on the intricate interrelations of our global

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networks. Culture thereby becomes also a central ingredient in the formation of a city’s sustainability by being a social arena of meeting and exchange between the regional and the global, constantly re-imagining their reciprocal interrelations (Keil 1995, 286). Although environmental questions necessarily encompass aspects that transcend local perspectives and decisions, Roger Keil points out that “activating the ‘local’ . . . is necessary because strategies to solve environmental problems, in order to be successful, need to be broken down to the experiential base of the local” (290). Again, I would claim that it is exactly this “experiential base” that can be activated and contributed by “the environmental imagination” (Buell 1995) of cultural representations and media that can render in ever-changing ways how our urban ways of life are not only connected to each other, but also to the “more-than-human world” outside of the city’s edges. This aspect can also be found in an approach that developed during the environmental movement of the 1960s and 1970s, namely that of bioregionalism. 9 Bioregionalists’ “motivation was to address matters of pressing environmental concern through a politics derived from a local sense of place, an approach they felt would effectively complement efforts focused at the national and international levels” (Lynch/Glotfelty/Armbruster 2012, 2). The term bioregion is thereby conceptualized as a distinct geographic and biological entity with a specific ecosystem which harbors wildlife and human communities alike and is thought of as a repository for creating a place-based and sustainable living (Thayer 2003, 3). Accordingly, Aberley defines bioregionalism as “a body of thought and related practice that has evolved in response of reconnecting socially-just human cultures in a sustainable manner to the region-scale ecosystems in which they are irrevocably embedded” (Aberley 1999, 13). 10 With its narrow focus on “place” and “region,” 11 bioregionalism may seem like an unlikely ally for the cultural ecological examination of world cities. 12 However, as Flores points out, “it is not merely bioregionalism’s focus on ecology and geography, but its emphasis on the close linkage between ecological locale and human culture, its implication that in a variety of ways humans not only alter environments but also adapt to them” (Flores 1999, 46) that bioregionalist thinking can offer important insights for an urban cultural ecology in order to make clear that even the global city, too, is a place with a distinct history and a locale for human place-bonding processes. Moreover, this entails also the “recognition that” cities are embedded and interact with a “natural geographic system” (47), being an integral part of a local environmental history. Of course, bioregionalists’ approaches that have focused on (predominantly rural) regions 13 “by foregrounding natural factors as a way to envision place” (Lynch/Glotfelty/Armbruster 2012, 4) have drawn criticism from scholars like David Harvey or Ursula Heise who have rightfully pointed at the narrow conception of place. As Harvey points out, for example, “the

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conscious effort to evoke an ‘authentic’ sense of place” can itself “become a selling point for developers and community boosters” (Harvey 2009, 185) and does not automatically invoke “ecological sentiments” (186). Quite the contrary, for Harvey this can lead to a fetishization of both the human body as well as specific places (187) which, in turn, can lead to radical trends of “exclusionism” (196). Harvey’s criticism is not directed at place-based thinking per se, for he, too, recognizes place as a “crucial basis for progressive and emancipatory movements” (195), but against conceptions that lose focus of the manifold interrelations of place with overarching processes on a global scale. Rather, he sees place as a dynamic concept from which alternatives to the globalizing forces of neoliberalism can be sought and new ways of living in a global world can be tested without giving way to narrow definitions of locality or the idea of “permanence” (188-199). In the same vein, Ursula Heise has argued that a “focus on the local can . . . block an understanding of larger salient connections” (Heise 2008, 62). In the face of such criticism, bioregionalists have argued that cosmopolitanist approaches are “likewise incomplete without an awareness that the globe is an amalgamation of infinitely complex connections among variously scaled and nested places” (Lynch/Glotfelty/Armbruster 2012, 9). While a cultural ecological investigation of world cities can benefit from this view of interconnected places with keeping their global embeddedness in mind, including bioregionalist thinking into theories of urban globalization and cosmopolitanism is vital for another reason: As Lynch, Glotfelty, and Armbruster point out, “one key dimension involves the creation of art” (10), while the “imagination,” in general, is seen as “one key to developing new and better ideas about how to live in our specific places, including a sense of how our individual bioregions are embedded in a larger global biosphere” (11–12). 14 According to this view, “literature and other arts” thus “function as vital expressions of cultural values that can ignite emotion, change minds, and inspire actions” (12). This is an important aspect for examining the question in how far culture and literature obtain their creative energy from place and context and how they imagine, in turn, how and if these places are connected to the global ecosphere. It is also vital for re-claiming cultural imagination as a vital ingredient of place-making processes and as a repository for local environmental action in the face of over-arching, transnational networks of commerce and industry. In consequence, Richard Evanoff has included bioregionalist thinking as a central ingredient in his call for a “cross-cultural dialogue towards the creation of a new ‘global ethic’” (Evanoff 2010, 1). He conceptualizes bioregionalism as a possible counter discourse against inherent trends in globalization that lead to ecological exploitation and crisis as well as cultural homogenization (14–15): “A bioregional perspective on a global ethic contends that there should be sufficient convergence between cultures to allow for the

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successful resolution of mutual problems, but also sufficient divergence to allow for adequate levels of cultural diversity and continued cultural evolution” (1). Instead of a call for universalism, his “global ethic” highlights a “cross-cultural” dialogue between (bioregionalist) cultures that recognizes the mutual interconnectedness in communication without ignoring their difference and diversity (16–18), which are seen as an integral part of the task of achieving a global environmental agenda that takes into account the respective contexts and individual places instead of presuming similar conditions for bringing about change. The bioregionalist paradigm is thus central for illustrating that the global is, by no means, an homogenous whole and for making clear that environmental change has to start on the local level, bringing again into view the great importance of the respective environmental politics of individual urban centers and their impact on the larger ecosphere. While this perspective is certainly important, urban theory in the time of globalization necessarily has to be supplemented by what Ursula Heise, in her thought-provoking book Sense of Place and Sense of Planet—The Environmental Imagination of the Global (2008), has termed “eco-cosmopolitanism” or “environmental world citizenships” which allows us to think of the ecological impact of world cities and their local politics together. While she recognizes that “place continues to function as one of the most important categories” of environmentalist agendas (Heise 2008, 29), she nevertheless claims “that ecologically oriented thinking has yet to come to terms with one of the central insights of current theories of globalization: namely, that the increasing connectedness of societies around the globe entails the emergence of new forms of culture that are no longer anchored in place” (10). Her comment echoes the culture-centered views of globalization cited at the beginning of the chapter, but instead of their focus on open-ended processes of the evolution of hybridity and diversity, Heise’s approach seeks to “explore what new possibilities for ecological awareness inhere in cultural forms that are increasingly detached from their anchorings in particular geographies” (13). Her overall goal is therefore “to reorient current . . . environmentalist discourse . . . toward a more nuanced understanding of how both local cultural and ecological systems are imbricated in global ones,” leading to “an increased emphasis on a sense of planet” (59) and a new found sensitivity to how cultural forms reach “towards . . . the ‘more-than-human world’—the realm of nonhuman species, but also that of connectedness with both animate and inanimate networks of influence and exchange” (61). Using a term coined by Benedict Anderson she eventually defines “eco-cosmopolitanism” as an “attempt to envision individuals and groups as part of planetary ‘imagined communities’ of both human and nonhuman kinds” (61). 15 It is exactly this view that will function as the core idea of this chapter as well which argues that an urban “sense of place” or approaches that only investigate the

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specific locality and distinct ecology of individual cities have to be supplemented by an environmentally conscious “sense of planet” which incorporates global awareness and that takes into account the manifold and complex interrelations of urban places with their global networks and the “more-thanhuman” ecosphere. “Eco-cosmopolitanism” in urban terms thus means to recognize the global ecology of world cities and their local contexts and implications at the same time. It also calls for the need of local citizens of world cities to become world citizens, recognizing how their regional urban ecology and environment are entangled with global forces and demanding new forms of responsibility that encompass both their immediate surroundings and the whole planet. In the following, three examples of contemporary non-fictional urban writing will be explored that seek to, each in their own way, tackle various aspects of the present patterns of urbanization and that take, as will be shown, an eco-cosmopolitan view in the sense of Heise, one that is based on the local ecologies of world cities, but that, eventually, embeds the local in globalizing networks, reflecting on their mutual interrelations and the way in which they are part of an over-arching ecosphere. This chapter shares in Rob Nixon’s sense of the “special allure that nonfiction possesses” due to “its information-carrying capacity and its aura of the real” as well as “its adaptive rhetorical capacities, . . . that make it such an indispensable resource for creative activism” (Nixon 2011, 25). 16 Hence, it will be argued that, first of all, the texts examined, although they deal with urbanity and hardly tackle the question of “nature,” are environmental texts in every sense of that complex term, portraying the way in which large segments of the global population live in cities world-wide and how they bond with their specific locales. Moreover, it will be shown how these texts become repositories of the imagination themselves, inviting their readers to perceive the interconnections and ecologies of cities and, in turn, to change their respective views of cities in general. The texts explored include Mike Davis’s unrelenting examination of the mass-immiseration of the shantytowns at the edges of great cities, Planet of Slums (2006), which seeks to portray their plight and how it is connected to over-arching patterns of urbanization, industrialization, and the world economy; Doug Saunders’s Arrival City (2011) that takes on another perspective, one that invites his readers to perceive the downtrodden areas at the edges of the sprawling world cities not as slums, but as “arrival cities,” dynamic zones, where the largest rural-urban migration in history is taking place and where environmental politics will determine the shape of our urban worlds in the 21st century; and, finally, Katherine Boo’s masterpiece Behind the Beautiful Forevers (2012) which closely follows the life of a Mumbai slum community that, although it is seated next to a vibrant airport that connects India to the world, is left behind in piles of waste, reflecting on the

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price of progress and focusing on its living conditions, aspirations, and neglect in a globalizing world. MIKE DAVIS—PLANET OF SLUMS Ever since his breathtaking and exhilarating 1990 book City of Quartz— Excavating the Future of Los Angeles, which managed to tackle the urban history of Los Angeles and to investigate the social mechanisms and grievances that would culminate in the Rodney King riots only two years later, the urban scholar and writer Mike Davis has featured among the most important, influential, and widely read chroniclers of contemporary urbanization (Hermanson 2003). Over the last decade, his early focus on Los Angeles urbanism has, however, given way to a broader and more comprehensive view of present-day urbanization patterns, encompassing cities on a global scale. This is also the perspective he takes on in his critical, and at times frightening, examination of sprawling urban growth, Planet of Slums, a 2006 monograph study that deals with unequal urbanization patterns in (predominantly) developing countries and aspiring industrial nations. By presenting his readers with a plethora of statistics and raw economic and social data and by combining them with manifold anecdotes from poor settlements at the peripheries and margins of dynamic urban centers, Davis paints an enormous tapestry of contemporary urban growth that is intricately connected to economic development patterns and social and environmental injustices on a global scale. He thereby succeeds in uncovering the global roots and relevance of abysmal local poverty and penury, while asking, at the same time, what kind of shape our urbanized planet will have for our future generations and what kind of ecological and environmental implications and challenges this entails. Although, as will be shown, Davis’s account is often overtly pessimistic and based on oversimplified comparisons and conclusions, Planet of Slums is nevertheless an important book for urban ecologists and urban ecocritics, since it uncovers the global dimension of local environmental problems and unearths their underlying causes whose (geographic and political) roots, more often than not, lie very far away. Davis has chosen a seminal historical constellation for the publication of his book, because, as he makes clear right at the beginning, the world’s urban population has exceeded the rural one (Davis 2006, 1). As he lays out with the help of many statistics and mathematical graphs, the majority of the patterns of urban and population growth are witnessed in development countries (2). In this context, Davis not only deals with the evolution of so-called “megacities” (with around 8 million inhabitants) and “hypercities” (with a population outnumbering 20 million) (5), although both constitute important drivers and outcomes of urbanization patterns at the same time, but also,

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more importantly, with the development of urban structures that come to inter-connect and, finally, absorb vast geographic regions with smaller cities or rural villages into giant urban amalgamations (Vyjayanthi 2012). As Davis points out, especially in the developing world, urbanization patterns create new urban structures, for instance by fusing two different cities into new urban amalgams (Davis 2006, 5). This can be witnessed in Brazil, where Rio and Sao Paolo are increasingly interconnected in a vast urban network (5), while Central America is now seeing similar trends around Mexico City, and West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea has become a landscape marked by urban poverty. Davis’s account is important, because he illustrates that urbanization does not solely involve the growth of individual cities, but rather of city complexes and networks that stretch out far beyond the original urban outskirts to other metropolitan areas giving way to “polycentric webs with neither traditional cores nor recognizable peripheries” (9). This does not simply entail a spatial re-figuration of traditional urban systems, but rather a transformation of the rural corridors and natural landscapes that once made up the transitory areas between individual cities (9). In ecocritical terms, this means that growing trends of urbanization will increasingly see the development of hybrid areas that incorporate both rural and urban elements into conflating and conflicting wholes, where environmental politics operate in a transitory zone that will demand new strategies, if it is to take into account the manifold interconnections consisting in this mixture between city and countryside (8). The example of fishermen in Pengang in Malaysia marks a case in point: they were literally swallowed up by urbanization patterns from outside. In consequence, the fishermen did no longer have open access to their fishing grounds that were, in turn, faced with pollution by urban sewage and waste, or to the countryside where raw materials for urban constructions were exploited (9). In other words, these transgeographical patterns of urbanization, stretching across vast areas and creating transitory and hybrid zones are not only symptoms of (uneven) development, but also of environmental and ecological imbalances and injustices, where the depravation of rights to land ownership or of access to natural resources goes hand in hand with pollution and the transformation of the natural into built environment, creating hazards for the local population. While this process is especially prevalent in East Asia, particularly around the Pearl River and the Yangtze River (6), where pollution from industry and traffic is allowed to travel even farther than the immediate regions in which it is located, the global trend as such shows in the direction of a “new urban order” (7). Thus, even the larger cities in much of the developing world lack strong economies and have been struggling with deindustrialization (13). As Davis further explores in detail, the rapid and sprawling patterns of urbanization, especially in Third World countries, coincided, paradoxically, with long decades of contracting economies; a situation

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that Davis attributes to the world debt crisis of the 1970s and misguided global development politics like the IMF-mandated Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) (152–53). Together with flawed international programs based on the idea of self-help, globalization patterns have thus taken their toll on the socio-economic basis of urbanization in Third World countries and are increasingly marked by inequalities in income, dwelling, and local environmental conditions that are, in turn, rooted in global politics. This can also be seen in the fact that, in the global South, the growth of slums has exceeded urbanization patterns (17) as cities attracted impoverished farmers or literally soaked up large parts of the once rural population as in the Penang example above. Urban design and planning are hereby replaced by illegal squatting and improvised settlements, which attest to the dire social grievances and health conditions at the poor and sometimes seemingly infinite urban peripheries, especially of big cities in development countries. Accordingly, as Davis somberly prophesies, the urban settlement of the 21st-century will be made out of substandard materials and largely improvised structures, while being, at the same time, “surrounded by pollution, excrement, and decay” (19). This “planet of slums” is thereby characterized “by overcrowding, poor or informal housing, inadequate access to safe water and sanitation, and insecurity of tenure” (23). Davis’s analysis is here based on both spatial and environmental parameters as well as on social conditions and follows an ecological agenda in so far as he perceives these aspects as intricately connected. Accordingly, he holds that the “principal function of the Third World urban edge remains as a human dump” (47), where the poverty stricken inhabitants are confronted with “a migrant stream of polluting, toxic, and often illegal industries” that “also seeks the permissive obscurity of the periphery” (46). 17 Slums are, in other words, places where economic and social inequality is further enhanced by high degrees of environmental injustice and risk. Although Davis’s analysis seems at times arbitrary in so far as he chooses heterogeneous examples that fit his argumentation, but are hard to compare with each other, because they are taken out of very divergent geographical and cultural backgrounds, he nevertheless manages to render the global dimension of this development and to investigate how it interrelates with overarching patterns of the world economy, including programs of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) (75). The latter aspect is crucial, since Davis explores how international initiatives of slum improvement are often unaware of the specific local conditions that they often try to ameliorate, while publicly celebrating their efforts. 18 Davis thereby reflects on, on the one hand, failed local environmental politics that are unaware of the complex ecology of squatter settlements and that miss, on the other, “core issues of global inequality and debt” (79). These patterns play themselves out also with regard to the overall spatial structure of globalizing cities as poor and

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impoverished segments of the population are further “pushed” to the urban edges due to “land inflation and property speculation” (82). Accordingly, social inequality is mirrored in control over space, whereby the local slum dwellers are clearly disadvantaged due to their lack of access to resources, legal aid, or education. The urban periphery thereby becomes an object of speculative property investment as in Quito (86) or in Nairobi’s slums (87). One implication of property speculation and land inflation on the urban edges is a coinciding increase in environmental risks and hazards for the large part of the population that is forced toward the urban periphery and the transitory spaces between natural and built environment that are often marked by manifold dangers as in Manila (92) or Caracas (93). This spatial aspect of urban inequality is further reflected by statistics that show the “polarized patterns of land use and population density” (96) making clear that the overwhelming percentage of the poor, which constitute the majority in most large cities in the developing world, is literally jammed into shockingly dense and small parts of city spaces. This urban segregation is further enhanced by environmental politics that are based on slum clearance or relocation projects (98-99) that do not ameliorate living conditions, but just displace poverty. While these projects may be based on efforts to curb urban growth, they are mostly rooted in economic interests like increasing land value or fancy development programs which transform downtrodden areas into attractive shopping or apartment complexes that the poor cannot afford to live in, who are, in turn, further pushed to the edges. Slum politics can thereby be characterized as spatial politics that are not only concerned with mere localities, but that involve over-arching socioeconomic processes and a monetary flow that exceeds national borders. Arguably the most important chapter in an urban ecological and ecocritical sense, however, deals with what Davis terms “slum ecology” (121–150). It is an unforgiving exploration of how city space, material agency, and environmental (in)justice interact to make up the intricate interrelations and abysmal states of this world’s slums. The settlements, although they often differ in sociocultural and historical backgrounds, share similar locations: Be it slums in Manila, that are located over an excrement-infested river, or in Dhaka, where the slum dwellers have “found a Faustian bargain in a precarious ledge of land between a toxic factory and a poisoned lake” (121), slums are typically characterized by an enormously high degree of environmental risk and placed in a “hazardous, health-threatening location” (121). Davis thereby refers to the precarious environmental status of these settlements, which paradoxically ensures their safety from processes of land inflation or land grabs by urban developers, including rising property prices. Accordingly, Davis argues that “such sites are poverty’s niche in the ecology of the city, and very poor people have little choice but to live with disaster” (121–122). He thereby introduces a view of slums that does not simply see

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them as ugly stains or spatial anomalies in an otherwise ordered and orderly urban landscape, but that rather perceives them as the spatial outcomes of social inequality and poverty as well as failed urban planning and environmental politics that keep pushing the socially disadvantaged parts of the population into areas that are environmentally disadvantaged with inferior infrastructure and what Davis calls “unnatural hazards” (122). As he points out, slum dwellers often pave the way to seemingly inaccessible or dangerous landscapes (121), thus extending the city space. They often settle in areas characterized by an adverse geology, where almost uninhabitable natural landscapes mix and mingle with the built urban outskirts, and where toxic flows of garbage, sewage, and pollution are being diverted. Accordingly, slums can be characterized as doubly hazardous places caught in the middle ground between a dangerous natural geography and those places where the ecological footprint of urbanity manifests itself. Davis thereby shows that what, at first, appears to be a natural hazard, is actually rooted in human intervention and manipulation of the surrounding geography as well as based in resource exploitation and pollution of the natural environment, while disasters like hillslides or floods that haunt slums worldwide are often the symptoms of environmental injustice and political indifference. Slums are therefore places that uncover the intricate connection between economic and environmental disadvantage (124) by, above all, their built structures, which are often made out of hazardous materials themselves that barely provide shelter against storms, as well as by their location. Thus, slums are typical spatial areas that are prone to “seismic risk” (126), while their built environment constitutes “the world’s premier fire ecology” (127). In consequence, slums are also to be seen as symptoms of failed environmental politics that unevenly distribute environmental risk amongst the different segments of the urban population and that are characterized by a built environment which is, on the one hand, vulnerable to natural catastrophes, and which, on the other, makes up a human induced element of risk itself by the absence of safety regulations and the use of deficient or polluted materials in its construction. The ecological impact of slums is, however, not merely reduced to the immediate slum environment, but rather encompasses a wide area, stretching out to both the natural landscape as well as the urban center. In this context, it makes sense to quote Davis at length, because he counteracts a dangerous notion which holds that urbanization is, in general, a sustainable environmental phenomenon—as he makes clear: . . . both environmental efficiency and public affluence require the preservation of a green matrix of intact ecosystems, open spaces, and natural services: cities need an alliance with Nature in order to recycle their waste products into usable inputs for farming, gardening, and energy production. Sustainable ur-

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While Davis concedes that urbanism is by no means a destructive force per se, but can rather help to solve inherent problems of the global ecological crisis by creating a higher density and efficiency of land and resource use that will, in the long term, reduce humanity’s ecological footprint, he nevertheless points to the fact that slums are spaces that do not allow for a preservation of the natural landscapes and ecosystems surrounding the city, but symptoms of an overspilling urbanization whose own ecology is characterized by imbalances—both in social terms as well as in environmental terms. Accordingly, Davis notes that the adjoining natural areas around urban settlements which could be used to grow food are often “converted into ecological wastelands” (135) and an urbanization thereof, which in the end, has a negative effect especially on the urban poor, because it minimizes access to healthy food. Yet, this negative ecological effect of sprawling urbanization at the poor peripheries of large cities is not merely a spatial problem, but one that encompasses larger, over-arching patterns of environmental pollution (136), which is due to the bad sanitary infrastructure of slums that pollutes water sources and greenbelts. Slums are therefore also to be conceptualized as permeable, trans-corporeal spaces (Alaimo 2010), where material agents transverse and move with severe effects on both the local inhabitants and the wider ecosphere and the urban space as a whole. Although Davis’s rhetoric is overtly drastic and even dangerous, because it demonizes slums in ways that can play into the hands of urban developers and politicians who want to dislocate or bulldoze slums, taking away the living space of the urban poor, he thereby makes clear that slums are a neglected environmental problem of the modern world city; they pollute the natural environment vital to the urban ecosystem and have an adverse effect on the public health in the city as a whole. In drawing on the example of drinking water, Davis shows how slums are deeply integral parts of an urban ecology by being located at the intersection of flows that lead outside of (e.g., sewage) and inside (e.g., drinking water) the city. His interest is not to condemn the slums as pollutant stains of our modern urban worlds, but to show that they have to come to the fore in contemporary urban environmental politics, if our cities are truly to become sustainable in the future. Environmental (in)justice is therefore also a main concern of Davis’s writing. He illustrates how slums become disease stricken repositories due to both exposure to toxic emissions of industries as well as poor sanitation. Millions are literally living in their own excrement (Davis 2006, 137), because there is no waterborne sewage system or piped disposal system. This

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adds to the social stigmatization of slums and to the humiliation of the inhabitants who often have to relieve themselves publicly, because there are no toilets to do so, as well as to the contamination of water and the spread of diseases like cholera. Although this is an infrastructural issue that is caused by the environmental neglect of urban administrations, it is also an economic issue, where affluent businessmen or influential political groups are often in control of water distribution and sell it for an enormous profit (144–145). That is why Davis argues that the degree of environmental injustice to which one is exposed directly relates to one’s social status (146), since urban elites and affluent parts of the population are usually geographically sealed off from slum areas and are at least not directly affected by the slum-dwellers’ dire living conditions. Yet, it would be wrong to suggest that these issues are merely rooted in local environmental politics. For, as Davis shows, they are interrelated with far-reaching and geographically wide-stretching patterns of development, since the “politically dominant megacities” often divert “their environmental and sanitation problems downstream using other regions as sinks for waste and pollution” (147). In consequence, the “double burden of disease” (147) that many slums worldwide have to carry can also be seen as an instance of the “slow violence” that Rob Nixon investigates as a typical example of environmental injustice in our age of globalization where toxic wastes and industries are relocated into development countries and to the edge of large cities, where the inhabitants have, in turn, to suffer from the longer term health effects of being exposed to pollutants. And as an instance of slow violence, where they also have to live in almost unbearable circumstances without access to urban sanitation, clean water, or hygienic sewage systems. Viewing these problems as local instances of uneven development and mismanagement is therefore wrong and misses their global relevance. As Davis points out, slums can also become breeding grounds for new infectious diseases that can easily spread across the narrow spatial boundaries of the slum settlements (150). Again, Davis’s rhetoric may seem a little overstretched, offering a dangerous argument for anti-urbanists and radical voices who want to eradicate poor urban settlements, yet it has a global outlook that invites a re-imagination of slums not as local arenas with a tightly circumscribed impact, but as an integral part of an interconnected urban network. Consequently, Davis concludes that “economic globalization without concomitant investment in a global publichealth infrastructure is a certain formula for catastrophe” (150). That this global perspective is long shared by government think tanks and politicians is made clear by the discussion of geopolitical strategies and game plans for possible future war scenarios, taken directly out of accounts of U.S. military generals’ writings, that cast third world cities and their peripheries as future battlegrounds between nations and between the rich and the poor (203–206). It is a grim and bleak outlook that is, in part, shared by Davis who

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warns, in the face of sprawling cities and growing slums in the midst of economic crisis, of the disintegration of a large part of the world’s population (199). What is therefore needed is both “human solidarity,” as well as the “refusal of the new urban poor to accept their terminal marginality within global capitalism” (202). That this alone will not be enough is underlined by Davis himself, when he cites global debates that “construct epistemological walls around” slum areas “that disable any honest debate about the daily violence of economic exclusion” (202). Breaking down these “epistemological” barriers is an important step in a global discussion and global strategy for tackling one of the most imminent and acute challenges facing global (environmental) politics today. And although Davis’s discussion of these issues sometimes has the tendency to construct these rhetoric “walls” himself, he nevertheless invites a re-conceptualization of slums that does not see them as local grievances, but as global outcomes of uneven development in a neoliberal age of globalization. In uncovering the historical and socio-economic roots of slums and in depicting their environmental impact, Davis chooses an ecological perspective on slums that is not merely based on crude divisions between rich and poor, but that re-envisions them as integral parts of urban ecosystems whose deplorable states have adverse effects on the city centers as well as the natural landscapes alike. Re-imagining slums in an urban ecological way might be one strategy to break down “epistemological walls” and to put them on the (environmental) political agenda, from the margins to the center of our global future. DOUG SAUNDERS—ARRIVAL CITY In his ambitious 2011 reportage, Arrival City—How the Largest Migration in History is Reshaping Our World, the Canadian journalist Doug Saunders offers a far more optimistic account than Mike Davis, also looking at the slums, shantytowns, and favelas at the edges of large cities. Yet, he does not merely perceive them as the products of misguided environmental politics or the victims of a ruthless world economy, but as powerful agents themselves, as the spatial arenas of the largest rural-urban migration in world history, where the shape of our urban futures will be determined. Accordingly, Saunders takes on an ambitious, all-encompassing approach, exploring and tracing patterns of cityward migration in sixteen countries and more than thirty cities. Although his study is rooted in the specific localities of the cities that he chronicles, his investigation is, like Davis’s, global in scope, aspiring to illustrate the manifold similarities and the joint challenges of urbanization that these countries have to face. Urbanization is thereby portrayed as the most important, if often neglected, global issue of the 21st century, one that will lead to enormous shifts in population patterns, global economic net-

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works, and, in the end, the global ecosphere. As will be shown, Saunders makes, in his portrayal of world cities and their interrelations, use of an ecological approach that looks both at their urban environments and urban spaces as well as their implications for and demands on future urban environmental politics. In this context, Saunders also points at the intricate ties between country and city, rural and urban populations and how both interact in the shaping of our planet, showing that they are not separate entities, but permeable, overlapping, and, in the end, ever-changing spheres. World cities are here thought of as nodal structures in a vast network of interconnections and pathways that connect different parts of the population with each other and that, eventually, allow us to view them as global phenomena. Saunders consequently argues that the dark areas at the edges of large cities, often commonly referred to as “slums,” need to be viewed in a different light, as areas of transition and social mobility. It is here, in “arrival cities,” that urban systems will be transformed and where the local living conditions are not to be dismissed as enclosed abnormalities, but have to be seen in their ecological and thus global relevance. The latter aspect is put into focus right from the beginning of his reportage, when Saunders claims that we are witnessing a great migration from rural into urban areas that will lastingly alter the global landscape (Saunders 2011, 1). As he points out, this cityward migration is not merely a Third World phenomenon, although developing countries certainly see the greatest transition (21). In fact, these movements are taking place all around the world, which is here seen as a transitory space with cities as the central nodal structures and orientation points within a dynamic, interconnected network. And although Saunders recognizes the problems and challenges of these sweeping urbanization processes, he generally welcomes it (23). Thereby, he makes use arguments that many advocates of urbanization bring forth, namely that rural life brings with it problems associated with poorer living standards and malnutrition and that urbanity is characterized by a more densely populated interconnected space that allows for a higher degree of mobility, while reducing distances and carbon emissions through, for instance, public transportation (23). While Saunders’s first argument is certainly true for developing countries, where huge parts of the rural population suffer from malnutrition, droughts, and extreme poverty, the situation is different in most Western countries, where rural living is still idealized as a source of retreat and rest from the loud and hectic city life and has become, in a reversal of roles from agriculture to service sector, a popular tourist industry. Accordingly, the question of a migration in the other direction, from city “back” to country should also be taken into account; although the human species will become more urbanized, it will not automatically stop being rural per se. In this context, it will be interesting to see, how the urban-rural relationship will be

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negotiated and defined in the future. Saunders’s second argument is, of course, even more problematic; especially when one considers the megacities of developing countries or of expanding industrial nations like China, whose big cities visibly drown in heavy clouds of smog and pollution due to enormous carbon emissions by cars and industry. Urbanization does not automatically increase access to technologies or decrease distances. Both aspects have to do with, on the one hand, economic aspects as well as with issues of urban planning and public transport on the other. Therefore, it would be vital to deal with sprawling urbanization trends more critically, especially with regard to their ecological footprints and their impact on climate change—an aspect that is completely left out of Saunders’s account and that could have re-inforced the global relevance of the topic with an additional, and, above all, crucial dimension. While this neglect of environmental issues is certainly a negative aspect of Saunders’s study, his main idea is ever more important for future urban studies. He invites his readers for a re-vision and re-conceptualization of those areas of cities, “located on the periphery of our vision and beyond the tourist maps” (18). Instead of referring to them in common and dismissive popular terms like slums, Saunders is “coining the term ‘arrival city’ to unite these places.” Rather than giving way to a radical and dismissive rhetoric that has led to “tragic housing policies,” social upheavals, or “slum clearance projects,” Saunders makes use of an ecological viewpoint that conceptualizes these peripheral areas not as urban anomalies or “cancerous growths on an otherwise healthy city” (19), but as integral parts of contemporary urban systems and as “transitory spaces” (3) between the country and the city. He sees their function as “the creation and maintenance of a network: a web of human relationships connecting village to arrival city to established city” (20). Arrival cities are perceived as the arena of flows—of people, of money, of materials and technologies between urban and rural areas and where, in the end, (world) cities renew themselves from their peripheries, since they are a “social mobility path” (20, emphasis in original). It is here that a transition from life forms and from poverty occurs, because many inhabitants finally move on into other, more middle-class-formed parts of the city, while other arrivals, in turn, take their place, trying to start a new life. This urban ecological framework is important, because it helps re-imagine the place and function of the sprawling peripheral areas not as ruinous traps of poverty, pollution, and hopelessness, but as dynamic areas of growth, improvisation, and often innovation, leading to new forms of urban existence and determining the shape of our urban futures. It also allows their re-imagination as environments that are open to change and reform and that serve as relays in the complex networks that fuse country and city, the local and the global. As Saunders points out in this context, that is why arrival cities often have a hybrid appearance, situated between urban aspirations and rural forms (23).

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Yet according to Saunders, these seemingly backward and downtrodden structures should not be underestimated, since they have, in fact, a dynamic “fast-changing nature” (24). 19 Therefore, Saunders explains that the border zones of world cities should be seen as a conflating mixture of elements of both rural and urban life which is especially reflected in the spatial appearance and architecture of the built environment of the arrival city. Moreover, what often starts out as an “improvised” (and, for the most part, illegal) settlement, established around the urban peripheries in an often inaccessible natural environment (26) is often integrated, over the course of time, into the proper city area, with visible infrastructural facilities and transportation and travel ways into the urban center. As such, the arrival city constitutes an ever-changing, dynamic environment which, on the one hand, absorbs the (natural) environment at the outskirts of big cities and which is, on the other, absorbed by the urban system towards which it spirals. In the same vein, Saunders shows how the intricate ties between the villages in the country and the arrival cities can be seen as traverse routes and permeable, overlapping spheres with manifold reciprocal interactions. Thus, inhabitants of the arrival cities send money and goods back into their home villages to families and relatives that, in turn, change the conditions of rural life and, in the end, also reshape the built environment of these villages themselves by the construction of new houses or public buildings with the help of money and materials from the city. 20 Accordingly, people from the country constitute the most important recruitment basis for workers in the city, bringing with them their customs and knowledge, while constantly learning new skills themselves. That is why Saunders claims that “the arrival city is a machine that transforms humans” and an “instrument that will create a permanently sustainable world” (27). 21 Although Saunders’s view is often overly optimistic and the process presented above should merely be seen as the ideal case of rural-urban transition and interaction, his insights are nevertheless vital, because they help focus on the fact that the environmental impact of cities, their material (and, indeed, human) flows are not only decided in the downtown districts and urban centers, but rather at their often neglected and overlooked margins. It is these areas and peripheries that come to the fore as the arenas where the ecological footprint and crises of cities manifest themselves. The transformational character and power of the arrival city is introduced right at the beginning of Saunders’s extensive exploration through the description of a small Chinese village, Liu Gong Li, in 1995 (3). What begins with an almost pastoral, idyllic description of a village embedded in a natural landscape with its own rhythm of life, soon turns into an altogether different account of present day Liu Gong Li, “a spectre at the side of a traffic-clotted four-lane boulevard a kilometer into the city: amidst a forest of apartment towers, there unfolds a glimmering mirage of grey and brown cubes cascad-

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ing across hillsides as far as the eye can see, an utterly random crystal formation that has obliterated the landscape . . . around a skyscraper peninsula” (6–7). Saunders presents his readers with an account of an urbanization of nature, of the transformation of natural into built environment that is taking place all over the world in countries that are faced with rapid patterns of urban growth. In passages like these, it becomes apparent that part of what makes Saunders’s journalistic reportage so appealing lies in his, what could be called, urban nature writing. He does not merely portray urban life, but frames it with vivid descriptions of the urban environments in which it is seated. His metaphors that equate urban structures with natural environments not only serve to render the stark contrast to the rural landscape that had been transfigured into an urban setting within a short time, that had, in other words, literally been replaced with concrete and steel-framed equivalents, but also functions as an aesthetic device to portray this vibrant settlement as an environment in every sense of the word. Saunders’s description of this environment thereby zooms into the densely packed city space that unfolds to visitors and that appears like a “fetid slum” with no “greenery,” where “sewage” and “waste are seemingly everywhere” (8). Saunders’s description of Liu Gong Li mirrors countless other sprawling and dynamic arrival cities portrayed in his book and although these built environments are usually, at least seemingly, chaotically organized and have been erected without integrating them organically into the natural and urban surroundings, they are nevertheless, as Saunders’s account makes clear, vital ingredients of the ecology of (world) cities on a global scale. They are places of “transition” that turn migrants into urbanites and will, over time, become parts of the proper city (11). Saunders’s account takes his readers deep into these downtrodden and polluted environments, uncovering the vibrant economy hidden behind the shabby appearance of the built structures (8-9). Instead of the mere statistical data that Davis provides, Saunders chooses a documentary approach based on participant observation and extensive field interviews. He lets the local inhabitants come to the fore as the protagonists of the urbanization and gives them a voice which helps, in the end, to put the description of the abysmal state of their urban environment into a new light, underlining “its improvised appearance and ever-changing nature” as well as the network they form between rural areas and urban centers (11). And although the ecological impacts and implications are painfully under-theorized in Saunders’s reportage, he nevertheless makes use of an ecological way of narrating the arrival cities, both in how he aesthetically renders their appearance by drawing on metaphors of nature, and in unearthing their manifold interconnections and functions within a dense network that links individual cities to vast rural areas all around the world. The often deplorable ecological and environmental states of arrival cities are thereby rooted in their spatial and built structures themselves, whose

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improvised character is repeatedly illustrated by Saunders. Arrival cities are carved into those transversal areas where the outskirts of the built environment and the surrounding natural environment meet and merge. They are, in turn, hybrid areas of substandard and harmful building materials that have an agency of their own and that pollute the land—plastic, PCP, molded mortar—and of natural hazards that threaten the built structures as in Dhaka in Bangladesh, where the bamboo houses are built on stilts in a flood-prone area (48). Accordingly, arrival cities are areas of high risk—a term that is, quite surprisingly, almost never used in Saunders’s reportage—where the threats of environmental disasters loom large over the inhabitants that have to navigate the manifold challenges of living in areas that are neither securely constructed nor placed in ecologically safe areas. As Saunders points out, this has to do with economic reasons as well as with reasons of urban planning, since they are either “too remote” or even “considered uninhabitable” (53). Arrival cities are places where the natural environment is slowly transformed and integrated into the urban area in a painstaking and risky process, and where the ecological crisis of contemporary urbanity manifests itself: Not only do arrival cities add to the ecological footprint of cities by producing waste and emissions themselves, but they have to suffer from those material substances and polluted flows that the city core diverts to its edges like garbage, sewage, or pollutants. Moreover, they are often exposed to threats that are direct outcomes of global climate change, seated near the rising sea levels of oceans or rivers or located in areas of immense heat or heavy, sour rain. Arrival cities do both span vast geographical regions in an economic sense, connecting rural to urban populations, and in an ecological one, being located at those marginal zones where the environmental impacts of urbanity are most intricately felt, becoming transition areas between the urban regions and their large hinterlands. As Saunders illustrates with the help of many arrival cities all around the world, the improvised character of arrival cities is not solely an environmental problem, but also a legal one, since most of the land is taken up by squatting or illegal measures that do not entitle inhabitants to land ownership—and it is especially, as Saunders makes clear, the latter aspect that is crucial, if an arrival city is to thrive and to be integrated into the proper city (67). The complex legal issues can, for instance, be seen in the Turkish term for these squatter settlements (165): gecekondu (“night-settled”). This compositum referred to the illegal mass seizure of unused urban land at the outskirts of Istanbul, one of the world’s most dynamic cities, in the 1970s, when rural migrants literally built communities overnight that were, after long decades of legal and political struggle finally acknowledged and now make up central districts of Istanbul, while other settlements continue to grow around them, still attracting thousands of migrants from Anatoly and other rural parts of Turkey every year. 22 Arrival cities, due to their often

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questionable legal status, thereby also make up a central aspect of modern urban environmental politics, while the political status of these spaces is a matter of concern just like their structure. Repeatedly, governments all around the world have tried, often forcefully, to prevent the growth of new settlements 23 or have moved in to tear them down or re-locate them in other deprived areas. Others, like the favelas of Rio de Janeiro have been literally sealed off from the surrounding city and countryside by walls or wired fences (69). As Saunders points out, that is why it is vital to change the general perception of the downtrodden areas at the edges of big cities from a perspective that sees them “as a fixed commodity, a fallen and immutable population of ‘the poor’ living at the bottom end of ‘the system,’ to be dealt with as victims” to one that perceives them as vital parts of the cities which provide workforce and where the people are “central actors in the economy” (70). Saunders invites an ecological perception of slums and shantytowns as “key mechanisms of the city’s regeneration” (47). Yet, he also acknowledges that it is only when they are recognized as organic parts of the city and made the focus of environmental politics that seek to integrate them into the urban networks instead of casting them out that they can truly become the locus of transformation and social mobility. In the end, arrival cities are thus also the spatial arenas where the environmental political question of contemporary urbanity’s sustainability is posed with grave immediacy. Integrating the urban peripheries into the economic mechanisms and intricate networks of the urban core is vital for two reasons: On the one hand, as Saunders depicts, the living conditions in arrival cities worldwide are deplorable, re-enforcing sickness as well as environmental pollution—a fact that could be witnessed when the garbage mountains of the slums of Caracas collapsed, led to the erosion of the hillside on which they were located, and buried the dwellers under them. Although only a small percentage of arrival cities are located on steep slopes and rock walls, the gruesome image of settlements covered in “mud and human waste” (214) is an apt way to describe the environmental situations of many poor urban settlements all around the world that have to get along without the bare necessities of life, including clean running water, electricity, or access to urban facilities like hospitals or homeless shelters. It is only when these problems are addressed that worldwide patterns of urbanization will indeed prove to be environmentally sustainable in the way that Saunders claims them to be. Yet, his reportage is an important step in this direction, since he convincingly engages a reimagination of these urban areas that seem to be hopelessly caught in depravation and poverty, opening up alternative ways of dealing with them. For, on the other hand, as he makes clear, arrival cities are also to be seen as powerful political forces themselves. Be it the gecekondu in Istanbul, the poor outskirts of Tehran, or the ashwaiyyat (“haphazard places”) (326) in

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Cairo, they have all seen social upheaval and unrest that had to do with social and environmental neglect by the national or the city government. Arrival cities are therefore also zones of possible political radicalism and the functionalization of social “grievances and frustration” (212) by various interest groups. Instead of marginalizing arrival cities both spatially as well as politically, governments have to engage with them actively, integrating them into (democratic) processes of citizenship, self-determination, and urban planning. Saunders hereby cites the examples of the immigrant communities Slotervaart and Bijlmermeer in the Netherlands as positive role models (289-300). Both had originally been planned as “green, geometric patterns,” spatially removed from the inner city by a park area (289). Yet, what began as an urban planner’s paradise, soon proved to be a social disaster, “an isolated urban island” (290). After spouts of radical Islamism, culminating in the killing of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh (292), the marginalized communities in Slotervaart became the protagonists of re-figured environmental politics that substituted the neat green urban design with a densely interconnected urban structure, made up of tiny streets and big concrete constructions (293). Saunders’s observations may seem problematic for an ecocritical take on contemporary urbanity, because he dismisses the green belt between Amsterdam and its arrival city on the outskirts as an urban planning failure, but it is vital for it illustrates that urban ecology does not merely consist of nature or greenery in a city, but rather has to re-envision city space and social systems as intricately interconnected entities. Thus, the re-structuring of Slotervaart took account of creating “an internal economy” (294) based, among other things, on increased “density” (297) and an “organic” approach that allows arrival cities to “grow, change and develop . . . without restrictions on usage” (299). Environmental politics that are based on these ecological principles, recognizing the interrelations between spatial structure, social and economic networks and functions will arguably fare better than those that are concerned with containing or restricting urban growth on the outskirts of large cities. Urbanization is a global trend that will not end for decades to come, the question is, therefore, not how to prevent it from happening, but how to ameliorate the conditions under which it takes place. Saunders’s reportage makes clear that this is a global task, not merely rooted in the specific localities of a few distinct cities, but one that has long arrived in the urban centers of the West as well. As Saunders points out, “one of the few truly effective, sustainable and life-transforming channels for international assistance is the arrival city,” since “turning” deprived “neighbourhoods around . . . can be an unusually productive and secure aid investment.” This again underlines the global outlook of environmentally conscious environmental politics that “reduces both village and city poverty, improves fertility

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rates and provides the ecological benefits that arise from more urban, dense populations” (306). Although the latter aspect is dealt with too uncritically in Saunders’s account, based on long-term prognosis and only marginally treating the immediate environmental impacts and ecological footprints of urban sprawl, his re-imagination of rural cityward migration and of the poor settlements at the peripheries of urban systems, puts these marginalized urban areas “at the centre of a set of dialectically related rural and urban functions” (206). Although Saunders under-theorizes the ecological dimensions of urbanization with regard to environmental pollution and climate change, he nevertheless re-invites an ecological view of our global urbanization patterns, one that takes account of the manifold interconnections between center and periphery, between country and city, and, in the end, between the different parts of the world from which people set out in hope for a better future and their urban destinations that may, in some cases, be half a world away. In this sense, the arrival city is truly a place where the local is rooted in the global. KATHERINE BOO—BEHIND THE BEAUTIFUL FOREVERS While both Davis’s as well as Saunders’s accounts of urbanization in the era of globalization take on a wide perspective, focusing on different cities and urban centers all around the globe, Katherine Boo’s powerful 2012 reportage Behind the Beautiful Forevers—Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Slum chooses a different approach, one that is focused on a singular Indian “undercity,” 24 the Annawadi slum in Mumbai, in order to portray the plight and poverty of a large segment of the urban population left behind in a time of economic booming and a global race for excellence. Instead of Davis’s macro statistics and Saunders’s well researched socio-historical underpinnings of urbanization, Boo chooses an almost microscopic way of uncovering the human drama, political shortcomings, and ecological interrelations of a distinct slum community. And although she presents her readers with various individual voices and experiences, her reportage points to a larger, more encompassing story that allows the reader to perceive Annawadi as a microcosm of economic and environmental injustice that can be witnessed, at least in its general patterns, all around the world. Thereby, Boo masterfully unearths the interconnections between life on the margins of city space and its toxic environment, littered with garbage, contagious sewage, and pollutant emissions from nearby highways and an international airport. Accordingly, Boo investigates how the slum’s inhabitants have been cast out in a process of economic growth in which the cities have been booming as well, but where the development has been unevenly distributed between the different segments of the population and parts of the city. She also illustrates how the

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slum’s inhabitants make a virtue out of necessity, collecting the garbage that seams their neighborhood and turning it, literally, into money in the hope for a better future. The human drama that unfolds on the city’s outskirts as aspirations for social mobility are thwarted and dreams are shattered, turns Boo’s reportage also into a compelling and moving narrative in which the author herself is rarely present. For years, Boo, who had been a famous reporter for the Washington Post and had explored poverty in the United States, had lived in a Mumbai slum, immersing herself in the community and witnessing its environmental and economic injustices first-hand. 25 Based on participant observation and many field interviews, Boo lets her interview partners’ voices come to the fore, turning her reportage into a gripping narrative that, although based on fact, reads like a novel. This hybrid aesthetic of Behind the Beautiful Forevers will here be seen a means to render the human dimension of slum life as well as to re-imagine the slum as a “storied place” and, thus, as a way to explore ecological interrelations that are very hard to show with mere economic data or journalistic description alone. Told from multiple perspectives with verbatim quotations as well as paraphrases of their thoughts, Behind the Beautiful Forevers heaves a complex tapestry of individuals living in a closely knit slum community, where solidarity is often absent in the face of brutal economic truths, corrupt police, and an insufficient judicial system. Boo’s field interviews are thereby supplemented by official documents and public records (250) that she carefully embeds into her narrative without letting them drown out the ingeniously crafted oral history of slum life, told from the margins of a society that has left a huge part of the population literally behind the advertisement posters of a shiny new economy. Boo’s aesthetic technique becomes apparent right from the beginning in the prologue of her reportage, which is told in the third person out of the perspective of young Abdul, who hides from the police in a shabby slum building. Accused of a crime that he did not commit, 26 he and his large family are faced with legal prosecution and the danger of plummeting down the strict social hierarchies of the slum. As the social problem is introduced, so is the daily reality of Abdul, a child laborer scavenging for garbage at the outskirts of Mumbai (Boo 2012, ix). Here, the lack of access to education and of economic possibility or social mobility intertwine with spatial disenfranchisement and environmental hazards that stem largely from the poor living conditions in the slum, a lack of orderly construction materials, and proper sanitation. Abdul’s dwelling is located in an alley of improvised huts with an open lot that served as a “kind of beachfront for a vast pool of sewage” (x). The shed which functions as a storeroom for neatly ordered trash (xi) becomes an apt metaphor for a life on the margins of a society beaming with promise and opportunity, as a way of participating in the race for economic prosperity with the help of a fringe business, while being stuck in a polluted, health-endangering place. A place that is not only

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prone to environmental hazards, but also in a precarious legal situation, for Annawadi is an illegal squatter settlement (xviii–xix). Consequently, the disadvantaged status of the slum community is introduced in spatial, environmental, legal and, in the end, political terms, while the stark differences and contradictions are reflected in the slum’s location itself, which, although located on the grounds of a shiny international airport, is unable to partake in its cosmopolitan business (xxi). The gripping narrative of Boo’s book manages to repeatedly pull the reader into the heart-breaking world of people, whose daily realities seem very far away, while their aspirations feel hauntingly close, as well as to sketch out the urban ecology of a pulsating world city, where the global ecological and economic crisis harbors just beneath the fancy building projects and gateways into a global future. The close proximity of economic growth and gruesome poverty between newly constructed beautiful architecture and rundown slum dwellings is a recurrent motif of Boo’s writing that re-enhances the impression of the way in which both spheres, although they are strikingly different, are interconnected both in spatial terms as well as in a twisted logic of market capitalism. As Boo explains to the spatial structure, the slum is located only a short distance away from a shiny international airport that also includes luxurious hotels that encircle Annawadi (xii). Boo presents the readers with the pressing question why some parts of India’s booming metropolises are allowed to flourish, whereas others are wasting away beneath the glimmering high-rise buildings. While the spatial component is certainly an important aspect to consider, both spheres are also related in economic terms (xii)—the international airport brings with it the promise of social mobility and of relocation from a seemingly shabby existence as a slum dweller to a more prosperous and respected status in the city. The slums themselves are thereby presented as marginal, but nevertheless vibrant parts of the economic growth as they utilize the scraps left behind by economic and urban development, scavenging after the waste that the airport and the international tourists produced daily. As Boo puts it, at the end of each day, these scavengers “returned down the slum road with gunny sacks of garbage on their backs, like a procession of broken-toothed, profit-minded Santas” (xii). This sentence is indicative both of Boo’s remarkable style of writing, which, with its vivid descriptions and colorful metaphors, manages to sketch out vivid portraits of slum life, and also of the way in which the apparent leftovers of economic and urban growth are themselves the fuel to an underground economy that allows others to partake in a system from which they have seemingly been cast out a long time ago. Accordingly, by comparative standards, most Annawadi slum dwellers are not considered “poor” (6), but rather fall into the grey zone of upward social mobility from poverty to, if not prosperity, then at least a bearable existence. As Boo makes clear, this has to do with the slum’s proximity to the international airport and its hotels which

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produce heaps of waste. In this sense the Annawadi slum becomes a dumping ground for the waste created in globalizing patterns of travel and trade, but also a place where, despite bad living conditions in the face of toxic pollution through emissions, noise, and tons of garbage, the (global) waste creates new business opportunities built on trash picking and recycling. In other words, the Annawadi slum becomes an interesting case study for exploring how urban centers that function as nodal structures within a global network create hazardous spaces of waste and pollution as direct outcomes of economic growth, and how local dwellers have to live with the effects of these spaces, improvising, in turn, economic structures of their own in order to transform their own lives (Pellow 2007). Therefore, Annawadi can be characterized as an “arrival city” in the sense of Saunders, a settlement illegally built into an uninviting patch of land at the outskirts of a big city, absorbing migrants from rural areas and becoming a place of traverse into urban life. In fact, the airport had been a badly constructed and insufficiently organized place itself, before it was “privatized” and turned into “a piece of architecture that might impress on travelers Mumbai’s rising status as a global city” (Boo 2012, 41). While the newly renovated airport attests to India’s global ambitions, Annawadi still points in the other direction, with the Sahar Airport Road dividing and connecting the two realms at the same time, “a stretch where new India and old India collided” (5). The urbanization of nature by squatters and construction workers, that finally gave shape to Annawadi, is still taking place, creating a hybrid space with a “sewage lake sparkling silver cast” in the sun, surrounded by huts “held together by duct tape and rope” (4). Boo’s urban nature writing powerfully illustrates the frail and unstable character of an improvised settlement, located at the edge of the urban built environment and connecting it to wide outskirts of unclaimed nature with manifold natural and unnatural hazards. The description of the improvised and small house of Sunil Sharma, a twelve-year-old trash scavenger, stands in for hundreds of similar dwellings in Boo’s account, located “on Annawadi’s stenchiest lane, where the feral pigs gorged on rotten hotel food” (33). Deprived of access to clean water and sanitation, these places pose a nuisance for their inhabitants and an environmental burden due to their building materials and the lack of means to properly dispose of waste and excrements. Yet, despite everything, they are also, as Boo makes clear, places of living of a huge segment of the population that have been spatially cut off from the city center. An impressive passage that describes one of Sunil’s expeditions on the airport area in the hunt for trash or raw materials to pick up underlines this spatial division: The airport people had erected tall, gleaming aluminum fences in the side of the slum that most drivers passed before turning into the international terminal. Drivers approaching the terminal from the other direction would see only a

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The wall functions thus as a spatial structure that physically divides the prospering new airport infrastructure from the realms of poverty beneath its towers and terminals so that, on the one hand, arriving tourists are not faced with one of India’s slums right away, while, on the other, the slum inhabitants are cast out from the global exchange through advertisement posters that, in a twisted logic, promise salvation through consumption. Yet, the spatial proximity to the airport does not only create opportunities for the waste recyclers and trash pickers on which the slum economy depends, but also brings with it the permanent and ever-lingering danger of eviction. As an aspiring world city, Mumbai cannot, as Boo makes clear, afford a shabby slum settlement next to one of its big international airports, since most travelers will interpret these spaces as signs of misguided urban management and environmental politics—a bad advertisement for one of the world’s fastest developing countries indeed. Accordingly, the airport authorities were keen on razing the Annawadi slum huts, since they were now seen as a backward obstacle in the face of an ever-dynamic progress (42). Although the slum dwellers can only participate via the scraps and garbage left behind in the economic progress of their country, the global is thus ever-present through the trash spewing airport and in the fact that a slum located near a global “gateway” can easily be regarded as a stain on an otherwise prospering economy, further endangering the legal status of the settlement. However, the precarious legal status is, as Boo makes clear, only one reason why this part of the city space that was initially urbanized by squatting has gained the attention of urban planners and politics. The presence and infrastructure of a global gateway have automatically increased property value, making it attractive to new building projects that would, in turn, be built on Annawadi, razing the slum huts and evicting their dwellers, pushing them farther away from the sprawling urban center. Furthermore, Annawadi’s vulnerable status is enhanced by the intricate interplay between the natural and the built environment: “The slum was a floodbowl, surrounded as it was by high walls and mounds of illegally dumped construction rubble” (73). The legal status of the spatial presence of Annawadi has, in consequence, two interconnected aspects: For one, official authorities view it as a space illegally inhabited and open to re-construction; secondly, due to this, they can use it as the dumping ground for toxic waste, creating manifold hazards for the local population. As Boo points out, this is especially the case during the driving rains of the monsoon season, when water inundates the area, carrying excrement, pollutants, and toxics with it (73). Annawadi is

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therefore not only a place of economic deprivation, but also of severe environmental injustice (86). The health endangering living conditions are a daily nuisance at Annawadi whose consequences become immediate and visible mostly during the monsoon season when the slum space becomes a “trans-corporeal” (Alaimo 2010) network of fluids, substances, and bodies, entangled in a toxic soup (Boo 2012, 117). Boo’s vivid descriptions render the way in which city space is transformed by torrents of rain, especially at those places where the built environment is only improvised and constructed out of porous or substandard materials and where there is no regulated sanitation or water pipe system that could lead part of the floating liquids away. Instead, their circulation is further enhanced by the “sewage lake” that poses a great environmental threat to both the humans living around it as well as for the animals living and grazing near its shore. Boo’s characterization of the lake as a “living thing” (117) is an apt way to describe the material agency of its polluted waters and substances that cause severe health problems for the organisms traversing through this urban neighborhood. It is, at the same time, a direct outcome of misguided urban environmental politics that have for too long neglected the dire need of a functioning sewer system and have exposed the community and its animals to repeated violations of their right to environmentally just living conditions. Accordingly, as Boo points out, the waters of the lake are infested not only with sewage, but with rubble from the airport construction site as well as with various substances, toxics, and bodies including carcasses that transform them into an all-permeating “soup” (7) which poses a great environmental hazard both to the “more-than-human world” and the animals who feed on it and the local inhabitants who likewise take water, food, and fish from it. That this polluted urban space has an impact that exceeds the local is cleverly noted by Boo when she refers to the beauty products that stem, in part, from fishes caught in the lake, which are, in turn, exported all around the world (7). The locality of Annawadi might seem very specific. Yet, as Boo makes clear, it stands in for every other Mumbai slum, especially with regard to its spatial and environmental situation (5). The latter aspect is connected both to the sewage lake and the exposure to emissions and toxics from the construction sites nearby, and to other environmental injustices that many slums and poor urban areas worldwide have to deal with, namely the proximity of heavy industries with an immense ecological footprint that is apparent in the shape and look of the environment as well as the bodies living next to it: “The leaves of the tree were gray, like many things in Annawadi, on account of sand and gravel blowing in from a concrete plant nearby. . . . (P)eople seemed to die of it all the time—untreated asthma, lung obstructions, tuberculosis. . . . Bad lungs were a toll you paid to live near progress” (14).

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The environmental injustice that Annawadi and its inhabitants are exposed to is a case of the “slow violence” that Rob Nixon has explored as “calamities that are slow and long lasting, calamities that patiently dispense their devastation while remaining outside our flickering attention spans,” especially since they concern the “bodies of the poor,” “somatized into cellular dramas of mutation that . . . remain largely unobserved, undiagnosed and untreated” (Nixon 2011, 6). Boo’s text unearths these “dramas” that play themselves out daily in slums like Annawadi but that are rarely noticed by authorities, because the effects of exposure to sewage lakes, construction sites, and emissions from industries are by no means immediate, but rather delayed, only surfacing slowly in chronic health problems. Moreover, this environmental injustice is further enhanced by the lack of access to sanitation facilities, doctors, and hospitals, let alone health insurance. The great degree of environmental injustice that Annawadians and other slum dwellers are faced with together with a high measure of environmental risk connected to elements of the built environment like bad flood protection or the location near polluted lakes help to underline the precarious ecology of slums that is, by no means, merely reduced to the tightly circumscribed spatial area of the slum itself. Quite the contrary, the long lasting environmental effects encompass a far larger area and affect both the natural landscape surrounding the urban sphere as well as the urban center itself. That is one of the primary reasons why city planners and officials should be concerned with ameliorating the living conditions of slum inhabitants, because, in the long run, what endangers the health of the poor and disadvantaged can easily turn back on the more affluent parts of the population. This is not to suggest that slums are the roots of urban environmental problems, but rather that they are the places that have to suffer under the ecological impact of cities most acutely in becoming, for instance, dumping grounds for sewage, waste, and emissions. Annawadi’s trash economy is a prime example of a community that is faced with extreme degrees of environmental pollution created by huge building projects as well as international travel and trade. The waste and garbage, although they present the slum dwellers with unlikely business opportunities, are, above all, an environmental hazard that adds to the risk and injustice connected to places like Annawadi. After all, the garbage surrounding and permeating its space has an agency of its own that adds to the dire health problems of the population and especially to those, mostly young, people involved in the trash trade (Boo 2012, 35). Annawadi is, in this sense, a huge dumping ground for infectious waste that transforms, in its trans-corporeal presence, the slum into a toxic space. That this pollution concerns a wider perimeter is underlined by Boo in her description of the Mithi River (38), where the young scavenger Sunil looks for trash and goes fishing in waters that were once blue, but that have now turned into a dark, toxic stream (47). The description of the river once again illustrates

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the far-reaching effects of a toxic place like Annawadi, whose impacts show themselves only slowly and most notably on a local level, but which travel far—both in the ecology of a large urban metropolis as well as a global economic network. That is why slums like Annawadi, instead of being made speculation objects, should be recognized in their intricate ecology and should attract the undivided attention of progressive urban environmental politics. One of the most pressing concerns of slum dwellers worldwide, in this context, is access to clean water. In the case of Annawadi, “the municipality sent water through six Annawadi faucets for ninety minutes in the morning and ninety minutes at night” (53), strictly rationing the availability of one of the essential resources and thus adding to the slum dwellers’ sense of being second class citizens in a city that otherwise thrives with innovation and investment. Boo repeatedly presents her readers with stories that help render the way in which the slum inhabitants are the victims of failed environmental politics resulting in environmental injustices, and in how they become the plaything in larger, over-arching political and economic frameworks that literally feed on their hunger and need. The case of the “water-brokers” (53) who charge enormous fees for public goods is just one case in point that underlines in which way the plight of a large part of the marginalized urban population is exploited by influential groups like the Shiv Sena party and, in the episode above, even by international help organizations, detouring strongly needed development money for their own benefits. Of course, this is not to say that development projects or help organizations are overall failures, yet, in Boo’s account they fall into a general pattern of how a seemingly distinct locality like Annawadi is tied to global political and economic networks, which use it, in turn, as an object of speculation in the transnational flows of capital and goods. In the same vein, global markets lastingly affect the slum economy as during the global economic crisis in 2008, which led to the decline of prices for recyclable waste, while the food prices were continually rising (181). This again underlines the way in which something as seemingly remote from global transactions like the slum ecology is interrelated with fraudulent systems like the world economy. Although the slum dwellers figure prominently in global economic schemes, they usually have little political agency of their own, depending on political spokespersons or representatives taking on their interests. Especially in India, with millions of slum dwellers, this social group becomes an important voting bloc to be won over by ambitious politicians during election times (52). While political action and initiative is therefore not totally absent from Annawadi, it is often merely present in singular actions that do not account for desperately needed, more far-reaching infrastructural changes. As Boo illustrates in her book, the latter aspect is something which Annawadians strive for, but whose ambitions and calls are regularly thwarted by misman-

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agement and corruption (230). These political schemes are largely rendered through the portrayal of the female Annawadi slumlord Asha in Boo’s account, an energetic and relatively independent woman (18) with a lot of connections both on the local slum level as well as to politicians and officials in the larger city. With the help of Asha, Boo dissects the urban mechanisms that make Mumbai not only a “hive of hope and ambition” but also a “place of festering grievance and ambient envy,” a site of contradictions (20). Just as the spatial perimeters of Annawadi border on Mumbai’s future-driven business projects, but are nevertheless separated from them, so are the slum economy and the daily lives of the people whose aspirations are fueled by the shimmering towers and hotels beneath their shabby dwellings (29). Asha is a prime example of those people who have high hopes that she, like many others, tries to fulfill with political fervor and corruption (28) in her drive for social mobility. Boo convincingly sketches out Asha’s rise to slumlord—it is a trajectory that closely resembles Saunders’s description of social ascent in “arrival cities,” 27 but that, in the end, stops on the outskirts of the slum which is not as permeable as Saunders’s optimistic account suggests, but rather remains shut off from the prosperous, more affluent urban circles (221–23). The urban ecology of Annawadi is thus one that, although it, in a socioeconomic sense, leads downward from the urban center to the slum, seldom leads the other way around for a lack of proper resources, education, and political agency. Boo’s reportage makes clear that these, too, are elements that determine the urban environment. The lack of these resources and of visible political presence and assistance in a country driven by the high ambition to become a leader in the world economy finally leads to an urban policy based on slum clearance instead of a debate on the complex challenges of the slum ecology. As Boo sums up the project, she makes clear that this, too, is characterized by economic and environmental injustice (224). Thereby, she once again underlines the global scope of the local redevelopment projects that are meant, on the one hand, to further boost India’s economy by making room for investment property and big construction projects, but also, on the other, to promote its rise to one of the world’s leading industrial nations. In this global game of make-believe it does not count that these redevelopment plans miss, as Boo shows at length, the point, since they become part of “land speculation” projects and “investment properties” (225) from which the more affluent parts of the population benefit, while the poor slum dwellers are forced further towards the urban outskirts into new slums. In this sense, a “slum-free Mumbai,” even a slum-free world city will remain an illusion, especially since these economic nodes continue to attract hundreds of thousands of poor migrants every year. 28 The challenge is therefore not to get rid of slums by radical removal policies or to prevent further migration, but rather how to make the slums livable and how to integrate them into the greater urban

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economic and social system. Boo manages to depict how slums are already integral parts of the urban ecology of a world city like Mumbai both in an economic and environmental sense and even to show how the local interacts with the global in a remote and marginalized realm of the worldwide globalization networks. In this context, the main achievement of Boo’s powerful, at times angry, but never sentimental text is to counter policies that view slums as abstract spaces or manifestations of hopelessness. Instead, she renders Annawadi as a storied place, inviting a revision of an apparently rundown and diseasestricken urban anomaly as a vital ingredient of Mumbai’s larger urban ecology. She introduces her readers to a complex microcosm through the voices of individuals with high hopes and aspirations, who are, at the same time, the subjects of horrible disadvantages and injustices. She thereby sketches out an enormous tapestry of the complex slum ecology of Annawadi with the help of a novel aesthetic and a reporting immersed in the daily lives of people who are rarely, if ever, seen in mainstream news or media. In the words of the author, “I don’t try to fool myself that the stories of individuals are themselves arguments. I just believe that better arguments, maybe even better policies, get formulated when we know more about ordinary lives” (251). CONCLUSION This chapter was concerned with tracing the global urbanization patterns that are lastingly transforming our planet. The twenty-first century will likely be known as the age in which humankind finally became an urban species. The socio-economic patterns of rural-urban migrations and the development of so-called world cities harbor enormous environmental and ecological effects, since urbanization processes are by no means only to be seen as local adventures, but rather global endeavors that heave people, materials, and nonhuman organisms together into a complex and heterogeneous amalgam of places and agents. “Urban ecology,” rather than analyzing cities as sealed-off ecosystems, has to take into account the impact of individual urban systems on the global ecosphere and analyze the feedback processes that tie built and natural landscapes, urban and rural dwellers together. While this can be done with the help of statistical data or ecological footprint analysis, culture has to be included into the analysis, since cultural media and texts render and reflect on the interactions that characterize urban life in a globalized world. Thereby, marginalized and peripheral zones of world cities come to the fore as the center stages on which the socio-economic and environmental effects of urbanization processes take place. This chapter has shown that hybrid zones between city and country on the urban edges are not to be conceptualized as backward and static places that stand in the way of urban progress and

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prosperity, but rather as dynamic driving forces that constantly curb urban growth and that are crude indicators of the way in which our current urbanization process is based on environmental injustice and pollution. Thus, the chapter has argued for the development of an urban “eco-cosmopolitanism” in the sense of Ursula Heise that takes into account the global impact of local urban policies; how, for instance, garbage that is exported from metropolises in the Western world makes and re-makes environmental living conditions elsewhere. Urbanization is not something that happens half a world away, in developing countries or the Global South, but a daily activity that plays itself out right in front of our doorsteps and in our apartments. Consequently, the shift in perspective and sentiment that this chapter demands is marked by a paradox: Considering the fact that the word cosmopolitanism is rooted in the Greek word polites, which means citizen and, more precisely, the citizen of a city state, and that kosmos refers to the world as such, it may seem like a contradiction in itself, containing both a personal situatedness in the local, a distinct sense of place, as well as a feeling of world-wide belonging, an all-encompassing sense of planet. Although it is, in our time, nothing special to refer to a single individual as a cosmopolitan, travelling all over the world and feeling at home everywhere, without attachments to any characteristic locality, traversing the global space as one giant, interconnected place, to describe a city as cosmopolitan is another thing entirely. With a distinct history, a specific architecture and built environment, located in a natural landscape with characteristic features and realities, as well as a marked socio-economic structure, a city may seem very much like its own thing, a sealed-off entity. This has, however, never been the case. Ever since our species has first decided to make cities our primary habitats, urban culture has been determined by travelers and migrants who have sometimes crossed immense distances to settle down in an environment that they saw fit as the place for a new town, at other times they have moved to—by force or in peace—other, already existing cities, bringing with them their customs and culture. Moreover, cities rarely take their building materials merely from the local landscape—wood, stone, cement, steel, or fiberglass are often imported from other urban or industrial centers from very far away. In the same vein, a city and its hinterland are interconnected in flows of materials and commodities as William Cronon has shown in Nature’s Metropolis (1991). In our age of globalization these flows and transactions have taken on an ever-widening radius. With telecommunication and mass travel by autobus, airplane, or ship, cities have evolved into nodal points in a giant, global network of transfer and trade. Some cities are consciously planned as nodal, cosmopolitan places—just think of Dubai with its airports that not only serve as interconnections between the global markets on the different continents, but that literally constitute giant markets themselves, with goods from all

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over the world that are sold (allegedly) cheaply in duty-free areas and shopping festivals. Together with impressive sport arenas and luxury hotels, Dubai has evolved in a global meeting point of tourists and businessmen, of import and export, while its megalomaniac building projects are planned by Western star architects and built by, mostly, Eastern poverty-stricken migrants that are treated like 21st-century slaves. It is easy to see why a world city like Dubai can be said to be cosmopolitan, but why is it necessary to integrate the “eco” in it? Dubai is a good case in point because it has, with its many construction sites and extraordinary buildings, including an arena with an artificial snow landscape under a big roof, where it is possible amidst the hot and dry Arabian climate to ski all year long, an immense ecological footprint—a footprint directly correlated to its status as a global business node and international holiday destination. While Dubai has long fostered and worked for this status as a global metropolis, it has done so at enormous environmental cost, neglecting the ecological impact of urban development and economic progress. The drive for global excellency has here resulted in local environmental pollution and a high emission of greenhouse gases that, in the end, affect not only the natural desert surroundings around the sheikdom, but have, in turn, an adverse effect on the global atmosphere. It is this latter aspect which has come to the fore in a conceptualization of world cities as eco-cosmopolitan places, as nodal structures contributing to and directly influencing global climate patterns and environmental change. In this sense, cities are not solely places of the flows of money and goods, but of flows of material substances, of water, of gases, of chemicals and toxins that stem from heavy industry, traffic, sewage systems. The structures that connect different parts within a city and that connect cities to one another have thus to be seen both as means of transport and mobility, as well as intermittent networks that open up material flows which, in turn, determine the urban environment and strongly influence the natural environments of world cities. What is needed therefore, is a new awareness of their urban ecologies, of the way in which they interrelate and co-relate with environmental processes like climate change or pollution—aspects that play themselves out only slowly and barely visible on a global level, considering the long-lasting and open-ended debate on climate change, but that manifest themselves on the local level of cities, in their intoxicating smog levels, their downtrodden, disease-ridden slum areas, and sewage canals that pollute nearby rivers, reservoirs, or oceans. These adverse living conditions that many (predominantly mega) cities have to deal with worldwide are the direct outcomes of misguided urban environmental politics that fail to take into account both the local embeddedness into a natural environment and how socio-economic patterns interconnect with it, as well as the way in which this local pollution adds to global flows of material agents and toxins with ad-

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verse effects on wildlife, ocean fauna, and atmosphere. What can such an awareness of urban eco-cosmopolitanism look like? Although it is certainly not an environmental text per se, Suketu Mehta’s breath-taking Maximum City—Bombay Lost and Found (2005) offers an interesting vision towards the end: One blue-bright Bombay morning, in the middle of the masses on the street, I have a vision: that all these individuals . . . form but the discrete cells of one gigantic organism, one vast but singular intelligence, one sensibility, one consciousness. . . . It is a terrifying image; it makes me feel crushed, it eliminates my sense of myself, but it is ultimately comforting because it is such a lovely vision of belonging. All these ill-assorted people . . . they are me; they are my body and my flesh. The crowd is the self. (Mehta 590)

The author becomes, at the end of his epic, fast-paced urban writing, an allperceiving observer, taking in his surroundings, perceiving the interconnections of the crowd, remaining detached, yet part of everything he sees. Although Mehta’s reflection is a description of the overwhelming impressions and emotions in the face of sprawling city life, it offers a cosmopolitan account of interrelatedness that perceives not only the city’s inhabitants as organically connected, but the (more) than “six billion” people of the planet. This metaphor does not imply an abandonment of the self, but rather a recognition of how every life affects another one in the densely packed spaces of our metropolises and how, in turn, these relationships and interactions will react upon the global. Born in Calcutta, raised in Bombay, schooled in the U.S. with extended stays in Europe and now living in New York, Mehta himself qualifies as a cosmopolitan in every sense of the word; far travelled and well read, he is sensitive to global ties of travel and trade as well as to local specifics and separateness. He is also aware that cosmopolitanism, too, is rooted in place—as he puts it: “The earth is round and you go all over it, but ultimately you come back to the same spot in the circle” (20). For him, this spot is Bombay, the place of his early childhood, which has in the meantime grown into the sprawling metropolis Mumbai, itself a cosmopolitan place beautifully described by Mehta with the help of its architecture that attests to its long history, its colonial and post-colonial past and its future building projects that will re-enforce its status as a world city (130-143), albeit with abject poverty and environmental problems that especially the underclass has to bear. 29 At the beginning of his urban travelogue, Mehta uses two perspectives that are juxtaposed, but nevertheless intertwine to render the urban experience: the macro view from an airplane above, and the micro view from a car below. While the first perspective is used to describe Mumbai’s seemingly neatly ordered shape and its embeddedness in a natural landscape—“the sea on all sides, the palm trees along the shores, the light coning down from the

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sky and thrown back up by the sea . . . several bays, rivers, creeks, hills” (15)—the second one relates the natural geography to an urban one, noting the “visual shock” of the “juxtaposition” of modern urban structures on the one hand and “villages in the city” on the other, i.e., slums. It is a combination of the preeminent modern cosmopolitan perspective, the view of the world from an emission-heavy airplane, with the local practice of exploring a city on foot or by car, breathing in its many smells and its pollution: “Even when I’m not walking the streets, using the trains, or talking to somebody, I absorb the city through my pores and inhale it into my throat, causing granules to erupt all over it. We sneeze and sniffle our way through the city. Every morning when the dust is swept a goodsized mound gathers on the broom: dirt, fibres, feathers” (31). Mehta’s account is vital not only because it makes clear that urban spatial practices like walking, commuting, or any daily actions are, at the same time, material practices, taking place amidst a flow of various substances with specific effects on the body, but also because it re-connects this immediate urban experience with the macro view of the wider location of the city in a natural landscape and a global network, illustrating that these spheres, too, are affected by these urban practices, belonging to that giant, breathing organism called Earth. With the portrayal of the intricate interconnections that make up urban life and in the implicit re-conceptualization of how they relate to over-arching global networks or the atmosphere, Mehta’s book falls well into the realm established by the examples of non-fictional urban writing explored in this chapter. The choice of non-fictional texts was a conscious decision not only because these types of texts are rarely tackled in ecocritical readings or literary and cultural studies in general, but also because they constitute, each in its own right, to echo an earlier quote by Rob Nixon, “an indispensable resource for creative activism” (Nixon 2011, 25). Grounded in fact and statistics, participant observation and field interviews, these books stem from the “thick of things” (Pickering 1995), from the concrete pavements of contemporary world cities and the dirty and disease-stricken back alleys of their shantytowns and slums, thereby providing their readers with firsthand accounts of urban globalization patterns and their inherent economic and environmental injustices, providing the raw materials from which alternative policies can be sought. In their detailed and drawn out descriptions of life conditions on the margins and outskirts of big cities and in tackling the question of how urban poverty and grievances are connected to the booming urban centers of business and commerce, they present a counter discourse against a world vision of progress and development, re-integrating those spaces that have been marginalized and left behind in the process. Moreover, they all take on a perspective that combines localized patterns of urbanization with a macro perspective of global networks which incorporate political and economic as well as environmental aspects. Thus, Mike Davis’s Planet of

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Slums offers a stark portrayal of urban environmental injustices created by neoliberal and globalizing politics, showing how adverse local living conditions and pollution move, in the long run, back to urban centers, affecting urban life on a global scale. Doug Saunders’s Arrival City also deals with slums, but invites a re-imagination of them as places of traversal from rural to urban life, arguing for new urban policies that enable urban growth and the establishment of structures enabling social mobility, investigating, at the same time, how world cities are connected to their wide rural hinterlands and have turned into the places of the arenas of the “largest migration” in world history. Finally, Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers presents a sprawling narrative of the Annawadi slum located right next to the international Sahar Airport in Mumbai, examining the divisions between city spaces as well as the environmental injustices it harbors, pointing to the violations of human rights and political corruption amidst economic progress and how the global patterns of trade and travel produce heaps of waste that are literally dumped on a poor urban community. In investigating the local conditions and structures of urban spaces and their respective environmental impacts and in connecting these aspects to the global atmosphere and markets, they also introduce a perspective that exceeds traditional takes on urban ecology, which looks on urban ecosystems as microcosms with distinct mechanisms. Rather, they argue for an urban ecology which takes into account the global interrelations that shape local life and the ways in which local conditions have a bearing on the overarching networks and atmosphere of this planet. Consequently they show that eco-cosmopolitanism is the order of the day in our global urban future. NOTES 1. From 1900 to 1999 alone, the urban population of the world ”increased more than tenfold,” from 22.1 million to over 2 billion (Alberti/Marzluff/Shulenberger/Bradley/Zumbrunnen 2008, 144). And while around 1900, there were 16 cities that exceeded 1 million inhabitants, there are now more than 400 (Berry 2008, 25; cf. Grimm/Grove/Pickett/Redman 2000, 572). 2. In 1900, the world’s population counted around 1.4 billion people, while, at present, this rate has exceeded 7 billion and will continue to rise in the near future (cf. McDonnell 2011, 7). 3. On the subject of urbanization see in general Berry 2008, Hays 2005, and Gaston 2010b. 4. The urban economist Edward Glaeser has, in his celebratory examination of contemporary urbanism, Triumph of the City (2011), also argued for a more global perspective and action (14–15). In his thought-provoking book, which convincingly manages, for the most part, to argue “how our greatest invention makes us richer, smarter, greener, healthier and happier” (as it says in its subtitle), he shows how urban planning can be structured along the lines of a more environmentally conscious and sustainable agenda that runs, to some extent, contrary to local environmentalist or conservationist attempts that may seek to keep developers out of some parts of the city, while pushing them to more adverse areas with insufficient access to public transportation, water, or energy. Although statistics concerning urbanization sprawl may seem frightening, especially when one takes into account the ecological footprints of cities, Edward Glaeser’s book actually strikes a more optimistic tone that is shared by other ecologists and

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environmentalists who hold that cities are more sustainable when they are more dense and tightly packed, relying on public transportation instead of excessive car driving and less energy consumption due to the urban climate. 5. For a comprehensive discussion of the term see in general Harvey 2000, 53–72. 6. This is the “first law of ecology” as famously stated by Barry Commoner. Cf. Glotfelty 1996, xix. 7. On the “territorial“ aspects of globalization and possible counter-spaces see Maciocco 2010, 2–15. 8. This idea has, for instance, also been present in Jane Jacobs’s urban writings (1992). 9. For a comprehensive overview of the history of bioregionalism see Aberley 1999. 10. As McGinnis points out, this entails “a process of transformative social change at two levels—as a conservation and sustainable strategy, and as a political movement which calls for devolution of power to ecologically and culturally defined bioregions” (McGinnis 1999, 4). 11. Cf. on these aspects in bioregionalist thinking Flores 1999. 12. Indeed, the urban is a social sphere that has been, to a large extent, marginalized in bioregional thinking, where one can still find a rigid differentiation between the city on the one hand and the country on the other. Cf. Lynch/Glotfelty/Armburster 2012, 7–8. For urban bioregionalist activism in Chicago see West 2012. 13. For a critical discussion of the term see Harvey 2009, 170–173. 14. Serenella Iovino, in her essay on Italy’s Po Valley has, for instance, shown how cultural representations and literature can contribute in “restoring” a sense of place in a devastated region, re-claiming it as an area to be cherished and protected in the face of industrial pollution and neglect (Iovino 2012b). 15. For a discussion of Heise’s theory see also Lynch/Glotfelty/Armbruster 2012, 9. 16. As Timothy Clark puts it, “environmental non-fiction . . . remains a major if hardly exclusive concern of twenty-first-century ecocriticism,” whereby “environmental non-fiction challenges the agenda of literary studies” by, for instance, questioning the premises that make a text seem “literary” and “the lack of status of explicit non-fiction” in literary studies (Clark 2011, 35). 17. Cf. on this aspect also Pellow 2007. 18. See, for instance, Davis’s discussion of the British help initiative “Indore scheme” which tried to improve the sanitation in Indian slums, but had largely negative effects, because it did not take into account the environmental and social features of the settlements (Davis 2006, 78–79). 19. In fact, Saunders shows that slums are not automatically to be equated with arrival cities, but are rather poor areas historically built into the urban environment (Saunders 2011, 24). 20. For the reciprocal interaction and ties created between city and country by rural-urban migration see Saunders 2011, 101–129. 21. Saunders uses, in this context, the term “sustainable” to refer to the population patterns of urbanization (2011, 25–26). 22. For a comprehensive and detailed account of the arrival cities around Istanbul and their spatial as well as political relevance cf. Saunders 2011, 161–198. 23. Cf. Saunders’s remarks on Tehran in Iran (2011, 197–212). 24. Boo generally distinguishes between the slum areas that she terms “undercities” because they lack the spatial structure of the tower and skyscraper-marked central city and because they lack political influence and media presence (Boo 2012). 25. Cf. Boo’s author’s note at the end of her reportage, 247–254 (2012). 26. One of the main narrative strands of Boo’s book deals with the self-immolation of Fatima, an Annawadi slum dweller simply called “the one leg,” because of a physical birth defect (Boo 2012, 73–75), who set herself on fire during a bout with her neighbors, Abdul’s family, who are, in turn, wrongly accused of having attacked Fatima with kerosene. Boo uses the incident to investigate the complex social networks and rivalries of slum life, and to delve deeply into the judicial system and corrupt police that treat Annawadians as second class citizens. 27. Cf. in this context especially the description of Asha’s migration into the city from a tiny village and her regular visits there (Boo 2012, 135–137).

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28. Mumbai alone attracts approximately half a million people from the rural parts of India every year (Boo 2012, 140). 29. Although Mehta does not deal with Mumbai’s slums in the same detail and fervor as Katherine Boo does in Behind the Beautiful Forevers, his descriptions of slum life are strikingly similar. Cf. Mehta 2005, 58.

Chapter Two

“Force of Nature” The Ecology of the Inner-City Drug Culture in The Wire

Whereas the previous chapter was concerned with sprawling global urbanization patterns and focused on the marginalized peripheral zones of dynamic world cities, this chapter will take on another perspective: Over the last few decades, once-great metropolises and industrial cities predominantly in the Western world have been faced with trends of de-industrialization and suburbanization. Cities like Cleveland or Detroit that used to be characterized by a vibrant working class community have now decayed into urban wastelands, where apartment complexes and factory buildings have become abandoned and turned into ruins. As manufacturing facilities are closed down and thousands of jobs are leaving the country, the economic decline is accompanied by a growing sense of despair, frustration, and helplessness by many communities that have been severely affected by this downward spiral. Especially in low-income inner-city areas that have dealt with social stigmatization and disadvantages for decades, the development has gone from bad to worse. With no job opportunities and a dysfunctional education system, the social mobility for inner city residents has dwindled. The living conditions in general have worsened considerably, with an overall lack in recreational facilities and with shopping markets and grocery stores closing down. The economic and structural crisis that has taken hold of many former industrial cities worldwide is thus also accompanied by environmental aspects: Not only did the inhabitants of these cities have to deal with pollution and smog, but they are also currently faced with the lack of access to green space. The ghettoization that has taken hold of many parts of postindustrial cities worldwide is thus also to be seen as an ecological issue, where political decision 43

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making, access to urban spaces, social marginalization, and environmental problems are intricately related. In the following, I want to focus on the materiality of the postindustrial city and on the circulation of material agents and their effects on both places and people in order to trace these patterns. I want to lay special focus on the most notorious of the material agents that have played a huge part in the cultural and discursive characterization of poor inner-city areas as criminal and downtrodden spaces, namely drugs and narcotic substances. By tracing their paths through the urban environment, it becomes possible to show how urban poverty and environmental injustice are related and in how far urban politics have become complicit in the decline and social marginalization or stigmatization of once thriving inner-city areas. This entails a re-imagination of the circulation of drugs not as a criminal issue, but as an ecological and a public health issue. This re-imagination and counter-discursive depiction of inner-city spaces as permeable environments will be brought about with an examination of the television series The Wire. The Wire will thereby be interpreted as a cultural ecological medium that challenges dominant cultural narratives that render the declining post-industrial city as a criminal haven or a marginalized zone in America’s urban landscape. Set in Baltimore, an old rust-belt city that has witnessed social depravation and soaring criminal statistics for decades, the series inspires a different perspective; one that does not conceptualize the urban space as a menacing other, but as a “storied place,” where political programs and media accounts stand in stark contrast to a local sense of place and community. The television medium will thus be characterized as a medium of reflection that uncovers the different layers of urbanity and the way in which they are interrelated in the complex microcosm of Baltimore. In this context, the materiality of the urban experience will be seen as the central nodal point around which the storylines of The Wire revolve. I will argue that toxic substances and drugs figure as ecological forces within the series that harbor manifold consequences for the people living in this urban area as well as for the urban ecology which is marked by an intricate interplay between environmental politics, access to space and institutions, and social marginalization. Rather than taking Baltimore to be the mere background for the drama that plays itself out on a film set, The Wire lets the city come center stage in its cultural ecological examination of contemporary urbanity. In fact, this becomes apparent right from the beginning of the series. The tenth episode of the first season of The Wire begins with an unusual shot: The camera focuses on black boots and the worn-down jeans of someone sitting on a park bench. As it slowly starts to move around him in a semicircle motion, we can hear street noise, muffled voices from a distance, birds chirping, church bells chiming—then the camera works its way up from his shoes and brings into view the face of a man: With open mouth, he stares before

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him, consciously taking in the world around him. Although he sits there with a somewhat relaxed demeanor, one hand in his pocket, his elbow lavishly resting on the bench, his face tells otherwise: he seems weary, in a state of exhaustion and inner struggle. Dark circles shadow his eyes, attesting to long nights without sleep, his nostrils are reddened, his lips chapped, his skin shows signs of negligence and lacking hygiene. Then the camera fades to the scene he is intently watching: children are playing, sunlight warming their skin and shining on the rich green grass that they are moving on. All around them, bubbles of different sizes are dancing through the air, squirting out of the water pistol of a young boy, their soapy surfaces reflecting the light spectrum of the environment. For a short time, the camera takes in the man from where the children are playing; the bench he is sitting on is framed by a lamppost and a big tree, providing shade. In the background someone is riding his bike, while colorful bubbles are hovering past like glittering pearls in the foreground. Suddenly, the camera jumps back to the man, focusing on his face in a close-up, while moving around him in a circular motion again, this time from the right: He takes a deep breath and turns his head away from the children. Now he looks to the other side of the park. A young woman pushes a baby carriage in front of her, while talking to another woman who holds an infant close to her breast. Two men are taking their dogs for a walk. The man looks down on himself and, as if he were becoming aware of his own bodily presence just then, begins to run his hands along his buttoned shirt in an attempt to smooth out some wrinkles. As he swallows and looks up, the camera focuses on a branch of the trees above, zooming in on the lush, verdant leaves that tremble slightly in the summer wind. It hinges there for a few seconds, before cutting back to the face of the man, whose small, red scrapes and dark bruises stand in stark contrast to the fresh green of the tree’s branches and the surrounding grass. He takes a deep breath and, while exhaling, whispers “Lord” before him. A shy smile forms around his lips for the blink of an eye which disappears as quickly as it came, when the man looks over his left shoulder and sees a teenager, who is standing on the sidewalk, selling off drugs. His gaze becomes graver for a second, when he is suddenly greeted by another man walking past. Turning his head, he recognizes someone he knows from the streets—again the camera takes on his perspective, shooting from the bench on up to the face of the passing person who walks by and heads straight on to the drug slinger in order to buy some “starters.” The realization that drugs are sold only a few feet from where he is sitting and the encounter with the junkie have clearly startled the man, who is now, shaken out of his dreamlike state, leaning forward on the bench. For a moment it seems as if he is about to get up (and maybe follow the person who has passed him), when he turns his head again and looks toward the green lawn in front of him, where the children are still playing and a huge bubble floats in the air, before vanishing

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in a sudden burst. The camera then focuses back on the man, presenting the viewers with a (now still) close up of his face once again—it is the longest sequence of this scene (lasting twelve seconds out of the eighty seconds in total); the man is now clearly in distress—he looks to the ground in a reflective and sad manner, his mouth closed, with his lips pressed firmly together. Then the scene fades out and the opening titles begin. In a series dealing with the brutal and unforgiving street life of inner-city America, with dozens of rugged and unique individuals and hundreds of witty, philosophical, and extremely quotable dialogues, this scene stands out with its idyllic, almost contemplative atmosphere. Although portrayals of nature are not totally absent from the series, this is arguably the one scene in The Wire, where nature is most present. At least, it is the only one that features a close up of green leaves, which, together with the images of children playing in the grass, envokes a peaceful atmosphere that is otherwise noticeably absent from The Wire. Yet, the peaceful, idyllic impression that the first half of this scene creates, is clearly undermined in its second half: The teenager who is standing on the sidewalk and who is selling drugs in broad daylight only a short distance away from the playing children, is a painful reminder of the harsh realities of the street life in Baltimore that the series vividly (and often shockingly) portrays. His remark that he is selling drugs called “starters” is even more unsettling, because of the children that are playing near him, while the water pistols they are carrying point to the many scenes depicted in the series in which teenagers, children even, carry deadly firearms. Within the scene, a tension is thereby created between the seemingly safe and beautiful surroundings of the park and the violent and dark world that waits outside of this environment, that has, in the end, already invaded it. Nowhere in the series, is this tension between (the inability of) resisting the temptations of the streets and (the desire of) leading a decent, peaceful life more present than in the character of Reginald Cousins, who—for the most part of the series—only goes by his street name “Bubbles.” By the tenth episode, the viewer is already familiar with him and his witty, street-wise comments and his outgoing, friendly, even business-minded personality. And the viewer is already familiar with his severe addiction to drugs that barely keeps him alive only to let him rummage in the streets of Baltimore for his next fix. The scene depicts him sitting on the park bench, after he has made the decision to finally get clean and to get back on his own two feet again. In this context, it is mainly through the acting of Bronx born-and-raised Andre Royo that the sequence gains its incredible depth: With his facial expressions and his body language alone, he manages to bring across the struggle that Bubbles faces, of the fight between the toxic substances that have poisoned his body and his will to overcome his addiction, of winning the war that rages inside of him.

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Hence, he has opened himself to the world, when the scene begins—he is leaning back on the bench and perceives his environment attentively, taking in the joyful innocence of the children at play and the lively atmosphere of the park around him. Thereby, the camera constantly changes between himself, focusing on his face and his expressions, and his own perspective, creating an interplay between first and third person narrative that leaves a lot of room for reflection and lets the viewer enter the scene, who both watches Bubbles and looks out on the world through his eyes. The bubbles that the children spray out of their water pistols and that float through the air can, in this sense, be read as a reference to Bubbles himself, 1 sitting on the park bench, since they move through this environment, but are, at the same time, very fragile, only lasting for a short time. This helps to reinforce the peaceful, idyllic atmosphere of the park area, but also makes clear that, although Bubbles wants to be part of a healthy everyday life again, perceiving the beauty around him, he still is a long way from actually winning the fight over his addiction and from re-entering a “normal” life. Thus, the scene gains an almost spiritual quality with religious overtones, since the outlines of a Cathedral can be seen in the back of Bubbles. At the same time, this moment is also the turning point of the scene, since Bubbles becomes aware of the drug dealer behind him. It is then that Bubbles’s body changes its composure, suddenly becoming tense and smaller in appearance. It seems as if he wanted to protect himself from the environment around him—as if he were trapped without any chance of escape. At the end of the scene, he desperately and sadly stares on the ground before him. It is then that he—and the viewer— realizes that, although he is sitting in a lively park area, he is, in his fight against his addiction, very much alone. The purpose of this close reading of the scene was to show the multiple layers of meaning that a single scene can hold in The Wire and is meant as an introduction to a television series whose complexity can barely be summed up in a monograph study. My reading of the series will therefore necessarily leave many aspects of The Wire untreated, but will instead focus on a cultural ecological perspective which seeks to account for the complex and diverse ways in which present-day inner-city urbanity is portrayed in The Wire. In the following, I will argue that the series, in fact, makes use of an ecological principle of storytelling, which accounts for the city space not just as an abstraction, but as “a lived environment,” as a “storied place,” 2 which introduces the viewers to aspects of urbanity which are often uncared-for, taking a look at its dark corners and broken-down backstreets. This ecological principle of storytelling does not only direct a great deal of criticism on urban policy in America, but can also be read as a counter discourse that opens a space for reflection on contemporary problems and offers solutions for and alternatives to current urban environmental politics. First, I will characterize The Wire and the way in which it uses the television format as a medium of

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reflection which enables its authors to bring various aspects and experiences of urbanity together that are related, but hard to depict in a pragmatized or scientific discourse. This will be shown with an analysis of the way in which space, materiality, and politics are rendered in the series. Finally, the socalled “Hamsterdam” experiment will be seen as the central counter discourse of the series that re-imagines the circulation of drugs within an urban environment as an ecological issue and creates the sense that a regeneration for declining inner-city areas is possible. STREET SCENES: THE WORKS OF DAVID SIMON AND THE TELEVISION SERIES AS A MEDIUM OF REPRESENTATION AND REFLECTION Looking back on the TV-series The Wire that ran from 2002 to 2008, its creator David Simon wrote: “It was about the City,” about “how we in the West live at the millennium, an urbanized species compacted together” (Simon 2009a, 3). This short quotation alone would probably be enough to explain why The Wire lends itself easily as a study object in a work on urban ecology. Yet, this explanation would be too simple. In fact, there are many television series, especially involving cops or major crime outfits, that purport to deal with urbanity and that are set in a major American metropolis— one only needs to think of such series as NYPD Blue, the CSI-franchise, or the (crime-free) urban world of Sex and the City. Whereas the city only functions as a mere backdrop to the action in these shows, it takes on the leading role in The Wire, which is—unlike the series named above—not shot in a remote L.A.-studio, but on location, in the streets of Baltimore. 3 In fact, The Wire can be said to be driven by an analytical impulse which lends itself easily to scientific or critical analysis 4 and which lets the show appear not as mere entertainment, but as a non-fictional milieu study operating in a semidocumentary manner. Accordingly, The Wire’s essence is not rooted in television history, but rather in the history of the city of Baltimore and an oldschool journalism, based on participant observation 5 and interested in covering the lives and daily interactions of the people living together (4). The Wire shows many examples of both sides of the urban experience— community and competition—over the course of its long running time and invests great effort to uncover, above all, the disparities, grievances, and inequalities that “capitalism” has created among society and how it has left the poor urban underclass behind. The setting of The Wire, the city of Baltimore, is a good case in point. For decades, Baltimore has been a city in decline: Over the last thirty years it has lost almost thirty percent of its population due to the growing trend of suburbanization, while the labor force is also on the decrease, because of deindustrialization and the many manufac-

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turing jobs that fall away as a result. Moreover, in a city in which the population is two-thirds black, about forty percent of them are without a job, most of whom live in severe poverty. 6 These numbers may be bad enough already, but Baltimore also have the nation’s second highest increase in new AIDS cases and a “massive drug economy” that “serves an estimated 50,000 addicts,” roaming the streets framed by “roughly that number of vacant housing units” (Lanahan 2008, 25). A large number of Baltimoreans thus have to face poor living-conditions, being concerned not with the daily question of how to make ends meet, but also with their being exposed to (toxic) substances. Yet, the drugs that circulate within the inner-city neighborhoods of Baltimore not only create unhealthy communities, but bring another problem with them, namely crime and one of the highest homicide rates in America (25). Already in Homicide, the non-fiction book that David Simon wrote when he was working as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun, he addressed some of the city’s violent problems and tackled themes that he continued to come back to in his later work, including The Wire. During the research for Homicide, he followed homicide detectives and police officers for twelve months in 1988, witnessing and uncovering the harsh realities of life on the beat in inner-city America. Five years later, he would conduct a similar research entitled The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood. 7 This time he followed the daily life of an inner-city family haunted by the horrors of heroin- and crackaddiction. Together with Ed Burns, a former police officer and high-school teacher, who would later also become the co-author of The Wire, he meticulously recorded the realities of a Baltimore drug market, its effects on the community, the inability of the welfare system to care for those concerned, and the misguided law enforcement politics. 8 A main feature of Simon’s and Burns’s work in both The Corner and The Wire is that they criticize the mainstream drug policy in America and a ruthless law enforcement that wages its war on drugs on the backs of the urban underclass, as well as that they uncover a twisted logic at the heart of this very policy: That it has created “two Americas” (Hornby 2009, 385). There is, on the one hand, the (w)healthy America with open access to all sorts of capital and a great degree of mobility, and there are the poor, neglected inner-city neighborhoods which are often treated as abstract, crimeridden spaces on analytical statistics and government policy programs. What these statistics and policies do not account for, however, are the people living in these communities who have to face these problems on a daily basis and who are, more often than not, left behind in this challenge. Accordingly, Simon and Burns constantly seek to confront their readers (and viewers) with that overlooked America by presenting them with real-life persons living in inner-city neighborhoods, by rendering their stories, and by giving them a voice which otherwise has no room for articulation. In their accounts, the

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inner-cities are no longer abstract spaces, populated by some alien “others,” but become tangible environments, which the readers (and viewers) are invited to visit and “to discover the human beings standing at Monroe and Fayette Streets” (Simon/Burns 2010, 619). Before this background, it seems absolutely justifiable to describe David Simon’s approach to both journalism and film-making as an “ethnographic” one (Williams 2011, 210), since he employs tactics of participant observation and long periods of stretched-out fieldwork (211–212), which he himself simply describes as “stand-around-and-watch journalism” (Simon/Burns 2010, 611). However, we would be misled if we were to read (or view) Simon’s work as a mere description (or depiction) of the street-life realities that he observes. Rather, they should be seen as attempts to translate what he has witnessed for his readers (and viewers); 9 yet, a translation that is, unlike those of ethnographic studies, not just content with representation, but that wants to make a political point, that wants to draw its recipients into the world it describes, and that seeks to alter the perception of the urban environment. The ethnographic interest, maybe even obsession with the urban “other,” is thereby amplified by an ethical and ecological program which is also concerned with a transcendence of the sometimes encoded, sometimes unbearable facts of the inner-city street realities. I would argue that it is for this very reason that Simon finally turned his back on journalism and towards the mode of imaginative, fictional storytelling. Writing about why Simon and Burns, after their collaborative project The Corner (which, like Homicide, was made into a television series), chose the crime genre, Simon states: “The crime story long ago became a central archetype of our culture, and the labyrinth of the inner city has largely replaced the spare, unforgiving landscape of the American West as the central stage for our morality plays” (Simon 2009a, 3), making clear that, in his view, the myth of the frontier, the story of a continuous progress of civilization has been replaced by an inverted narrative which has reset the raw wilderness of the frontier, placing it in the big cities that, although hailed as harbingers of civilization, can be read as “labyrinths,” jungles, or wastelands themselves. Yet, what Simon and Burns came up with, in the end, cannot be fit into any neat genre classification—quite the contrary, The Wire is very much its own product. David Simon himself has explained that he took the standard narrative template of the cop show and “inverted the form:” Instead of the usual good-guys-chasing-bad-guys framework, questions would be raised about the very labels of good and bad, and, indeed, whether such distinctly moral notions were really the point. The show would instead be about untethered capitalism run amok, about how power and money actually root themselves in a postmodern American city, and, ultimately, about why we as an urban people are no longer able to solve our problems or heal our wounds. Early in conception of the drama, Ed Burns and I . . . conceived of a

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show that would, with each season, slice off another piece of the American city, so that by the end of the run, a simulated Baltimore would stand in for urban America and the fundamental problems of urbanity would be fully addressed. (Hornby 2009, 386)

It is no coincidence that Simon offered his show to the HBO network, which was, by then, already notorious for airing series that were, with their unusual narrative structures and their eagerness to experiment, reinventing the television formula. 10 As Daniel Herbert notes, “The Wire simply could not exist in a commercial television context, due to both its narrative complexity as well as its graphic content” (Herbert 2012, 194). Especially its incredibly nuanced and complex plotlines demand a lot from the viewer who constantly has to pay attention to what is going on and who has, in a sense, to come into the story himself, because the authors of the series do not impose any kind of judgment on their characters or offer any moral guidelines. 11 Thus, The Wire can be said, in its depiction of American urbanity, to harbor two implicit attacks on popular culture: Firstly, in making narrative complexity one of its guiding principles whose main aim was to bring about a change in the way that its audience watches television. 12 In the long run, this demand on the audience was also connected to the political impetus of the show which asked its audience to confront, to challenge, maybe even to change their expectations and their view of the urban problems depicted in the series. Secondly, it consists in the undermining of the cop-show formula of painting a black-and-white picture of society. For although The Wire “plainly fits within the generic model of the police drama,” it does not “retain” its “conventions” (Hanson 2012, 204); it rather “unsettles,” as Fredric Jameson has put it, “our typological expectations and habits by at once drawing us into an epistemological exploration that greatly transcends the usual whodunit formula” (Jameson 2010, 361). As he further elaborates, this has the curious effect of “opening up a space for realism: for seeing things, finding out things, that have not been registered before” (362). In other words, the creators of The Wire were concerned with establishing the television series as a medium of reflection, where the contemporary problems and grievances of urbanity could not only be addressed, but where they could be, through the use of familiar generic conventions, renegotiated and where possible solutions could be imaginatively illustrated in a de-pragmatized discourse. As Marsha Kinder has pointed out in this context, the television series format harbors enormous “narrative potential,” which is due to “particularly the expansive narrative space provided by seriality and ensemble casting, which accommodates the city as the primary unit of analysis” (Kinder 2009, 50). Simon’s ambitious project of “constructing an American city and examining” (Hornby 2009, 387) its structural and social deficiencies was depen-

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dent on a narrative mode in which these multiple and complex layers of urbanity could be dissected slowly and where their intricate interplay could be made apparent little by little until, at last, a broad canvas displaying the different shades of the American urban experience would be created. Indeed, many commentators note the “laborious, sometimes random pace” of the series (Hsu 2010, 512), its “extended periods of seeming stasis” and its “affection for the quotidian” (510) which, in the end, “transcended any conceivable genre or narrative formula, sketching out a comprehensive portrait of life in Baltimore, . . . of a minor metropolis and its decaying, dysfunctional institutions” (McMillan 2008). This broad scope that was already apparent in the journalistic work of David Simon also made itself clear in the huge cast of The Wire which allowed the writers of the series to “show us Baltimore” not “through the eyes of one group of characters but,” to employ multiperspectivity as one of its guiding principles, which becomes most apparent in the fact that the show does not really have “one single protagonist” (Fuggle 2009). As David Simon has explained this approach in an interview with novelist Nick Hornby, the series “is violating a good many of the conventions and tropes of episodic television,” in that it “pursues the form of the modern, multi-POV novel” (Hornby 2009, 383). In fact, The Wire has often been described as a “televised novel,” 13 because of the high density of its plot, its sophisticated level of character-exploration, and the articulation of its socio-cultural exploration. While all these points may be true, the comparison between The Wire and (high) forms of literature does not really help in its analysis, because it is, after all, a television show 14—what is interesting to note, however, is the fact that its writing staff almost entirely consists of (former) journalists and/or novelists. 15 This is of significance, because it makes clear that the creative masterminds behind The Wire do not have a television or film background, but approach the series in a way that reflects their previous professional and creative work, aspiring to prove their abilities in a new medium and to use this medium in order to make a statement. The Wire is, above all, concerned with a culture-critical discourse that underlines the inequalities and negligence which characterize the urban experience of the majority of people living in cities like Baltimore and that is directed against (environmental) politics that are indifferent toward the problems of these people (Simon 2009a, 6). Accordingly, Simon states that “The Wire and its stories are rooted in the ethos of a second-tier city, of a forgotten rust-belt America” (10) and reflective of the state of many other American cities. Yet, although many of these stories are based on real events and persons and have the ambition to offer social commentary, they are nevertheless enacted in an imaginative medium and interspersed with fictional elements. 16 So while it is certainly important and rightful to underline the great degree of documentary value of The Wire, it should be clear that it is an

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aesthetic, artistic mode of storytelling that is at work in the series, which gives the writers a freedom of expression and of exploration that could not be realized in a non-fictional, scientific, or journalistic account of urbanity in America. Rather, the reflective narrative mode of the television series with its broad scope for character development and its ability to capture the urban environment with a camera, can be seen as an urban ecological medium which is not only concerned with mere documentation, but with bringing about change and which actively interacts with its surroundings—for, as already outlined above, The Wire operates in the streets of Baltimore, where it was shot (not in a distant studio), and where many members of its staff come from. And although many critics praise this immense outlook, it is clear that it, too, has to make choices regarding its subject matter and has to leave out many aspects of the urban experience, which Simon himself readily acknowledges: “the lives misspent and misused in our episodes are not the guarded, viable lives of private schools and county tax-bases and tree-lined business parks” (9). This aspect of the “American experience” (9) Simon talks about belongs to that dominant side of the “two Americas” invoked before, the hegemonic discourse which likes to turn a blind eye to the inherent problems and broken-down parts of the city; in telling their stories and making them visible, in reconnecting the two in a narrative medium, The Wire becomes an ecological form of artistic expression. Yet, before examining the exact way in which The Wire can be said to be an urban ecological medium, let me briefly sketch out some of its major plotlines: As Farber accurately analyzes, “each season includes an effort by” a special investigative unit “to substantiate and successfully carry out a wiretap against a criminal target embedded within another institutional setting” (Farber 2010, 421). The first season deals with the meticulous and often cumbersome effort of a newly formed police unit to penetrate an inner-city drug market around the so-called High and Low Rises and to arrest the boss of the crime syndicate, named Avon Barksdale, and his right hand, the cunning Stringer Bell. As the series also portrays the inner-workings of the Barksdale organization and gradually introduces the viewer to life in the crime-ridden neighborhoods of West Baltimore, many parallels are drawn between the fortunes of the police officers and the drug dealers who both move within strictly ordered, hierarchical spaces, where they are often at the mercy of their sometimes ill-advised and incompetent, sometimes scheming and sly bosses, and dysfunctional institutional frameworks. This is, in effect, one of the main themes of the series; another is introduced right in the beginning as well: America’s failed war on drugs, “which it convincingly depicts as an ill-conceived undertaking whose primary outcome has been the mass jailing of nonviolent offenders” (Chaddha/Wilson 2011, 167). While the first season can be said to be the most conventional one, establishing these themes within the generic confines of the police procedural, the

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second season made clear that the show had other intentions: Set at a stevedores’ union, it examined the fate of the struggling American working-class in the face of deindustrialization and mourned the decline of the once great steel industry and container port. Its fate was mirrored in the character of Frank Sobotka, the secretary treasurer of the stevedores who, in a vain attempt to recover the port, makes illegal dealings with an East European smuggle ring that brings, among other things (and persons), drugs into the country that are sold on the streets of Baltimore. The local aspects are thereby connected to global phenomena like globalization, transnational networks, and the spread of technology. Through the depiction of the planning of building projects like the renovation of the city harbor, it also includes an introduction to the urban politics in Baltimore regarding the redevelopment of its city space, a theme that will recur again and again in dubious development campaigns which are often used to launder drug money. This is, in fact, one of the main plot lines in Season Three, when the business-minded Stringer Bell wants to climb the social ladder and buy his way out of the drug business by becoming a city developer—an endeavor that fails partly because of his own schemes, and partly because his policy stands in stark contrast to the plans of his partner Avon Barksdale, who, released from prison, wants to reconquer street territory that his organization has lost to a newcomer, the ruthless Marlo Stanfield. As both parties prepare a drug war in the streets of West Baltimore, Police Major Howard “Bunny” Colvin undertakes his own attempt at clearing the streets and corners of his district of drug-related crime by the introduction of three designated areas in which he sanctions the legalized selling of drugs, the so-called “Hamsterdam” project. Season four eventually turns to Baltimore’s school system and interweaves it with a storyline in which the Councilman Thomas Carcetti, introduced in the previous season, successfully runs for mayor in Baltimore by making the promise of new initiatives and strategies of crime fighting an integral part of his election campaign. As the new mayor tries to get an overview of the city’s police department and struggles to balance a huge deficit in the city’s (school and education) budget, the series closely follows the lives of a group of friends, eighth-graders, who are brought up in the streets of West Baltimore and who have to face the harsh realities of innercity life everyday—everyone in his own way, until the group of friends breaks apart toward the end of the school year, when one of them witnesses a murder and is questioned by the police, and when another one turns into a ruthless hitman of Marlo Stanfield’s crew. Marlo has, in the meantime, gained control over the drug markets in Baltimore and gets rid of rivals by letting their bodies disappear in the thousands of unoccupied row houses, socalled vacants. This broken-down, decaying side of Baltimore is also a central motif of the fifth and final season, which takes a look at the lives of homeless people roaming the alleys of the city. Detective Jimmy McNulty,

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who has been one of the dynamic, if not always productive, forces throughout the show, sees the chance to gain more money and resources for the Major Crimes unit that tries to arrest Marlo Stanfield without success, when a number of homeless people are found murdered. By manipulating evidence and the crime scenes, McNulty manages to organize the desired resources that lead to Marlo’s arrest, but has to resign once his manipulation comes to light (Marlo is released as a consequence). The main theme established during this last season is the (print) media (much of it is set at Simon’s old workplace, the Baltimore Sun) and its inability to cover the important stories of the city, giving way to a new journalistic landscape dominated by sensationalist reporting and dubious sources. What remains in the end, is the city and its remorseless and ever recurring life cycles, its self-renewing and selfconsuming nature. Regarding the narrative development of the series, Dana Polan writes: “Like a crane shot that lifts up over a locale to uncover ever new spaces beyond it . . . the movement from season to season had to do with filling in more and more of the factors that determine city life for its inhabitants at all levels” (Polan 2008). The major link between each and every season was, on the one hand, the depiction of Baltimore itself “through patterns of expansion by which the show’s representation of the city keeps getting broader and more comprehensive” (Polan 2008) and, on the other, as a basic plot ingredient, a so-called “wiretap-investigation.” In a great analysis of this motif, Patrick Jagoda has outlined that the series makes use of a “network aesthetic,” which becomes, as I would claim, the foremost expression of an ecological principle of storytelling, since it is in this way “that the series foregrounds net worked structural relations among people and institutions . . . by tracing out webs of communication” (Jagoda 2011, 191). 17 The series is, however, not only concerned with communication networks, but with the question of how everything that happens in the city has a direct influence on the surroundings, on a personal and structural level. It is in examining the actornetwork-relationships within an urban environment, in depicting the urban experiences that they bring about and that are often marginalized in the political discourses regarding the city, and in showing how political decisions or a single act can affect the entire urban community (for good or worse) that The Wire becomes a medium which makes use of an ecological aesthetic. How it displays the city space of Baltimore and how it maps out the complex interactions within it, will therefore be the leading question of the next chapter.

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THE CITY SPACE OF BALTIMORE AS “STORIED PLACE” IN THE WIRE At the beginning of the The Wire’s third season, it becomes ultimately clear that the urban ecology of The Wire consists in the complex interplay between the reflection on the social history of Baltimore and its aesthetic portrayal. As this chapter will show, this brings about an all-encompassing take on the city space of Baltimore, which consists of multiple layers that are gradually explored. I will argue that this exploration moves along the lines of a political discourse, on the one hand, where its space becomes something to be restructured and planned, something to be modeled, monitored and reproduced in maps, statistics, and redevelopment projects; and a perspective in which the everyday meaning of that space is explored by examining the intricate relations that its inhabitants have with it and in it, rendering it as a “storied place”—a habitat in every sense of that complex word, something that cannot be controlled without taking into account its histories and its webs of communication which have created something that is often ignored by environmental politics and which is powerfully evoked by The Wire: the sense of a community. All these aspects are foreshadowed in the opening minutes of Season Three: Three young inhabitants of the Franklin Terrace Towers area in West Baltimore move along a side alley seamed with litter and knocked over garbage cans, while the camera follows them in a tracking shot. The alley from which they finally turn into the main street is marked by trash which is lying around, as well as by a rich green surrounding due to the trees that stand along the asphalt sidewalk and weeds that have grown over some of the wire fences and walls that circumscribe the area. These images establish, from the beginning, a tension in the perception of this urban environment that is not devoid of nature altogether, which can also be seen in the natural lighting of the scene that makes apt use of the sunlight and the shade created by the trees, but where the scattered garbage and the growing weeds give the impression of a sense of decay and neglect—of an urban wilderness even; a sense that is reinforced when the teenagers walk past a burnt out car whose front window is shattered. While this points to (and foreshadows) a willful destruction of property that leaves its mark on this area, a different impression is created by the people that swarm past in the foreground and that gather around a huge speaker’s platform, from where Baltimore’s mayor Clarence Royce addresses them. He makes a speech about the demolition of the Franklin Terrace high-rises, a pair of towers that are exemplary of the housing projects that were implemented in the 1940s and 50s and that soon became a social hot spot, centers of the crime and drug trade that The Wire depicted in its first two seasons.

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A great dynamic is created in this scene by the constant switching between the speaker’s platform which is filmed from a certain distance, out of the perspective of the audience, whose reactions are captured by single shots, as when a young woman, who is holding a baby on her arm, is applauding approvingly; and by the tracking of the three teenagers who have been selling drugs in this area for most of their lives and who are now walking to the site of demolition to witness this spectacle. The scene’s dynamic is not only created by this visual interchange, but also by the spoken words, since the soundtrack is also constantly changing between what Mayor Royce promises and what the teenagers talk about, generating curious overlaps and a multiperspectivity that presents the viewers with different views of the Towers (3.01). 18 In the scene, there are multiple accounts of what the Towers meant to the people living in them and to the city as a whole: First of all, there is Malik “Poot” Carr who is lamenting the loss of the Towers, because of fond “memories”—above all, the loss of his virginity—and the sense that he is about to lose his “home” along with these buildings, because it becomes ultimately clear that they stand in a strong relation to his own identity. Accordingly, when he is talking about the Towers, he is also talking about, as he makes clear, its “people,” about a sense of community and social contact experienced in these housing projects which he associates strongly with the “memories” that he holds of them. In this sense, the Towers are a “storied place” for Poot, an environment intricately bound up with his life story and his experiences (Schliephake 2012, 95–98). That is why he is unable to perceive this area of Baltimore merely in economic or spatial terms as his friend and the mayor do in their respective ways, but literally feels displaced due to their demolition. Bodie is not ready to share in his friend’s feelings, despite the fact that he, too, grew up there and draws on his experiences when creating his self-image and identity. Season One saw him as a young drug slinger who worked in the adjoining low-rise buildings and who rose up to be one of the men in charge at the Towers in Season Two, controlling the territory and the drug traffic in and out of it. However, for Bodie the Towers were primarily connected to economic aspects and his own employment, functioning as a marketplace to which people from “all over” came in order to buy drugs. His comments that “people don’t give a fuck about people” and that the Towers were not a living environment, but merely made out of “steel and concrete” are reflective of this purely economic attitude and the brutal, reckless business of the drug trade that he witnessed and participated in for many years. It is this latter aspect that is also evoked by the speech of Mayor Royce who sees the Towers as an embodiment of the ills of Baltimore, associated with crime and “some of the city’s most entrenched problems.” For him, the Towers are but a city space whose surroundings and structure can be radical-

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ly altered without taking into account the grown social ties with and within this parcel of urban environment. While it is true that these housing projects were the location of drug trade and gang fights reflected in Bodie’s comments, they were also home to a lot of people that are, in turn, moved somewhere else by the city administration. Mayor Royce describes this policy as his government’s take on “reform”—hence, there is a huge outstretched banner behind him which reads: “Buildings for the Future. New Beginnings for West Baltimore.” Yet, while this reform is presented as progressive and the mayor promises “low and moderately priced housing,” also stating that “past mistakes” will be avoided this time, what the reform does not account for is exactly this “past” and the meaning of the Towers “as focal point in the surrounding community of family, home, school and marketplace” and its “role in defining cultural space and in shaping the identity” of the community (Bonjean 2009, 162–164). As Alff puts it, this scene “invites” the “viewers to notice the ways in which reform language and infrastructural redevelopment shape one another,” “to evaluate the disjunctive relationship between the transformation of landscape and transformative rhetoric” (Alff 2009, 25). For although the Royce administration markets the demolition of the Towers as an initiative to eradicate the radical non-health of this place, which is, in this context, not only visible in the reference to drugs, but also to venereal diseases, it misinterprets this act as an effective strategy, being ignorant of the fact that these toxic substances and diseases are not place-bound, but mobile and can spread easily. The remainder of the scene makes this perfectly clear: Mayor Royce asks the crowd to join in the countdown to the demolition with him. The camera pans over the audience that stands along street barricades and some children that sit on fence posts, until it focuses on Mayor Royce again who finally exerts the detonator. It then takes in the two Towers: As the first of them collapses, the audience roars and applauds, while on the speaker’s platform the city planners hug and congratulate one another. As the second Tower implodes, a huge cloud of dust covers the whole area, shrouding it in thick grey ashes that transform the scene instantly: The spectators turn away their heads and cover their mouths and eyes, on-looking neighbors close their windows. As Bonjean comments on this scene, these are pictures of “an environment suddenly overcome by elements it had sought to eradicate: even in its death, the essence of the Towers cannot be easily contained” (Bonjean 2009, 163). The ashes of the Towers that rain on the adjoining area become a metaphor for its ever-lasting presence: While they may no longer be there physically, the people that have once lived there move elsewhere and the problems that have plagued the area persist. For, as Season Three makes clear, the drug trade and the ensuing health problems of the community may have lost their center, but spread out as a consequence, shifting to the streets, street corners, and row houses of West Baltimore which appears as a micro-

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cosm with a permeability for toxic substances that political reform programs do not account for. Or, in the words of Warren, “the demolition of the city’s notorious high-rises occasions a destruction of lived networks in West Baltimore that makes way for even more brutal and inhumane drug trafficking” (Warren 2011, 204). Yet, this beginning of the third season is not just staged as a polemic attack on urban environmental politics in general—quite the contrary. On the one hand, as Clandfield notes in his ecocritical reading of the series, the fact that “an implosion” marks the “departure point” of the story, “rather than” the “spectacular narrative climax, is a deft structural indication that such drastic measures do not in themselves represent solutions to ongoing housing problems” (Clandfield 2009, 39). On the other hand, this implosion is not so much part of a spectacular storyline, but is based on the urban history of Baltimore itself, since the Franklin Terrace Towers refer to the Lexington Terrace and George B. Murphy homes that dominated the skyline of West Baltimore in the past and consisted of eight high-rise buildings and some low-rise apartment complexes. These housing projects, built in the 1940s and 50s, were part of a government initiative that was meant to improve the living conditions of a large part of the population and to get rid of the wooden constructions from the nineteenth-century that still ringed the edges of the downtown districts and that did not include proper heating systems (Alvarez 2009, 48–51). The buildings served their purpose for a while, until a process of deindustrialization and the ensuing suburbanization set in and many African Americans that had migrated from the South were settled in these projects (Chaddha/Wilson 2011, 172–173). They were also the ones that had to bear part of this economic shift, since the inner cities became increasingly devoid of job opportunities and turned into compartmentalized ghetto areas—a trend that was further amplified by government policies that supported the (primarily white) suburban middle-class and their settlements instead of subsidizing the inner-city areas (Clandfield 2009, 42). Consequently, the housing projects had, in the long run, the opposite effect and turned into sites where drug-related crime and disease thrived—a problem that stigmatized Baltimore and that led to the tearing down of the housing projects under the Clinton administration. Thus, when The Wire reenacted their surroundings in Seasons One and Two and the spectacle of their demolition, the producers used a two-tower residence for elderly people in East Baltimore to recreate the look of the Towers (Alvarez 2009, 51). As Clandfield comments, “this piece of virtual redevelopment reminds us that The Wire creates its own version of Baltimore, but also illustrates that the series gets its construction materials from concrete details of contemporary cities” (Clandfield 2009, 38). However, The Wire does not only acknowledge the problems attached to these modernist housing projects, but rather emphasizes that tearing them down is no long-term solution to the inherent grie-

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vances of the inner-city which do not solely consist in architectural and structural shortcomings, but rather in unhealthy and neglected communities. As Rafael Alvarez, one of the writers of the show notes, “the poverty and attendant problems once defined by the high-rises are dispersed throughout the city and the near and aging suburbs of Baltimore County” (Alvarez 2009, 52). It is this political inability to adjust and to cope with these problems and their subsequent dissemination across a wide part of the city space that The Wire examines in detail (Chaddah/Wilson 2011, 180–82), making ultimately clear that the problems associated with the inner-city are a spatial and social, as well as a political and, in the end, ecological issue which affects the urban environment as a whole. As Alff puts it, “The Wire demands a reimagination of Baltimore broad enough to encompass the contradictions of logical political rhetoric 19 and a profusely irrational urban landscape, and to recover the orphaned accounts, obscured histories, and undocumented lives of a city in desperate need of a more truthful and complex artistic narrative” (Alff 2009, 26). Alff’s comment is insightful for the analysis of The Wire’s aesthetic approach to rendering the city space of Baltimore for two reasons: First of all, the irrationality of the “urban landscape” is repeatedly staged in the series not only with regard to failed government initiatives in tackling high crime rates and the fight against drug trafficking, but also in terms of other (re)development and building projects. Many scenes in The Wire deal with the urban planning of luxury condos and the restructuring of the city’s infrastructure that aim at boosting the local economy and at attracting new investors and wealthy residents. However, while these initiatives certainly have their merits in making the cityscape more attractive, they are flawed in so far as they are also used as a means to launder drug money by some of the gang bosses in Baltimore. Stringer Bell, one of the city’s major drug kingpins and right hand of notorious gang leader Avon Barksdale, is the embodiment of this policy in The Wire. Bell is, as Neal observes, “the one who seems most emblematic of the American Dream” in the series (Neal 2010, 400), since he wants to use the drug money of the Barksdale organization to literally buy his way out of the inner-city drug trade and to become a legitimate businessman. Therefore, he also enrolls in business courses at university and translates the lessons he learns there to the streets. Subsequently, he invests the profit he generates through this strategy in downtown real-estate and becomes a city developer and founder of a real estate company entitled “BandB Enterprises.” The creators of The Wire use this plotline in order to underline the complex economic and structural interactions within urban planning by showing that the drug trade is an integral part of the urban and political networks in the city. Money can, in this sense, be seen as one of those material agents that are mobile, traversing city boundaries and permeating its structures, while its

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origins are not always called into question, being an agent that can buy access to city space and social standing. However, that this access does not always coincide with climbing the social ladder is again examined with the help of Stringer Bell. In a key scene of the series (3.11), Bell and his partner Avon Barksdale are standing on the balcony of the downtown luxury apartment that Bell bought for Avon after he was released from prison. The camera takes in both men leaning against the balustrade, sipping on whiskey glasses and looking over the downtown skyscrapers and harbor area that makes up the background of the scene. The colorful lights of the city shimmer in the distance, illuminating the night in bright silhouettes as the two men are reminiscing about their childhood memories and their current social situation. They remember how they used to rummage through shopping malls, stealing, at one time, a badminton set. Although they were not brought up in this downtown area, it is nevertheless a storied place for them, because of the adventures they lived through there in their boyhood. The city space they experienced there in the shopping malls in the form of toys becomes emblematic not only of a lost innocence, but also “hints at” their “ambitions for spatial and class mobility” (Clandfield 2009, 45). From the beginning, they felt that they did not belong in this place, since security guards were following their moves suspiciously, while their class (and maybe even race) stigmatized them and their childhood environment stood in strong contrast to the downtown area marked and marketed by capitalist enterprise—hence, Avon notes that they “ain’t got no yard” where they could have played badminton. Clandfield therefore interprets the scene as one of the “iniquities The Wire depicts,” namely the “lack of access to healthy urban space” and the “uneven distribution of recreational space” in inner-city areas (Clandfield 2009, 45). Yet, this scene also makes clear that, although they share the same memories, they perceive the downtown area in a different way: While Avon sees it as a place to which these stories and “dreams” are attached, Stringer speaks of it in mere economic terms, as “real estate” that he should have bought when he first had the chance. This moment marks a noticeable break in their dialogue, where both become more serious and tense. Their relationship started to crumble before due to Bell’s business-minded approach to the drug trade that was concerned with putting out a “high quality product” and Barksdale’s ambition to control most of the street territory. In this sense, Avon’s stance is allegorical for “the worldview of the block” that “becomes,” as Neal notes, “in the absence of experiences beyond the confines of Baltimore’s so-called inner-city . . . a nation-something that must be policed and defended at all cost” (Neal 2010, 399), something that is deeply wound up with the identity of the people living there. Avon’s view is emblematic of the aggressive ways he learnt in the streets and reflective of a “survival of the fittest” attitude that is, above all, measured by the amount of territory one

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holds. Territory means, in this context, the bodily presence on street corners, from where drugs are sold and that are physical and visible markers of the urban environment. Stringer, on the other hand, tries to convince his partner of a different approach to the drug trade altogether, one that is not grounded on spatial terms and the possession of neighborhoods, but on a more flexible, mobile, and monetary take on the drug trade. Stringer’s approach is thus despatialized and not framed in by the geographical map of the city space, but makes use of the permeable structures of the urban economic networks. If they launder the money downtown in real estate projects, he argues, they can, in turn, switch sides and make their business “legitimate.” These opposing attitudes—the gangster and the businessman—can thus be measured against their respective outlook on city space and will, in the end, destroy their friendship. It is mainly in this storyline that the inherent contradictions and complex interactions of the city space are staged in The Wire, examining how the inner-city drug trade and the big business downtown are intertwined. Secondly, while it is true that The Wire projects many marginalized aspects of the urban experience onto the screen and makes people left behind by urban politics and their stories an integral part of its storyline, it also tries to incorporate the history of the city and Baltimore’s all-encompassing city space into its fabric. 20 Marshall and Potter describe the strategy of the fictional reworking of Baltimore’s history and the constant, complex “blurring of truth and fiction that the creators have inscribed into the casting and the characters of the series” as a means to bring about an even greater degree of authenticity and as a play on identity which is “written, rewritten and overwritten . . . problematizing any idea of easy constructions or associations” (Marshall/Potter 2009, 10-11). For instance, Seasons Three to Five feature a ruthless female killer called Felicia “Snoop” Pearson, who is portrayed by Baltimore native Felicia “Snoop” Pearson, who had to serve a prison term when she was 14 years old for shooting someone in a gang fight. Her role in The Wire may be partly based on her past, but reveals nothing of her current life situation and rehabilitation that she described in her 2007 autobiography, where she also writes about her time as a teenager: “Being outside Mama’s house was always more interesting than inside. . . . The streets were screaming at me—that’s for sure. But they were screaming at everyone. Some kids ignored those screams. I didn’t” (LoLordo 2009, 358). 21 Screaming streets are certainly an apt metaphor for the urban experience within the inner-city—a feeling that The Wire wants to recreate by using non-professional actors and casting people in the streets of Baltimore. As Moran, who oversees the casting of the series, has outlined: “When it comes down to the corner, nobody can fill that space but people from the corner. These kids know what goes on down there and it makes the show better. . . . We’re not here to exploit them, but to tell their story. . . . We cast Baltimore” (Alvarez 2009, 176). I would argue that it is for this very reason that the

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television or film medium can recreate the inner-city urban landscape in a more realistic manner than any other medium—not just because it can present its viewers with images of the street corners and shacks, but because it also portrays people that live and move in this environment, even puts them center stage. Moran’s comment on the fact that the “space of the corner” cannot be filled by anyone “except people from the corner” is insightful in this respect, because it shows that different urban environments shape different urban characters, that every part of a city is a microcosm in itself, where different instincts and movements are developed. The same is, of course, true of the different vernaculars, idioms, accents, and dialects that are representative of the different parts of Baltimore and that The Wire records in their entire spectrum. 22 The Wire thereby seeks to actively bring about an authenticity of the city space that is often referred to in the discussion of the series. As Mark Bowden observes: “Parallels with recent political history abound, and the details of life in the housing projects and on the street corners seem spookily authentic. . . . The Wire seems so real that I find myself, a Baltimore native, looking for the show’s characters when I pass through their familiar haunts” (Bowden 2008, 51). But this seeming authenticity is, of course, also an aesthetic strategy that involves both a casting and storylines rooted in Baltimore’s (social) history, and makes apt use of the film and television medium itself by rendering the city space visually. One important factor is, above all, that most of the series is shot on location, engendering “a sense of the city in its entirety” and putting “the city center stage” (Speidel 2009), thereby exploring the diverse and divergent parts of the city that nevertheless constantly interact and make up one big heterogeneous whole. Consequently, the viewer does not get the impression that he sees the “real” Baltimore, but is rather invited to visit the city through the television medium, exploring its multifold spaces and environments so that he too becomes, in turn, accustomed to it and cares about it (Hsu 2010, 514). The Wire is, in the end, concerned with turning “space” into “place” for the viewer. Linda Speidel, for example, has convincingly examined how The Wire constantly interweaves “abstractions” of the city space and scenes of a “lived environment” in its storylines. This is of particular importance in Season One, when the viewer is introduced to the seemingly “other” and alien innercity area, to the drug markets along the Towers and the adjoining low-rise courts. The police investigators usually enter this space as does the viewer: From a distance with the help of maps, models, CCTV screens, and especially cameras. Farber, who has analyzed the role of photography in The Wire, has, in this context, also pointed to the interesting visual technique of presenting the viewers with images of “photographic vantage points” and the perspective of someone looking through the “viewfinder of a camera” (Farber 2010, 422–423). The viewfinder is, in turn, often used to introduce the

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viewer to a new environment or to new characters—this has the curious effect of both zooming in on a foreign city space from a distance, but also of pulling the viewer into this environment. This aesthetic and narrative device is used frequently throughout the series and can also be seen in the fact that The Wire is, on the one hand, “made for the small screen . . . retaining standard television’s 4:3 aspect ratio, rather than opting for 16:9 ‘widescreen’” (McNeilly 2009, 207), but makes, on the other hand, frequent use of “long lenses” (McMillan 2008) and “long or medium shots” which “allows the characters to be seen in their environment” (Speidel 2009). This dyad between operating in the small and staying in the wide becomes the central aesthetic strategy of The Wire of creating a semi-documentary, authentic look, introducing the viewer to the intricate city space of Baltimore as its (obscured) stories and (the materiality of) the urban experience are uncovered. This is, in fact, one of the most powerful effects of the cultural ecology of The Wire, which stages the complex interactions between places and people in an urban environment and which illustrates the ways in which both can literally act upon one another. Political and public discourses render specific parts of a city in different ways, stigmatizing their inhabitants, while people constantly make and re-make space by attributing meaning to it. Place-based living and political initiatives can thereby easily stand in contrast to one another as local ties and communities are disrupted by urban planners. Moreover, as The Wire shows, crime becomes a central means to create access to spaces that are normally sealed off from poor inner-city areas. Although the involvement in urban building projects is a way of laundering drug money and ensures a certain mobility for people involved in the drug trade, the great majority of the inner-city dwellers are subject to political neglect and/or urban reform that does not take into account their needs and place-based interactions. While the agency of the local inhabitants can therefore be said to be restrained, there are other agents that act upon them and the places they live in. In the following, the materiality of the inner-city experience that The Wire depicts will be explored as another integral part of its cultural ecology. “THIN LINE ‘TWEEN HEAVEN AND HERE.” THE (MATERIAL) URBAN EXPERIENCE IN THE WIRE What then, constitutes the inner-city experience in The Wire? I will argue that it consists of the rendering of the urban environment as a place in which life is determined by access to and/or the exposure to multifold materials and (non-human) agents. In this context, it is especially the drug trade which determines this experience and which brings about, with its toxic substances, a pollution of the environment that can be perceived especially in the inner-

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city area, where it is closely connected to other problems like health and malnutrition issues, decaying houses, and the lack of adults, who are either dead, in prison, or addicts, because of their exposure to the drugs circulating in this area. Thereby, The Wire is a series which can be said to be a meditation on urban “trans-corporeality” (Alaimo 2010), on the complex ways in which the human body is subjected to its surrounding substances, where drugs become a material agent that can literally permeate the space and environment of the city. Yet, The Wire also presents its viewers with the strict confines of the inner-city and with (class) divisions between different parts of Baltimore, which also becomes apparent in the open or restricted access to and experience of nature and recreational areas. It is especially in exposing the various entanglements of matter and in depicting how they affect the life among the urban poor in the otherwise marginalized inner-city area that The Wire’s ethical impetus of its urban ecology consists of. In order to analyze the portrayal of material processes in the series, I will, at first, look at the storylines of urban teenagers in seasons one and four who are overexposed to the problems of their environment and largely without prospects or chance of escape, and will then turn to the wanderings and transitions of the drug addict Reginald “Bubbles” Cousins. The sixth episode of Season One begins with one of the series’ most violent stills: The black screen fades to the image of a badly mutilated corpse. The camera pans away from the body, taking it in from a crane shot that brings the surroundings into view: The recipient sees the backyards of a row house settlement. Behind each house, there are small parcels of garden. Vegetables are grown in one of them, while the others are rather ill-kempt, overgrown with weeds. The camera slowly moves along a cable that is stretched taut between one of the houses and a power pole. Rhizome-like, other cables spread out from this pylon to other houses. The camera follows one of them into a house whose façade shows signs of neglect; through a broken glass window on the first floor, it leads into the house, where the alarm clock of a stereo goes off and music starts to blare, waking up the young boy, Wallace, who is fully dressed, sleeping beside the broken window. He starts up from his sleep and makes his way through the house, which does not have any running water and which is desolate except for a number of young children that sleep, fully dressed, in an adjoining room. He wakes them up and reminds them that they should get ready for school, handing out a bag of potato chips and some juice for each of them. He lets them out of the house, a boarded up vacant, cautiously and then walks around the back where he discovers the corpse. The setting of this scene is one of the thousands of empty row houses that have come to characterize many post-industrial American cities. They are a physical and visual evidence of the process of depopulation and suburbanization that has taken its toll on the urban environment (Chaddah/Wilson 2011,

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172). In The Wire, this is an all too familiar sight since the beginning of the first episode, turning “the depopulated inner-city” into “the visible backdrop for much of the action of The Wire” (173). That these vacants come to frame the urban experience of the children growing up in this area becomes ultimately clear in this scene, because the children have, due to the lack of a proper “home” to go back to, no other alternative than moving into them, since they at least provide a place of shelter—albeit one that lacks furniture, running water, or a regulated power connection. Yet, the fact that there are many electric cables stretched between the pylon and the houses shows that these are not as empty as their facades suggest, but also point to the impoverished and improvised—and also dangerous (the cable connection is unsecured)—ways of life in these places, which also becomes apparent in the fact that the children do not have proper, healthy food to take to school with them. The scene does not only illustrate the poor living conditions in a merely material sense, but also points to a lack that is just as severe: the lack of parents or adults. Particularly in Season Four, the recipient is confronted with households where at least one of the parents (usually the father) is either dead or in prison, because of their involvement in the drug trade or due to a fatal addiction. Left without any guardian or role model, a moral guide to look up to, these kids turn to the streets, where they often find the attention and support they are looking for in gangs. 23 However, as the series makes clear, these are no proper substitutes for a family life, but rather hierarchical organizations 24 that are tightly structured and that do not allow any signs of weakness. The scene is part of a larger, overarching aspect of the (material) street life in the inner-city world of The Wire. From the beginning of the first episode, the series presents the viewer with countless images of the bodies and corpses of the victims of violent crime, of addicts who overdosed or died of a drug-related disease. Thereby, death obtains an over-imposing material presence in the inner-city area and makes up, in its apparent normality, the manifestation of a community out of bounds. It does so, on the one hand, by framing part of the urban experience, since it is portrayed as standing in close connection to the cityscape, 25 reinforcing the sense of decay and rot; on the other hand, by making clear that there are no moral standards anymore by which to judge or perceive these deaths. 26 The “bodies” are a material presence, but one that remains incommensurable and unexplained, accepted as part of the effects and outcomes of the drug trade and the extreme poverty in the inner-city—a fact that is strikingly reinforced by the omnipresence and open access to guns in this area, which become an agent in their own right, circulating in the city space and providing their bearers with the power to defend themselves and to take the lives of others. Accordingly, The Wire engenders the sense of an inner-city urbanity which is characterized by the apparent and painful lack of certain materials

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(healthy food, water, electricity) as well as the absence of meaningful, interpersonal contacts and care. This lack is equated by the overexposure to other material agents (drugs, corpses, diseases, guns) which circulate in the city area. The effect of this is devastating, because, as the series points out in minute detail, there are barely any measures by which to balance or even to reverse this material imbalance. While these materials have an overpowering, often deadly agency, they leave the humans with whom they interact with barely any agency of their own. In consequence, there is a strong sense in The Wire that the material urban world posits an energy field in which its inhabitants are helplessly captured. 27 They rarely leave the narrow confines of the inner-city and when they do, they are almost unable to cope outside of it. At one point, Wallace is caught by the police and questioned by the officers of the Major Crime Unit. He is willing to give them information about the Barksdale gang and is sent away to his aunt who lives in the country. In a memorable scene, the unit’s leader, Lieutenant Daniels, drives him there and Wallace, bewildered by a chirping sound he hears in the air, after he gets out of the car asks him, where the sound comes from. The lieutenant answers that it’s “crickets.” Wallace, who has apparently never heard the word before, mumbles “cricket” before him and is corrected by Daniels, who spells out the word more clearly one more time, “crickets” (1.10). The scene is almost a moment of comic relief in the series, but points to the apparent lack of the experience of nature or recreational space that is hauntingly absent in the noisy, polluted, and drug-infested inner-city area. The scene is mirrored in Season Four, when Bodie, who is fed up with the drug trade, is talking to Detective McNulty in a secluded park area, where he asks him: “Are we still in the city? This is nice” (4.12). The scene makes clear that Baltimore is not devoid of nature altogether (Hsu 2010, 525), but the parks, tended gardens, and recreational areas are far away from the innercity. The material urban experience is thus also marked by an inequality concerning access to green areas (Peterson 2010, 470–71). Of course, as the scenes discussed above show, the inner-city, too, is a place of nature—but one where it is untamed and undomesticated and not really “planned into” the cityscape. As especially the images of the deserted playground in Season Four show, where Marlo Stanfield’s crew hide murder victims in vacants, weeds overgrow parts of the city space, covering wires, concrete, and facades of abandoned factories and row houses, repopulating an almost depopulated area. Yet this rather reinforces the sense of a neglected space and cannot make up for a genuine experience of nature. When people from the inner-city drive to the woods or the countryside around Baltimore, they usually do so in order to practice shooting or to get rid of weapons. 28 In The Wire, the countryside is thus a training ground for the jungle of the inner-city street life, but not an alternative way of living. Accordingly, both Wallace and Bodie return to the inner-city low-rises. Both are killed, in turn, because they had been

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seen talking to the police. However, both returned, because the inner-city made up an integral part of their identity, they live in total symbiosis with this environment. Thus, The Wire illustrates the complex interactions with an environment, whose radical non-health is apparent throughout the whole series and the desperate willingness to stand one’s ground there, depicting the material and social processes that nevertheless root people in it and determine their identity in the end. Moreover, there is more than one storyline which underlines the fact that not all of the people living in the inner-city have to turn into drug dealers or hopeless addicts—quite the contrary. And even those involved in these material processes revoke any easy moral judgment by the recipient, constantly (re)negotiating how they want to live in this place. One of those characters is Reginald “Bubbles” Cousins, who is himself a drug addict, but who also works as an informant for the police unit, identifying dealers for them. He aids the police because the drug dealers beat up his friend and fellow addict Johnny Weeks for trying to purchase drugs from them with self-made counterfeit money. That is actually the way in which Bubbles is introduced in the very first episode of the series, where his life and adventures on the streets and his struggle with drug addiction is a recurring constant until the show’s last moments. It is mainly through his character that the physical and psychological effects of drug addiction and trans-corporeality are explored. This becomes apparent in the same episode when he is asked to assess the look of Detective Sydnor who has to go into the projects as an undercover. He wears stained and torn clothes, but according to Bubbles, this is not enough. As he makes clear, drug addiction and the ensuing life on the street leaves many traces and marks that cannot only be seen in the outer appearance and shabby clothes, but also, and more importantly, on the body of the drug user, which is often emaciated and disheveled, since the heroin drains out its energy. Moreover, it also takes its toll on social relationships which becomes apparent in Bubbles’s comment that a real addict would have sold his wedding ring, oblivious to his social surroundings and anxious to make enough money for the acquisition of the next dose. That this deteriorating state is also connected to city space and the surroundings in which drug addicts move in order to consume drugs is illustrated by pointing to the ground on which the drug trade takes place—Bubbles asks Sydnor to step on some empty vials, in which drugs are sold: “You can’t walk down a Baltimore street without that shit crackin’ underneath your feet. You wanna know a fiend for real, check the bottom of his shoes.” These empty vials, the material trace and waste of the drugs that leave their mark on the environment and the people that move in it becomes an apt metaphor for their transcorporeal agency and how they transform their physical surroundings, permeating not only the toxic bodies of the addicts, but changing the city space too into an urban wasteland.

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This impression is evoked in another scene, where Bubbles and Detective McNulty stare down a dark, barely lit side alley in West Baltimore, and Bubbles says “thin line ‘tween heaven and here,” before he wanders off into the night. It is a short sentence, describing his urban experience, but also a complex one, since it alludes both to the dangers awaiting in the streets, and can be interpreted as an image which renders the city space as hell—but one, where the hope and possibility of redemption and/or escape linger. This is certainly true for Bubbles whose life trajectory is closely examined throughout the five seasons. 29 A key figure who helps him in this fight is Walon (Peterson 2010, 479–80), a recovering drug addict who is a regular at Narcotics Anonymous meetings, where Bubbles met him the first time during Season One. It was already then, that Walon delivered a key speech, summing up the life-altering effects of his addiction (1.07). The speech mirrors the scene where Bubbles assesses the undercover agent above in some way, but it reaches far deeper than that, for it also points to the toxic effects the addiction has on the body of the addict which is here described as a house. The metaphor is extended by the image of the addiction as an offender who abuses the addict and “breaks into his liver,” leaving its mark not only on the skin in the form of scars, but destroying him from the inside as well. The real strength of the drugs consists therefore in their trans-corporeal permeating agency which does not only manifest itself in health issues, but which nests itself deeply within the neuronal structures and the psyche of the addicts, whose feeling of being high is a hideous delusion, obscuring their social and personal downfall. As Walon makes his speech, the camera constantly switches between him and the audience, that consists of addicts from wide social (and racial) strata, and who nod approvingly. Especially Bubbles becomes increasingly attentive and thoughtful, when listening to Walon, because his account certainly reflects a lot of the problems and experiences that he has had to face and that he has been through, but also because it points to an upward trajectory that still lies ahead of him: The inner will and impulse to want to overcome his addiction and all the physical, psychological, and mental consequences this decision will harbor. This major subplot of The Wire, Bubble’s addiction and his road to recovery, is central to the series, because it infuses the storyline with a crucial extension of the depiction and discussion of the drug trade and the infamous “war on drugs” by focusing the attention on those who really have to fight this “war,” because it rages inside of them, because of their addiction— because of their disease. This latter aspect and notion is essentially the decisive one: The Wire renders the drug-ridden inner-city as an area of disease and sickness, as a public health issue to which none (or, at least, not that much) attention has been paid thus far. While it renders the criminal activities, the gang fights, and the abandoned inner-city as a sociopolitical phenomenon which defines one aspect of urbanism in Baltimore, it also puts

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drug addiction center stage as a material experience and a widespread bodily, physical presence, interacting with the larger environment. The fifth and final season of The Wire, which further expands this perspective by focusing on homelessness in South Baltimore, also trails Bubbles’s road to recovery. Although he has a steady job at this point of his life, selling papers for the Baltimore Sun, he also decides to start working at a soup kitchen, where he often goes to eat himself. Yet, there is a grave concern that he opens up about towards Walon, who is visiting him at his workplace. He is reluctant to serve the food out of the fear that he carries the HIV virus that causes AIDS, the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome that is highly contagious, travelling via contact with certain body fluids of an infected person. One of the primary ways of transmission is through exposure to blood, which is a common cause among (urban) injection drug users by sharing needles with infected persons. At various points within the series, the viewer is confronted with the widespread disease as one of the most horrendous effects of the drug trade in the inner-city area and the ensuing hygiene and poor living conditions. Walon, who was infected with HIV when he was taking drugs, is the only person in the series who deals openly with his disease. He is never cast as an outsider, but as a confidant for other addicts, proving that one can still live the disease, not letting it determine one’s life. This is, in fact, also the message he tries to bring across to Bubbles, when he opens up his results for him and tells him that they are “negative.” Bubbles cannot believe that he is not infected with HIV, because he shared the needles of people that “had the bug.” 30 Bubbles’s reaction concerning the results is indicative of his feelings of inferiority, guilt, and “shame” that he harbors with regard to his past identity as an addict that he has transferred into the present. As Walon hands him his results, asking him to “let go” of this past and walks off in a narrow lane, the setting of the scene is of great importance: Across the street, behind wooden fences and some electric wires stretched over the pavement, there is a chapel depicted against a blue sky, lush green trees frame the scenery, providing shade and giving shelter to birds that are singing. The setting very much reminds the viewer of the scene discussed in the introduction, where Bubbles was sitting in a park area adjoining a cathedral. This time, though, he is not alone in his struggle. The feeling that he has been spared a fatal disease and Walon’s uplifting words make clear that he has finally reached a point in his life, where he, the past sinner, can walk down a different path that allows for a sense of hope and redemption. The spiritual, religious element in Bubble’s life is again evoked in the scene, where he finally finds the strength to speak about the failures of his past. During a Narcotics Anonymous meeting set in a church building, he also finally addresses the audience with his real name (La Berge 2010, 562–63) (5.09). His speech takes us back to the beginning of this chapter, to a scene when he was also sitting in a park, fighting his lonesome fight against

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the addiction, against the disease raging inside of him. His happy memories are closely connected to environmental perception, to the feeling of a warm summer evening in a recreational urban area. Yet, they are also tied up with the knowledge of what turns his life took at certain points and of the “grief” that he harbored at the loss of his friend Sherrod—with the knowledge that the ultimate highs of his addiction were the low points of his life, even though he may not have realized this at the time. It is in this sense that the memories of a drug addict are material memories of a toxic substance that had taken hold of his body, altering his perception of who and where he was. Being clean, he can take in the park area and his urban environment in a different way. It is another step in the direction of a new life, which is also hinted at in the closing montage of the series, when he is seen sitting down at the lunch table of his sister and her child. He is now, as in the Narcotics Anonymous meetings, part of a community. The material urban experience of the children growing up in the innercity area and of a drug addict like Bubbles discussed in this part show a lot of parallels and are interconnected through the city space, which is depicted as an urban wasteland, where abandoned houses, homelessness, and the lack of the bare necessities of life like access to healthy food, clean water, or electricity are painfully present. And they are linked by other material agents and (non-human) substances—above all, by the drugs sold by children who are employed by violent gangs with remorseless hierarchies and procedures and that the addicts greedily consume in order to satisfy their hunger, suffering from the disease that has taken hold of their bodies and minds and whose (material) traces shape the streets of the inner-city. These people are tied by interpersonal and material neglect as well as the experience of being overexposed to toxic bodies, toxic substances, guns, and the ensuing violence. The cultural ecology of The Wire renders the material experience of the life in a desolate and poor inner-city neighborhood with great efficiency and a great imaginative quality that convincingly shows how materials like drugs act upon places and individuals. Their agency is both material in that they alter the state of their users as well as discursive since the public discourse attaches certain narratives and meanings to them, often stigmatizing the addicts. As The Wire makes clear, these material effects are the outcomes of a war that America has begun decades ago and is far from winning, a social and political failure that The Wire’s counter discourse is directed against in the first place: the War on Drugs. In the following, this counter discourse will be explored in detail with the example of the so-called “Hamsterdam” experiment that builds on the spatial and material aspects The Wire’s urban ecology outlined above and fuses them with a third aspect, namely urban (environmental) politics.

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“HAMSTERDAM”—THE COUNTER DISCOURSE OF THE WIRE The Wire features countless scenes in which cops chase young drug dealers through the neighborhoods of inner-city Baltimore. The strategy of crime fighting depicted in the series mainly consists of isolated interventions, in which undercover policemen impersonate addicts, pretending to want to buy drugs from dealers whom they arrest after the transaction. Consequently, a game of cat-and-mouse evolves between the dealers and the police and comes to signify a drug prevention policy whose success is only marginal—a fact that is carefully explored throughout the first season and further developed into the third season, whose first episodes mark the high point of frustration. One scene presents the viewer with a familiar sight: a large number of police officers rush in on a group of young dealers who stand on a street corner in order to terminate their selling drugs there, when a young kid suddenly runs away with a brown paper bag, supposedly the “stash,” the supply of drug vials they have. The police are quick to chase after him in cars and on foot through the narrow side alleys of Baltimore’s inner-city. Their hunt leads them to one of the typical backyards of the row houses: a rectangular space aligned by balconies and small verandas and gardens. Within the blink of an eye, the environment is crowded with undercover cops, searching the weeds and possible hideaways in the yard, police cars with blue lights switched on, a track hound who fails to pick up the scent, and a helicopter circling overhead, scanning the area. One of the officers who is frustrated by the meritless search screams abuses and obscenities at the top of his lungs, while the camera takes him in in a long shot, switching between him and the hectic search that goes on around him. His rhetoric makes use of a vocabulary that invokes the idea of two opponents facing each other, where one side eventually has to win—a leitmotif of the series (Anderson 2010)—but also reflects a policy of law enforcement that has been brutalized by the fight against drugs. It is especially in the ensuing violence and conflicts that this kind of rhetoric thwarts its intentions, because it does not lead to a containment of crime, but to its escalation. The beginning of Season Three sees a lot of the latter. However, there is not only an ongoing violence between cops and criminals, but also among the gangs themselves. The season also introduces young drug kingpin Marlo Stanfield who begins a fearsome war in West Baltimore and conquers a lot of street territory. This has an adverse effect of the crime statistics monitored by the so-called COMSTAT-system, which documents the “urban crime environment” (3.2) and whose aim is to “prevent crime by relying on computer generated data” (3.5). Almost every episode of Season Three shows at least one COMSTAT meeting in the Baltimore Police Department, where the majors of each district have to present the crime figures in their area and have to justify their proceedings and failures in crime prevention. COMSTAT is

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thereby based on the real-life Citistat-system used by the Baltimore Police Department, which is itself modeled on the New York Compstat-software, an analytical tool intended to map crime within a designated area or space and to initiate counter measures based on that data (Eschkötter 2012, 52–53). While the COMSTAT meetings in The Wire certainly account for the horrendous results and the death toll of the drug wars, this procedure is harshly criticized within the series, since successful police work is seen in relation to statistics, i.e., numbers of felony arrests, and ignores the complex, interacting networks at the heart of the urban problems, which are, in turn, not only depicted as criminal ones, but as ecological ones, tied into deeper structures. This becomes clear in the opening sections of episodes three and four: Episode three starts off with a COMSTAT-meeting in which Major Taylor of the Eastern District has to take responsibility for the ever-climbing crime statistics in his area and is confronted with multiple slides of photos by Deputy Commissioner of Operations Bill Rawls that show various street corners where dealers are selling drugs in broad daylight. While he is aware of the problem, he also tries to make clear that the common strategy of crime prevention is not effective, since the drug crews move around, constantly changing their positions in the streets of Baltimore (3.3). Whereas Major Taylor’s comments point to the flexibility of the drug dealers and the mobility of drugs that are hard to pin down geographically, but that move through an environment, Deputy Rawls only alludes to the abstract raw data which covers only half of the story, but which, in the end, leads to Taylor’s detachment as major. It is in scenes like this that The Wire suggests that the war on drugs has turned into a “stats game,” mostly used for political purposes (Chaddah/Wilson 2011, 170). The numbers are meant to prove that the administrations are successful in tackling the challenges and difficulties posed by the urban drug trade, while they are, in reality, only a measure to cover up the realities and failures of a war that the U.S. Government has declared decades ago and is far from winning, and which ignores the problems of the people living in these drug-ridden neighborhoods. For although statistics and political rhetoric stigmatize certain areas as hotspots of criminality, they are neglecting the fact that these are still environments in which everyday life goes on for people who are not involved in the drug trade, but who have to live with its effects on a daily basis—this is perfectly made clear in the chase scene above, which takes place in an ordinary inner-city neighborhood. The way in which the drug dealers rush through the area, hiding out somewhere, and the police race after them with cars and helicopters, turning the recreational courtyard into a crime scene, almost creates the impression of an invaded area and evokes images of a battlefield. This is, in fact, mirrored by the rhetoric used by both politicians and people on the streets who compare the inner-city to “Baghdad” (3.6), “Fallujah” (4.1), or an area which should be eradicated by Napalm (4.7), drawing parallels between the war on drugs

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fought in the inner-city and the past and present foreign wars of the U.S., most notably the “War on Terror.” While these parallels may be overstretched, they are effective in reflecting the radicalism of the practical and rhetorical approach to the urban drug trade, which The Wire portrays through what one could call an ecological way of seeing: It does not take place somewhere in an abstract “out there,” but in a real environment. This is emphatically underlined in the beginning of the fourth episode of Season Three during a community meeting of homeowners in the West Side: A young police officer gives a speech, illustrating their efforts with the help of statistics that show a slight decline in felonies and asking for the help of the inhabitants for further crime prevention, explaining that they are doing everything they can “to fight this war against drugs and take back your streets” (3.4). When the listeners grow increasingly agitated, because the officer dodges their questions and concerns and tries to appease them by pointing to the statistical charts beside him, a woman interrupts him vehemently, pointing out that she cannot enter her own home, because drug dealers are selling off drugs in front of her doorstep. Her comment makes perfectly clear that an ordinary life is not possible in an environment that is “occupied” by the dealers and where they have their skirmishes with other gangs and the police. This is neither a surrounding to raise kids in, who constantly live in danger, nor for citizens who try to make ends meet in an honest way and who have to seek protection “under their beds,” when sleeping. These are stories and images of people living in an urban environment which get misrepresented in official statistics and which are not accounted for in environmental politics, based on a radical approach to crime prevention. This latter aspect is recognized by Major Howard “Bunny” Colvin, who oversees the Western District and who steps in to help his officer and speaks to the gathered people in an honest way, admitting that the measures undertaken will not “give” them “back their streets.” Colvin becomes, in turn, the character through whom the current policy is criticized and finally undermined (Love 2010, 497; Bowden 2008, 52–54). He personifies an approach which sees the Police Department’s protocol and radical political rhetoric as being part of the problem and of being adversary to their initial aim, namely crime prevention—as he puts it in a later episode, “the neighborhood that you’re supposed to be policing, that’s just occupied territory” (3.10). Major Colvin repeatedly illustrates the adverse effects that the war on drugs has both on the police officers who have to chase the drug crews throughout the inner-city, and on the urban environment, since it is ensued by a degree of violence that brutalizes both the police and the gangsters involved. The idea behind his comment is that the term “war” and a radical policy in rhetoric and action change environmental perception in a degree that is inimical to both police work and urban community, since it is connected to an ideology that separates the surroundings into good and bad, friend and enemy—that

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this policy also has a spatial aspect becomes clear through the differentiation between “neighborhood” and “territory.” Radical rhetoric renders the innercity space as alien and radically “other,” while The Wire’s urban ecology opts for a different view: One in which the areas that are policed and the people that live there stand in an inextricable connection that has to be taken into account, if any measures of crime prevention should prove to be successful. 31 Thus, Major Colvin also takes on a different stance on drugs: as the comment above makes clear, he perceives them as a problematic issue, because the department’s focus on drug-related crime prevents it from doing real “police work”—a “policing” that does not perceive every inhabitant of the inner city as a possible drug dealer or addict, but that is concerned with ensuring a safe environment for everyone. Colvin is desperate with the vain attempts of his department to win this war on drugs, which harbors so many setbacks and losses on both sides, something that he reveals in a personal conversation with his close confidant the Deacon. Talking about his impending retirement, he makes a harsh self-evaluation, lamenting the deterioration of his district and his inability to stop it. Yet, the Deacon replies in a way that depersonalizes the problem and that can be read as one of the central points The Wire wants to make: “You’re talkin’ about drugs. That’s a force of nature, that’s sweeping leaves on a windy day, whoever the hell you are” (3.2). The Deacon’s metaphor of drugs as a “force of nature,” as something that is beyond individual (or governmental) control and that can be compared to leaves floating in the wind, arbitrarily dispersing, is an apt one for various reasons: First of all, it points to the impossibility of preventing the drug trade that works through various transnational channels and of the inability to counter the problem effectively by mass incarceration, since there are always new up-and-coming gangs that are ready to step in once another crew has been arrested. Second, the image of a “force” ultimately argues that drugs are a problem that cannot only be discussed as a social or criminal issue, but that reaches far beyond that and that is connected on a fundamental basis to nature itself: namely, to (public and personal) health and environmental wellbeing. 32 As the previous section made clear, part of the urban ecology of The Wire consists in the depiction of the material consequences of the inner city drug culture on an individual and social level, but it goes beyond an exploration of their outcomes and a mere polemic against ineffective measures against them; rather, it uses the imaginative medium of the television serial to present the viewers with an urban ecological project, the so-called “Hamsterdam” experiment. Major Colvin implements this program in his district with regard to rising crime rates on his street corners with the aim to move the drug trade away from the populated neighborhoods into three designated areas which are solely adjoined by vacant houses. In this area, the open selling and consump-

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tion of drugs is legalized, whereby the police are set up on the perimeters of the areas, ensuring that no violent crimes are committed (Klein 2009, 181–182). When the officers protest, because they fear an escalation of criminal behavior as a result of this policy, he further explains to shut down the areas and arrest the dealers when they do not expect it later on. Yet, Colvin’s main aim is not so much crime fighting as its reduction and prevention within communities by narrowing it down geographically and spatially. The plan implies the idea that the street corners of the populated areas will be made safe again and a new quality of life will be ensured there, since the vast majority of drugs are taken away and the gangs do not have to fight for market territory anymore. As he elaborates in another speech to his officers, his district once faced a similar situation when it banned the consumption of alcohol in public places and how a “compromise” was found that allowed the consumption as long as the bottles were wrapped in a brown paper bag (Williams 2011, 224). An implicit argument of his speech is that the urban streets and corners are not criminal areas per se, but that political decisions and “the law” determine what kind of activities and actions there are to be deemed illegal, sanctioning public life, and controlling urban space. Although these substances contribute in making space and bodies toxic, the way in which to treat them does not have to be via law enforcement, but becomes another issue altogether: one of public health. Another implicit argument, then, is to eradicate the criminal elements of the drug trade by their supervised and guided legalization—a strong and controversial claim to make which is, in consequence, explored at length in The Wire, where the drug dealers are, after a few failed attempts finally moved into the “free zones” which come to be, in an allusion to the Dutch city Amsterdam and its liberal drug laws, called “Hamsterdam” (Clandfield 2009, 43). While this storyline about drugs and law enforcement is dealt with extensively in the course of the series and different perspectives and experiences are presented—from the police commissioner to the drug dealers on the corners to their worn out users—Colvin’s counter discourse, his “Hamsterdam” experiment is dealt with in a way that transcends all discourse and that makes apt usage of the film medium itself: It is mainly in visual images that the story of “Hamsterdam” is told and that its possible merits and its problematic miscalculations are explored. The Wire thereby takes on a dialectical perspective: From episode six of the third season onwards, it depicts how crime steadily decreases in the inner city neighborhoods and how Hamsterdam turns into a literal drug swamp. Thus, it presents us with two opposing ecological environments that cannot exist without the other, but that exclude each other at the same time: The street corners remain healthy as long as drugs and drug-related crime stay out of them and Hamsterdam will only continue to function as long as it is kept hidden from the outside environment, since it is a project that is neither sanctioned by politics nor the police

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department. Therefore, Hamsterdam can be seen as a radical intervention into Baltimore’s urban ecology: by taking one of its overarching ingredients, the all-consuming force of the circulating drugs, and limiting it to secluded areas where it unfolds ever more powerfully and with gruesome effects, it, at the same time, clears most of the neighborhoods of the toxic substances and their accompanying symptoms. It is a complex operation, because it harbors different results whose real outcomes and ethical implications are hard to counterbalance with one another. The more so, as the series does not judge Colvin’s experiment, but leaves the viewer with the responsibility of judging it. The dialectical approach to Hamsterdam is developed slowly, but firmly: Once the dealers are moved to the “free zones,” the streets of Baltimore have changed their appearance. There are numerous scenes which take in the corners, where the dealers used to stand, advertising their vials loudly and aggressively and/or facing off with the police, which have now turned into lived environments in every sense of the word—the sixth episode is a good example of this shift: The beginning sees West Side cops brutally emptying the corners of drug crews that have thus far refrained from taking their stash to Hamsterdam, while the images after the opening credits present the viewer with a spectacular transformation—overnight, these streets have changed their character from a drug-infested crime scene into a buoyant neighborhood, swarming with activity, kids at play, and people enjoying their leisure. Where they were once concerned for their safety and well-being, they now have time for recreation and for the care of themselves and their surroundings. As Major Colvin points out in a later episode, when he is walking through the Western District with the Deacon and shows him what was once one of the worst drug corners in Baltimore: “Those aren’t touts you’re hearing, brother. Those are birds chirping” (3.8). Touts is a slang word for the dealers advertising audibly their drugs on a street corner, and points to the way in which this environment had been occupied and contaminated before, while the street has grown peaceful and quiet now so that even birds are heard singing again. Again, this helps to underline the forceful ecological, not only criminal, impact of drugs. The Wire does not stop here, of course—quite the contrary: These idyllic urban images are vehemently confronted with the images from Hamsterdam, where an epidemic of drugs is raging. Its magnitude is for the first time made fully visible in the seventh episode, when Bubbles walks into Hamsterdam at night with his “whitey sale” cart—the scene is one of the most memorable and darkest sequences of the entire series: For almost four minutes, the camera follows Bubbles as he makes his way through Hamsterdam slowly, clearly being surprised and eventually shocked at what he sees. The barely lit street is crowded with dealers and addicts: On the sidewalk, a fist fight has broken out between two teenagers, people who can barely stand are stagger-

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ing across the street, someone is walking around with syringes, while another one is openly shooting heroin on the steps of a vacant house. The scenes are appalling, but they are also stylized in a way that reminds the viewer of a zombie or horror film, with the dark, foggy streets, swarming with people who are gaunt and clearly sick, walking around confused and disoriented. A distance is thereby created by the aestheticization of the surroundings, which points at the same time to the poor living conditions and disease in that place: There is no electricity so that only a few candles stand in the windows which are also used to dissolve heroin in spoons, while it becomes clear that there are no sanitary facilities available. The camera then switches to a fight that has broken out in the street and which is broken up by police officers who only enter the scene now. In a side alley they are watching from their cars. Officer Carver is the one policeman who is working to effectuate Colvin’s plan most energetically, even going as far as trying to cover up a murder in Hamsterdam later on. Yet, even he has his doubts and problems with the implementation of the Hamsterdam project, as he makes clear when he is watching the scenery the next morning. To him, there are too many children running around that are no longer needed by the drug dealers as “lookouts” or “runners.” As his fellow Officer Hauk puts it, “It’s like one of those nature shows. Mess with the environment, some species get fucked out of their habitat.” Hauk, who also compares the addicts and drug slingers rummaging through Hamsterdam to a “bunch of animals,” means his comment to be derogatory, but it points to the inherent complexity that the project has set in motion, namely a radical change within the drug networks themselves which have to operate differently, once they are allowed to sell “legally.” This points to one of the most problematic facts of the drug trafficking, namely that it can be, in a marginalized area of high unemployment and lack of perspective, a major source of income. 33 Therefore, the Hamsterdam experiment not only visualizes the horrendous force of drugs once they are sold unrestricted in a small geographical space, but also problematizes how deep the drug economy is rooted in Baltimore. In consequence, Hamsterdam can be seen, on a meta-layer, as a small scale imaginative experiment in urban ecology that harbors enormous effects—positive as well as negative—for a big community. And it illustrates the multifold ways in which material substances, space, and people interact in an urban environment—or, as McNeilly describes one of the Hamsterdam sequences: It “lays out a human geography, a tangle of fleeting, fluid interactions, among a plurality of people and perspectives, moving like molecules within a contained chaos” (McNeilly 2009, 207). Thus, while Hamsterdam cannot be said to mirror reality, it nevertheless becomes an organic, albeit flawed microcosm and one of the most fascinating aspects of The Wire’s urban ecology. That his project is flawed is made painfully clear to Colvin early on, when he discovers that the effects of a concentrated emission of drugs in a relative-

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ly small and practically lawless urban area have not been taken into account with all implications beforehand. Major Colvin may have had good intentions when initiating the project with regard to his district at large, but he seems unable to cope with the problems Hamsterdam poses on another level—one that the Deacon points to when he is invited to visit the area together with Colvin. He tells him that he has created “a great village of pain and you’re the mayor. Where’s your drinking water? Where’s your toilets, your heat, your electricity? Where’s the needle truck, the condom distribution, the drug treatment intake?” (3.8). The Deacon’s words have great metaphorical impact, since they point to the fact that although Colvin has recognized that the drug trade is not just a criminal, but an ecological issue which concerns the district, he has nevertheless failed to take the necessary steps to bring about a real change: His district may be a complex environment which sees a wide variety of different entanglements of life processes, but so is Hamsterdam, which becomes an ecological system with its own dynamics. The Wire makes a strong point in showing how the unrestricted emission of drugs in one tightly circumscribed area turns it into a toxic space and into an urban wasteland in no time, since it infests the bodies of the drug users and is connected to a lot of diverse problems like hygiene, nourishment, and disease. In his personal legalization of drugs, Colvin may have been successful in taking away its criminal element—or most of it—but he has underestimated the drugs per se and the aspect which The Wire lays open in general through its depiction of the Hamsterdam experiment: That drugs are, above all, an (urban) health issue which demands steps and measures that far exceed crime prevention. In this context, the Deacon’s questions can be read as a list of the things that Hamstderdam lacks in order to make it liveable for the drugs users and dealers as well and it implicitly includes a program which would turn it into a place that does not jeopardize the health of the people that move in it, but that would be a chance of enhancing and promoting it. At first, he points to the bare necessities of life that have to be provided in order to account for the basic needs of its dwellers, above all, clean water and sanitary facilities. Secondly, he indicates the trans-corporeal force of the drugs by evoking the dire need of drug treatment, of AIDS-testing and containment and the allconsuming nature of the substances that have turned the place into a drug swamp which can easily undermine the positive effects of the Hamsterdam project, since it enhances drug-related diseases which can easily spread out across the spatial limits and can fall back on the wider community Colvin tries to save in the first place. Hamsterdam can, in this sense, be read as an imaginative symbol of the multilayered inter-relatedness of the drug trade, city space, and ensuing health issues, which changes shape in the course of the Deacon’s thoughtful words: from a place which seeks to cast out the drug users and their dealers from the community in order to save it from them, it

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becomes a place of public health care, as a chance of reaching out to them. Later in the same episode discussed above, mobile stations for drug treatment, for food and condom distribution and AIDS-testing are set up in Hamsterdam, turning it into an experiment in environmental health. Yet, before this experiment is allowed to fully unfold, a newspaper reporter of the Baltimore Sun is tipped off by a dissatisfied policeman and is ready to run a story on Hamsterdam. Colvin is able to persuade the reporter to hold his story a little while longer, but is, in consequence, forced to lay open his experiment at a COMSTAT meeting in front of his superiors. His presentation, where he also shows photos of the street corners that are now devoid of drug dealers and can cite a an overall decrease in crime (3.10), sets off a chain reaction in whose course Colvin is suspended and the brain trust of the police department and the mayor’s office meet in order to discuss further steps in dealing with Hamsterdam. Thus, the last third of Season Three of The Wire relocates the Hamsterdam experiment on a political level, imaginatively exploring the discourses it would incite and the public reactions it would provoke. The eleventh episode begins with a representative argument between the city’s officials which makes clear that there are two opposing discourses at play when it comes to Hamsterdam (3.11): The people who advocate it, perceive it as a chance of promoting public health measures, treating drug users as patients instead of perceiving them as criminals. On the other hand, those who oppose it, like the mayor’s assistant and state delegate Watkins point to its problematic legal standing which is in stark contrast to the U.S. policy of drug prohibition based on a crude nontolerance approach and rigid law enforcement. Mayor Royce, who welcomes the decrease in crime, seeks to locate himself in-between, pondering how to use the statistics as a political argument to bargain with. His aim is to find “some middle ground,” from where to rethink the city’s drug problems and the way to tackle them in a manner that will not allow others to conclude that they “are not a law and order administration.” What is made clear in this storyline of The Wire is that as long as the legal status of drugs is not called into question, there is no leeway for administrations to come up with programs that take account of the specific situations of the drug traffic and the drug users according to what is needed in each city. The mayor’s words implicitly point to the need for a reform of drug prohibition in a flexible way that recognizes the benefits that come from public health measures which reach out to drug users as part of a community and a tolerance policy that eliminates some of the major variables of drug-related crime like smuggling, fights over territory, and bribery. While the city’s health commissioner is in favor of such an approach, he nevertheless warns the mayor that if he stands by this policy “they’ll be calling you the most dangerous man in America.” Thereby the health commissioner reveals another facet of America’s flawed “War on Drugs” which is not only connected to political rhetoric and govern-

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ment policies alone, but that reaches far deeper, since it has turned into an ideology that leaves no room for compromise and that has itself fashioned this “war” in a way that will not allow political leaders to refrain from their long-standing guidelines without losing face. Thus, The Wire argues that America’s “War on Drugs” has been maneuvered into a predicament which is a factual problem on the one hand, since no strategies have been found that will allow an effective drug containment in the near future, as much as it is an ideological one on the other hand, because it is intertwined with a discourse of exclusion that leaves no room for the negotiation of such strategies at all. Before Mayor Royce and his staff can further consult on how to properly deal with the situation at hand, two councilmen go public with the Hamsterdam project in order to build their respective election campaigns on what comes soon to be seen as the city’s flawed attempt to deal with crime properly. 34 The U.S. deputy drug czar, Mr. Thomas, visits Mayor Royce and unequivocally declares that Baltimore will get less governmental and federal support, if it does not ultimately end all efforts of reform regarding its drug policy and adds that “any attempt to establish a geographic entity where drugs are legal” (3.12) will not be tolerated. While this invokes the crude drug prohibition approach once again and describes the Hamsterdam project and possible counter measures in legal terms, Mayor Royce does not even intend to recur to his former considerations of going along with it. Like this, the multifold implications and propositions of the Hamsterdam project are, in the end, bypassed in the political and public discourse which renders it not as an environmental or complex ecological experiment, but as an aberration and personal failure of Major Colvin. Instead of perceiving Hamsterdam as a chance of rethinking the approach of law enforcement, it becomes a political argument itself, one that is incorporated into the discourse it set out to undermine in the first place. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the speech of the sneaky and slick Councilman Thomas Carcetti (Alff 2009, 26), who was also responsible for its end and who is willing to use it for his own agenda, making use of a crude “War on Drugs” rhetoric in his own speeches (3.12). Although Carcetti prepares his own electoral campaign and critiques the current administration’s politics as insufficient in the face of depopulation, underemployment, and drug-related crime, he does not offer any solutions to the city’s inherent problems. He may be quick to recognize the grievances that plague the environment of the city, but he is ignorant of Colvin’s Hamsterdam experiment as an effective and, in the end, ecological approach that took, in due course, account of the complex urban networks and their spatial and material entanglements. Rather, he discounts Colvin’s initiatives as “despair,” which has no place in his political agenda that is, again, based on demagogic radical rhetoric that renders the problems as a “war” that has to be fought, re-enacting the divisions that split the city into abstract categories of

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good and bad, winners and losers, without acknowledging the fragile entanglements that make up its core and without providing any alternative program that would offer any concrete steps toward eradicating the nuisances he eloquently evokes. 35 In sum, Hamsterdam can be interpreted as one of the main counter discourses of The Wire and an undeniable high point of the series, which literally makes up the middle ground, from which Baltimore’s complex urban ecology is explored. With the demolition of the Franklin Terrace Towers, Season Three imaginatively re-enacts a historical event, while the Hamsterdam experiment becomes a fictional intervention into the complex interrelated inner-city area, which seeks to reimagine the drug trade as a public health problem that requires alternative measures to law enforcement strategies and aggressive drug prohibition. While the public discourse on the “War on Drugs” is repeatedly taken up in the course of the season and tackled from various perspectives, the television medium is aptly used in depiciting the effects of Hamsterdam visually. Thereby, the viewer is slowly drawn into the story and has to bring into question what he/she sees. The last scene of the third season is indicative of this: The vacant row house neighborhood, where Hamsterdam was set, has been torn down—much like the Towers in the beginning—with only big piles of debris and dust left behind. A knocked over “AIDS testing” sign is the only thing that attests to the public health experiment that had been going on here. As a now retired Colvin stands at the crossroads and pensively looks upon the ruins before him, Bubbles, who is rummaging the area for aluminum that he can sell off later on, steps beside him. Pointing at the area, Colvin asks him: “Was a good thing, huh?” Bubbles, cautious, does not reply to his question (Klein 2009, 183). But his presence also reminds the viewer for whom Hamsterdam was designed in the first place, as a way of decriminalizing drug use and of reaching out to addicts as patients instead of criminals. Hamsterdam may be flawed, but it remains The Wire’s most powerful statement with regard to public and environmental health and to one of the most pressing concerns of major cities today. 36 CONCLUSION In 2002, different television stations in Baltimore showed a remarkable four minute clip: 37 It tracked a young boy as he makes his way through the innercity of Baltimore at night. As the camera pans along barely lit streets, deserted side alleys, adjoined by boarded up vacants and street corners, where the drug trade pulses, the boy says in a voice-over: “My grandma says that everybody together was one big flame. And everyone’s a part of it. I don’t know if that’s true. But I know there’s a fire in me. Something nobody can put out.” The camera takes in drug dealers, homeless people without shelter,

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drug users that are lying on doorsteps, while the boy tellingly comments: “You can’t get away from it.” The clip finally shows a crime scene, where the boy’s sister was shot, leaving him to rummage through the urban world alone with barely any chance of escape. Then, a male voice is heard: “The people of Baltimore are in a fight. A fight for the future of the city. . . . We all know drugs have been killing this community. What will it take to make us stand together and say: ‘Enough’?” The video ends with a short, but unequivocal request, to “BELIEVE.” The clip marked the beginning of the campaign of the same name which was initiated by the city administration of then-mayor O’Malley and financed by local businesses. It was meant to rattle awake Baltimoreans “to believe” that change and a turnaround for their city was possible, if they were willing to acknowledge the problems they were facing, instead of looking the other way, and to actively participate in the communal challenge of withstanding the powerful surge of drugs sweeping over the city. It was an emphatic political statement, but also a controversial one, based on a rhetoric that aimed at raising awareness and a community spirit, without introducing new effective and practical measures in this “fight” for the future of the city. Commentators have dissented on the effects of the “Believe” campaign, since the “fight” that it evokes is far from over, but will require more political initiatives reaching out to the community as a whole, if it is to be successful. 38 Only a few months after the “Believe” ad first ran on Baltimore’s networks, Season One of The Wire made its premier on HBO and could be perceived as a long and unforgiving elaboration and meditation on the issues introduced in the video clip. However, whereas the latter was shot as part of a political campaign and became the visual container of political rhetoric, The Wire had other intentions: By making use of the depragmatized medium of the television series, it set out to reflect on multifold aspects of Baltimore’s city space and city life in order to capture the raw essence of the urban experience at the dawn of a new millennium. Of course, it would be misleading to interpret The Wire as a depiction of American urbanity in general, since it is—in its aesthetics, its language, its characters, and its stories—very much rooted in Baltimore and projects an urban microcosm that will harbor different interpretations and connotations on locals and people (or viewers) outside of Baltimore. Yet, I would argue that the world of The Wire stands for certain aspects of urban life which are rarely portrayed in other cultural— and political—representations of American cities: First of all, the setting itself is crucial, since a city like Baltimore is no ordinary location for movies or television series in general—as David Simon himself has put it, Baltimore may not be a classical locale for the filming of a high-quality TV series, since it does not possess the representative buildings, architectural landmarks, or cultural institutions like the big American metropolises (Hornby 2009, 388);

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yet, what is also argued is that The Wire’s depiction of Baltimore comes to reflect on a different kind of city, “the second-tier city,” the symptom of a cultural and social shift which has taken place over the last few decades and whose effects are now painfully apparent in once-almost-great cities all over the country: The deindustrialization, depopulation, and suburbanization that have noticeably transformed the city spaces which are now marked by deserted factory buildings, vacant row houses, and community centers devoid of life. In this sense, The Wire tracks and records a slow process of decay whose effects many urban areas have felt and still struggle to come to terms with—also in the face of economic recession and an ensuing lack in government spending and funds. Thus, The Wire becomes a cultural artifact which is not only concerned with the mere documentation of a specific contemporary urban geography, but which aspires to make a powerful political statement. As Simon himself states in the same interview: “We are of the other America or the America that has been left behind in the post-industrial age” (385). The Wire is a television series which does not so much demand to be seen, but rather sets out to make see. In its minutely detailed portrayal of Baltimore’s inner-city, it presents the recipients with images of “the America left behind,” of city spaces that have turned into urban wastelands, where social cohesion has long lost its foundations and an impoverishment has set in not only in interpersonal, but also in cultural terms. Yet, in this context, The Wire is not solely concerned with a cultural critique aimed at the striking absence of cultural representations of city spaces like Baltimore, or Detroit, or Philadelphia in the dominant discourse and directed against failed government initiatives like the meritless demolition of housing projects or the ignorant negligence of the struggling industrial workforce for the benefit of tourist attractions; its critique is also aimed at cultural representations of American urbanity per se, which concerns both their content and their aesthetic. David Simon compares their respective interplay to a “tour guide” or “travelogue”: There are two ways of travelling. One is with a tour guide. . . . You take a snapshot and move on, experiencing nothing beyond a crude visual and the retention of a few facts. The other way to travel requires more time—hence the need for this kind of viewing: to be a long-form series. . . . [I]f you . . . open yourself up to a new place and new time and new people, soon you have a sense of another world entirely. We’re after this: making television in that kind of travel, intellectually. Bringing those pieces of America that are obscured or ignored or otherwise segregated from the ordinary and effectively arguing their relevance and existence to ordinary America. (396)

In the way that The Wire is told—how it turns the city space into a storied place by drawing on local (hi)stories, by the constant change of perspective, by the careful exploration of the interaction of inhabitants and their environ-

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mental surroundings, and by the complex disclosure of the intra-actions of the material dimension of urbanity—it has completely altered and expanded the way in which television series are made. What The Wire has contributed to this trend specifically is the way in which it has used the potentialities of the medium in order to lay out an entire and complex urban geography which has thus far been absent from the dominant cultural discourse and has reintegrated its images and voices into the public consciousness. “To be sure,” as Chaddah and Wilson rightfully point out, “The Wire does not provide a comprehensive portrayal of the various complex dimensions of life in the inner city” in all its breadth—they quote the “influx of immigrants” that continues to “reshape urban America” and that is not thematized in the series (Chaddah/Wilson 2011, 187); however, they also underline another aspect which once again reveals The Wire’s merits as an imaginative medium: “The show demonstrates the interconnectedness of systematic urban inequality in a way that can be very difficult to illustrate in academic works” (166). As Linda Williams puts it: “The dramatic voices of characters from across the spectrum of Baltimore life are dispersed in a multi-sited ethnographic imaginary where serial melodrama can show us, in a way sociologists and ethnographers cannot, how much ‘all the pieces matter’” (Williams 2011, 226). In laying open this “interconnectedness” of urban life by depicting how “all the pieces” inter- and intra-act in the city space, how they make up the complex microcosm that is Baltimore, The Wire makes use of what I have referred to as an ecological way of seeing or storytelling. It challenges notions of the inner-city as a radical urban other by tracing the various processes that have led to its decline and its transformation into places with extraordinarily high percentages of drug abuse and violent crime, which make clear that these grievances are not just a local phenomenon, but are interlaced with broader, far-reaching networks and can be seen as the products of flawed (environmental) policies. The latter aspect is especially made apparent in the discussion of America’s “War on Drugs” which is based on a crude and radical ideology that criminalizes narcotic substances. The Wire’s counter discourse aims at introducing the high influx and consumption of drugs in the inner-city areas as a public health issue that demands other measures than an approach of law enforcement which is ignorant of the wider social contexts and complex communities in which the drug trade takes place. Hence, The Wire traces the marks that the drugs have left on the urban environment and how they have turned the space and the bodies moving in it into “toxic” ones, where the overexposure to certain toxic materials is painfully counterbalanced by the lack of access to other material and social dimensions of life (food, electricity, education). In presenting the viewers with these aspects of inner-city life that are often mis- or underrepresented in public discourse and by telling the stories of the Stringer Bells, Wallaces, and Bubbles floating through the urban spaces, The Wire’s urban ecology can be seen as a power-

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ful cultural ecological project. Watching The Wire, we “are learning,” as David Simon has put it, “about a city that matters” (Simon 2009a, 31). NOTES 1. In this instance, a tension is again created between the life in the park and the life on the streets of Baltimore, because Reginald Cousins gets his nickname “Bubbles” for his habit of forming little bubbles of spit around his mouth when he is high. 2. The comparison between the city as an “abstraction” and as “lived environment” is Speidel’s (2009). 3. On this aspect, especially on the comparison of The Wire with other “cop shows” see Speidel 2009. 4. In fact, The Wire has especially been used for sociological studies and analysis. Cf. Hsu 2010, 510, the article by Chaddha/Wilson (2011) and the critical response by Warner 2011. 5. On the ethnographic impulse in the work of David Simon, see Williams 2011. 6. For the exact numbers and further information see Lanahan 2008, 24–25, Alff 2009, 30, and Eschkötter 2012, 13. 7. On David Simon’s work as a reporter see also Williams 2011, 210–211. 8. One of the main arguments of Simon’s and Burns’s work that they also came back to in The Wire is that the drug trade is to be perceived both as a spatial and an economic issue (Simon/Burns 2010, 610): Although drugs are brought into the inner-cities by gangs and criminal organizations from the outside and are sold there to people from the suburbs or even the country, it is inner-city communities that have to carry much of the weight of drugtrafficking and that, in turn, become stigmatized in the public perception and the political sphere. That is why America’s drug problem is often falsely perceived to be an issue solely connected to black inner-city districts, when it is, in fact, a widespread, social phenomenon, which exploits the poor living conditions and economic situations of urban areas. 9. As American novelist Richard Price, who is also part of the creative writing staff of The Wire, has described Simon’s approach, he literally “pitches a tent” in the areas he likes to study, where he is, in turn, “a great collector and interpreter of facts” (Price 2009, xi). Yet, as Price readily admits, there is more to Simon’s work, a facet which makes clear that it may not be enough to simply term it “ethnographic,” for, in describing the street scenes and stories, Simon follows “an endless quest for some kind of urban Ur-Truth” (xi). 10. It is a subscriber-based premium cable television network which does not impose the same strict rules and regulations on its shows as other networks have to do. For instance, the latter depend on commercial breaks during their shows, which have to be paused while they are on the air (often more than once) and that have to fit neatly into pre-structured time slots. 11. That might be one of the primary reasons why The Wire was not a big success when it ran from 2002 to 2008, but rather became a hit when it was released on DVD, because this medium allowed viewers to watch the episodes back-to-back. As Mark Bowden comments on this aspect: “It isn’t seen as a template for future TV-dramas, primarily because its form more or less demands that each season be watched from the beginning” (2008, 51). 12. As Simon puts it: “The first thing we had to do was teach folks to watch television in a different way, to slow themselves down and pay attention, to immerse themselves in a way that the medium had long ago ceased to demand” (Simon 2009a, 3). 13. David Simon has actually himself referred to The Wire as a “televised novel.” On the novelistic nature and approach of the series see also Lanahan 2008, 24, Hanson 2012, 204, Nannicelli 2009, 192, and Jagoda 2011, 199. Much of the analysis centers around formal aspects that see literary structures at work: Klein detects a “melodramatic” (2009, 177), Marshall and Potter an “epic” (2009, 9), La Berge a “realist” (2010, 550), and Love a “tragic” (2010, 487) mode at work. The latter aspect is an obvious reference point, because Simon has famously stated that he was heavily drawing on ancient Greek tragedy in the conception of his urban drama (Hornby 2009, 384; Love 2010). 14. On the televisual aspects see Eschkötter 2012, 30, and La Berge 2010, 550.

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15. Apart from Simon and Burns, these writers include Richard Price (Clockers), Dennis Lehane (Mystic River), George Pelecanos (The Night Gardener), and former Baltimore Sun journalists Bill Zorzi and Rafael Alvarez (Hornby 2009, 383). 16. As Simon himself notes, “the story is labeled as fiction, which is to say we took liberties in a way that journalism cannot and should not. Some of the events depicted in the 60 hours of The Wire actually occurred, a few others were rumored to have occurred. But many of the events did not occur, and perhaps the only distinction worth making is that all of them could have happened—not only in Baltimore, but in any major American city contending with the same set of problems” (Simon 2009a, 29). 17. On the title of the series, The Wire, see also Eschkötter 2012, 32–33. For an analysis of the “panoptic techniques” used in the series see McMillan 2008. 18. The Wire: The Complete Series (New York: HBO Video, 2002–2008), season 3, episode 1, i.e., 3.01. Similarly all subsequent citations from the series in text refer in the same form to the respective season and episode. 19. The political rhetoric of Mayor Royce does not only reflect flawed initiatives of dealing with crime problems, but is connected to a self-fashioning and sloganing of the city that has been ongoing for decades and that has often done more harm to its reputation than good. Baltimore’s former mayor Martin O’Malley, who now serves as Maryland’s governor, has, in a much satirized campaign, called Baltimore “The Greatest City in America”(Alff 2009, 26). While these slogans aim at improving Baltimore’s self-image and boosting its public image, they often point to deeper inherent problems that the administrations have been unable to deal with on a systematic level. 20. Thus, Avon Barksdale is based on Little Melvin Williams, one of Baltimore’s most notorious drug dealers who controlled a large part of the drug trade in the city in the 1960s and 70s and was, in fact, arrested by the series’s co-author Ed Burns. The arrest, which was accomplished with a prolonged wiretap investigation became the case on which the entire first season was modeled (Neal 2010, 405). Yet, the re-creation of Baltimore’s past does not stop here for The Wire, since Williams was integrated into the series after he was released from prison by casting him as a deacon and community builder for Seasons Three to Five. As Alvarez notes, this was not welcomed by a lot of Baltimoreans, “who found it the ultimate and perverse glorification of a drug lord responsible for countless deaths” (Alvarez 2009, 50). 21. There are more examples of the casting of real life persons for specific roles in The Wire. For example, homicide detective Jay Landsman, whom Simon wrote about in Homicide, was cast for the role of Denis Mello, while there is also a Jay Landsman in the series, played by Delaney Williams (Herbert 2012, 197). On Pearson see also Marshall/Potter 2009, 11 and LoLordo 2009, 358–359. On the casting see also Eschkötter 2012, 14. 22. That is one of the reasons why The Wire is very difficult to understand—even for native speakers. The different vernaculars and idioms are repeatedly orchestrated in the series and are also used to render the misunderstandings between people in different social strata. Accordingly, the slogan for Season One read “Listen carefully.” Hanson 2012, 203–207. 23. Marlo Stanfield, who rises up to be the leading drug lord in Baltimore in Seasons Four and Five, for instance, distributes money to children in the streets and finally recruits the troubled Michael through his hitman Chris, which again evokes the sense that the gangs come to be substitutes for a lacking family life. Moreover, many scenes involve older criminals or drug users “schooling” young ones for the life on the streets. 24. In a classic scene, D’Angelo, the cousin of drug lord Avon Barksdale, explains the inner-workings and hierarchies of the drug trade with pawns on a chess board (1.3). 25. Particularly in Season Four, this is made apparent by Marlo Stanfield’s drug crew who hide corpses of their murder victims away in the vacants. Randy, a young boy growing up in this area, tells his friends that they turn them into “Zombies” who are subsequently roaming the streets at night. Although his story is a child’s way of making sense of the many deaths, it also hints at the feeling of suspense that is connected to the vacants which make parts of the innercity seem like a ghost town (4.5). Cf. also Clandfield 2009, 41. 26. This is reflected on in a memorable scene, where Detective “Bunk” Moreland meets up with Omar, who is himself not involved in the drug trade, but who robs drug dealers, and

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accuses him that, although he purports to follow a strict moral code, he is part of the escalating violence in the area (2.6). 27. Sheehan and Sweeney analyze these divisions between city spaces (and class) also with regard to the visual style of the series: “The series’ visual style highlights social structure. For example, image construction often shows lives constricted by confining spaces, which are then depicted in relation to the larger environment surrounding them” (Sheehan/Sweeney 2009). Cf. also Hsu 2010, 513–514 and especially Speidel’s (2009) convincing analysis of the division of city space in The Wire. On the experience of violence as a factor in growing up, see Chaddah/ Wilson 2011, 184. 28. Marlo Stanfield and his gang usually train shooting in the forest. Michael takes his friend Dukie to practice there as well. When Detective Freamon starts to look for the bodies of the murder victims of Stanfield’s gang, the first place he searches are the woods. In a comic scene in Season Three, police officers drive drug dealers into the forest at night as a warning that they should leave their corners. They let them out in a deserted spot, telling them laughingly that they should use the stars for orientation. 29. Bubbles is usually seen living in vacants (or an abandoned garage in Season Four) together with a few fellow junkies that, except for old sofas or mattresses, do not offer too much comfort. In order to finance his habit, he sells information to the police or often comes up with a plan to trick the drug dealers with risky maneuvers—one scene sees him stealing a bag of drugs with a fishing line from a rooftop. Thereby, he is torn between his addiction and his will to quit which is evoked powerfully in numerous scenes in the series. The physical and chemical dependency of his body on the drugs prevails over his intention to get clean most of the time, but it does not hamper his plan to work for his money without thieving or deceiving. Seasons Three and Four see him pushing a shopping cart through the streets of West Baltimore with a sign that reads “Bubble’s Depot” attached to the front, from which he sells T-shirts, discarded cellphones, food, or bootlegs. It is when one of his fellow addicts dies due to a fatal accident, that Bubbles tries, after an unsuccessful suicide attempt, to turn his life around. 30. “The bug” as an in-group slang word for the virus is used to render its agency, creeping process, and gives the impression of a life form permeating one’s organism and altering the overall state of one’s own material, physical presence. As such, it is closely connected to the other material processes within the urban environment, where one is ultimately exposed to the human and non-human substances inter- and intra-acting there. 31. Colvin advocates, in turn, a policing that is based on communication, on walking through the neighborhoods—as opposed to driving through them—and especially on getting to know the people who live there by name and by listening to their stories and concerns. It is an approach based on reciprocal cooperation as opposed to rigid conflict. 32. Accordingly, the vials that the dealers sell on the corners have speaking names: “Apocalypse,” “WMD,” “Pandemic” or, in fact, “Greenhouse Gas” (Jagoda 2011, 197). The names also invoke images of environmental destruction, comparing their effects to weapons, diseases, and chemical agents that inflict damage to their physical surroundings. 33. That has a far reaching effect on the community, because many children and teenagers are now literally unemployed, looking for an occupation—that is why Carver later sets up a basketball hoop where they can play, and even makes sure that the dealers keep paying them, although they do not have to put in any work. 34. The Wire thereby once again lays open the fictional quality of its imaginative experiment by presenting the viewers with camera teams who rush into Hamsterdam, taking in the area through the focus of the viewfinders, and by deploying some of the few instances of aerial shots from helicopters. In this way, the viewer is again invited to scrutinize what she sees and is confronted with the way in which the media’s reporting on this city space and its environment misses out on a lot of aspects that have been carefully developed before (Schröter 2012). Accordingly, the way in which the Hamsterdam experiment is made public and dissolved again calls into question, on a meta-layer, the way in which we perceive our cities through media and the narrow boundaries between reality and fiction. 35. Hence, Seasons Four and Five of The Wire minutely portray how his own policies, which basically mirror Royce’s administration, fail, while the inner-city drug trade grows ever more violent. It is in this sense that The Wire suggests, too, that the “War on Drugs” has already

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been “lost.” On Carcetti’s speech and further aspects of Hamsterdam see also Vest 2011, 184–190. 36. On the ending scene of Season Three see also Williams 2011, 225 and Warren 2011, 225. 37. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5nO99sKBhs (25.02.2013). 38. See, for instance, O’Malley’s statement (2012), who is now governor of Maryland in the Baltimore Sun, where he enthusiastically underlines the positive effects of the campaign.

Chapter Three

“The City that Care Forgot” The Complex Ecology of (Post-) Katrina New Orleans

After having dealt with general patterns of contemporary urbanism, this part of the book tries to take on a more general viewpoint by focusing on the most basic aspect of urban ecology: the physical setting of cities. Urban ecologies are characterized by a complex interplay of anthropogenic and natural factors. The human-built environment and the natural environment are agents that constantly interact and merge to make and re-make the physical and geomorphological conditions in which urban life takes place. Rather than constituting separate entities, they are to be seen as intricately related and overlapping spheres that form urban landscapes. For although urbanization has visibly altered (and continues to alter) the face of the Earth, it has always depended on geological and meteorological aspects that enhance or hinder urban growth. Humans have built dams and levees, diverted rivers or dried up lakes, but these human-engeneered landscapes have not changed the dependency of human settlements on the state of their natural surroundings. Rather than conceptualizing the urban as a hermetically sealed-off microcosm, urban ecology should therefore engage a new image of the city’s place in nature: Urban ecosystems continue to alter their surrounding ecosphere, but they are likewise changed by it. Nowhere is this fact more visible and makes itself felt with greater force and immediacy than during natural catastrophes: Earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, or volcanic eruptions continue to pose risks for human settlements worldwide. They have an agentic force that can easily turn urban landscapes into wastelands and make them uninhabitable for years to come. However, the term “natural” is misleading, since it conceals the human influences that have often played a part in the tragic outcomes of these events. The construction of human settlements in sur91

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roundings prone to earthquakes or near volcanoes is a conscious decision, while the physical alteration of riverbeds and marshlands is a typical feature of urban planning. All of these aspects enhance urban risk scenarios and are unevenly distributed across the space of a city. Looking at so-called natural catastrophes in urban environments means, in consequence, to trace the natural, technological, social, and political aspects that such events entail. It is in disaster scenarios that all elements of an urban ecology show themselves. The fact that it is cultural media that help to reflect on these aspects and the traumatizing effects of catastrophes helps to underline my main argument that culture, too, has to be seen as a central ingredient of urban ecology. In the following, Hurricane Katrina that led to the flooding of New Orleans in 2005 will be used as an example to illustrate and to further discuss these aspects. The complexity of the event and the manifold reactions it has provoked will thereby be seen as a distinctive feature of the urban ecology of the city itself. Hurricane Katrina uncovered the ways in which New Orleans is part of an ecosystem that has long been altered by human agency. The human built environment had transformed and destroyed the marsh- and wetlands as a natural barrier against storms for decades. Moreover, urban planning had neglected flood protection in the most vulnerable and poor segments of the city that were severely affected in the course of the storm. Failed urban environmental politics mixed with social marginalization and injustice to create the specific framework which allowed the storm to unfold with disastrous effects in the city space of New Orleans. Rather than being victim of a natural catastrophe, the urban ecology of New Orleans created the conditions that turned Hurricane Katrina into a traumatizing event for its population and enhanced the natural force of the storm by anthropogenic factors. Not only was the integration of the human built environment into the natural environment flawed, but it contributed one of the most disastrous effects to the catastrophe: the environmental pollution with household chemicals, pesticides, sewage, oil, and petroleum that has spread over New Orleans’s city space and its natural surroundings and which adversely affects the living conditions in Louisiana to the present day. Although Hurricane Katrina has long passed, its mental as well as physical effects are still present in the urban ecology of New Orleans. This chapter will explore some of the cultural media that have dealt with the catastrophe and that help to illustrate the complexity of the event in a way that both uncovers the manifold variables of New Orleans’s urban ecology and that questions official readings of the hurricane as a “natural catastrophe.” It will be shown that culture has functioned as a central balancing factor in the aftermath of the storm and has become, with its regenerating and self-renewing power, an active agent in the city’s ecology itself. That regeneration was necessary in the aftermath of the storm was still apparent months after the hurricane had hit with devastating effects: On

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December 11, 2005, 1 the New York Times issued an editorial article entitled “Death of an American City,” which began with a gloomy prophecy: “We are about to lose New Orleans. Whether it is a conscious plan to let the city rot until no one is willing to move back or honest paralysis over difficult questions, the moment is upon us when a major American city will die, leaving nothing but a few shells for tourists to visit like a museum.” As to this day, New Orleans has not perished, but is has clearly changed its appearance since it was devastated by Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005. Entire quarters that were wiped off the earth by the strong winds and the surge of the storm have yet to be rebuilt. Whole communities and families were dislocated and dispersed all over the country that have not returned—mostly, because they have nothing to return to. Other spaces in the city have turned into investment properties, giving way to new building projects and fancy apartment complexes. All the while, community builders and cultural activists have fought for their city, underlining the need of the displaced persons and the urban underclass that had little assistance in rebuilding their homes, as well as conserving a culture that they thought was in danger of vanishing along with the historic sites and places from which it had sprung. While New Orleans did not die in the course of Hurricane Katrina, it was badly deformed. When former U.S. president George W. Bush delivered an address to the nation from Jackson Square in the French Quarter of New Orleans seventeen days after disaster had struck, he promised that his government “will do everything it takes . . . to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives,” adding that “there is no way to imagine America without New Orleans,” and ultimately promising that “this great city will rise again.” 2 Considering the fact that the article quoted above was written three months after Bush had made his pompous speech casts a dark shadow over the effectiveness of the government’s efforts and its infrastructural initiatives that were largely confined to short-term interventions which were flawed and, for the most part, came too late; by the end of 2005, many people were wondering whether this “great city” had a future indeed. Ever since its establishment in 1718 by French settlers, New Orleans has featured prominently in America’s “social imaginary” (Berger/Cochran 2007) and cultural expressions. Commonly, the city is regarded as the birthplace of jazz music, famous for its “second line” parades and Mardi Gras processions. It has also been a tourist magnet, with its distinctive and diverse culture—a multiethnic blend of African American, European, Cajun, and Creole influences that has given rise to a rich and multifaceted culture where French opera has existed next to blues barns and where obscure traditions have been invented and performed, from Voodoo rituals to Jazz funerals; it is a place of swamps, riverboats, and streetcars named “Desire.” While these cultural aspects have always intersected with economic ones (Steinberg

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2008, 10–13; Simmons/Casper 2012, 676), they have also contributed to the popular image of New Orleans as the “Big Easy” (Sanyika 2009, 108). Another curious nickname of New Orleans is “the city that care forgot,” which evokes both the “carefree” attitude of its lifestyles and the severe social grievances that have taken on a new dimension since Hurricane Katrina (Simmons/Casper 2012, 676). In consequence, Godsil and Huang call New Orleans “a study in contradictions” marked, on the one hand by “its cultural distinctiveness, creative energy, architectural beauty, and good living,” and, on the other, by “its poverty rate, toxic environmental hazards, and crime” (Godsil/Huang/Soloman 2009, 115). By laying bare the latter aspects that were noticeably absent from the popular images of New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina has not only altered the city itself, but also its cultural significance. It has become synonymous with one of the largest natural disasters in recent history and has turned, in terms of the immense degree of poverty and discrimination that it uncovered, into an “internationally recognized signifier of national disgrace,” “of class and racial divisions” (Taylor 2010, 483). As these short remarks should make clear, New Orleans has occupied a prominent place in the cultural memory of the United States, while Hurricane Katrina has, as this chapter will show, radically altered the foundations on which this memory is based. One argument pursued in the following is that Hurricane Katrina’s cultural significance lies in the way in which it has transformed New Orleans’s urban ecology and has unearthed its “complex, interdependent environmental, economic and social systems” (Birch/Wachter 2006, 1). The ecological complexity of Hurricane Katrina begins with the difficulty of adequately characterizing it: First of all, it is commonly referred to as a natural disaster. On August 23, 2005, it formed over the Bahamas and quickly turned into one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes ever recorded, moving over Florida and regaining strength over the 90-degree waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Now a major Category Five hurricane, it was the third strongest storm to make landfall on the continental United States (Levitt/Whitaker 2009, 1–2; Steinberg 2008, 18), hitting Louisiana with a devastating impact and destroying “environments along a 90,000 square-mile area of the Central Gulf Coast” (Picou/Marshall 2007, 6; Dynes/Rodríguez 2007, 23). With wind speeds of approximately 200 km/h and a massive storm surge of up to 30 feet, it wrought havoc on the built environment and the natural ecosystem alike. 3 Although the storm had weakened to a Category Three hurricane by the time it came to New Orleans, most of the damage quoted above was caused in the city itself, since about “80 percent” of it was flooded (Sanyika 2009, 88). The ecosystem was affected just as severely due to “washed-away barrier islands, hundreds of millions of killed trees, and the submergence of marshlands” (Vallero/Letcher 2012, 224).

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When one takes into account the fact that much of the ensuing devastation was caused by human interactions with the natural environment and an alteration thereof, however, Hurricane Katrina takes on a different character: that of a “technological disaster” (Picou/Marshall 2007, 3). Cities are always places that are embedded in a natural environment, they are “environments in which humans transform and control nature” (Steinberg 2008, 6)—or, at least, try to “control” nature. In the case of New Orleans this has been a central concern since its establishment in the early 18th century, since most of its space is below sea level. A dense network of canals and levees has been constructed in order to safeguard the city from horrendous floods. 4 In the case of Katrina, this “flood-protection system in New Orleans failed in fiftythree different places” (Levitt/Whitaker 2009, 2) due, in part, to bad maintenance and inadequate standards that were also indifferent to the “gradual coastal erosion” (Miller/Rivera 2009, 1) that has been going on for a while and that has rid the city of some of its natural barriers, including coastal wetlands. While Hurricane Katrina can thus be perceived as a meteorological phenomenon and a force of nature, its effects were largely determined by human factors: by the transformation of natural into built environment and by human induced material agents that were used for agriculture, industry, oil drilling, and other cultural techniques, and that were dispersed by wind and water throughout the urban and natural ecosystem in Orleans Parish. The urban settlements of humans near oceans and other weather sensitive areas are thus a major factor—along with the human influence on meteorological phenomena—in turning a natural disaster into a technological and anthropological one. 5 In consequence, Picou and Marshall have defined Hurricane Katrina “as a natural-technological or ‘na-tech’ disaster” (Picou/Marshall 2007, 5). This idea of Hurricane Katrina as a “na-tech” disaster will be taken up as a central presupposition of this chapter and will be complemented by yet another dimension of the storm: its social one. As Swan and Bates point out, “the Hurricane Katrina event signifies much more than an environmental crisis, but instead epitomizes what we call a social disaster: a disaster predicated upon and exacerbated by structural inequality and human decisionmaking” (Swan/Bates 2007, 5). When Mayor Ray Nagin “declared a mandatory evacuation” for Orleans Parish on August 28, 2005, “nearly 20 percent” of the residents decided to stay in New Orleans and “to ride out the storm” (Penner/Ferdinand 2009, xv). Most of these came from the poor urban part of the population that was predominantly African American and that did not have access to vehicles needed for their flight. They either sought shelter in their attics, where many drowned, or went to the Superdome (and later the Convention Center) in New Orleans. The former alone gave shelter to as many as 30,000 people (xviii). In the Superdome as elsewhere, thousands

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were left on their own for days without the bare necessities of life and resources needed for survival. The situation was made ever more complex when, based on unfounded rumors and long-held stereotypes, the African American victims of the storm (xx) were turned into victimizers. 6 Some of the areas that were severely damaged or even destroyed by the storm like the Lower Ninth Ward were predominantly African American and poor, thus documenting the intricate connection between race and class on the one hand and “social vulnerability and the geography of environmental risks” on the other (Bullard/Wright 2009b, 1). This social dimension of the disaster continued in the aftermath of the hurricane, since many people suffer from shock, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorders that stem from the natural catastrophe and the failure to “implement an effective emergency preparedness and response plan” (3), as well as from “a temporary housing program” (Crowley 2006, 121) and tenuous reconstruction efforts. 7 In these terms, what turned Hurricane Katrina into a disaster in the first place was the way in which it was handled and administered by policy and decision makers. The complexity of Hurricane Katrina can thus be traced back to the way in which it affected the natural environment and the city space on the one hand and the way in which its impact was further enhanced by the social and environmental politics in this region on the other. There is, however, yet another aspect that makes it an interesting object of study for an inquiry about urban ecology: As Ishiwata notes, Hurricane Katrina, “in so far as it figured in the social imaginary, was a complex phenomenon that included its own forms of representation in media reports, official statements, political speeches, and popular culture” (Ishiwata 2011, 40). It was “the first hurricane to hit the United States to the accompaniment of continuous (24/7) television coverage,” so that, in the end, television and its “visual imagery” became “the frame of meaning to which audiences and decision makers came to understand Katrina” (Dynes/Rodríguez 2007, 24). 8 In this way, Hurricane Katrina turned into a “weather media event” (Fleetwood 2006) which portrayed the destruction of a major American city by the forces of nature in minute detail, rendering how the urban environment is itself embedded in a natural environment and vulnerable to outside influences, some beyond human control. The flooding of the city was accompanied by a “deluge of visual images” (Simmons/Casper 2012, 677) which captured its horrifying effects on the urban ecosystem and portrayed people stranded on their rooftops and at the Convention Center with no one to help them and no resources ensuring their survival. In consequence, Hurricane Katrina not only left behind tons of debris, but also a wide variety of audiovisual material documenting its effects and an overwhelming cultural outpour dealing with it and giving testimony to the fact that an urban ecology is the place where nature and culture meet.

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For this reason, I will, in the following, turn to various cultural products that found their way on screen in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, namely the non-fiction documentaries When the Levees Broke (2006) and Trouble the Water (2008) as well as the fictional HBO-series Treme (2010–2014). 9 They are suitable for analysis, because they make use of the same medium which communicated most of the information about Hurricane Katrina to a large audience, namely the television and film medium. As will be shown, the two documentaries incorporate visual excerpts from the news coverage on Hurricane Katrina, using them to render the impact of the storm and the televised sensational reporting that contributed to the stigmatization of its victims. By making use of a wide array of interviews of eye witnesses and survivors of the storm (especially in the case of When the Levees Broke) and of home video footage recording the flood (in the case of Trouble the Water) these documentaries can be seen as critical inquiries about the complex ecology of the hurricane and a counter discourse against failed environmental policies and discrimination. Moreover, they can also, in a time when many officials questioned the future of the city, be seen as an argument for New Orleans and its culture, portraying the cumbersome and brave reconstruction efforts at a grassroots level. The latter aspect is especially important for the television series Treme, which deals with the lives of survivors in the aftermath of the storm, focusing on their fight for a future in (and of) the city in the face of dysfunctional institutions and a badly executed rebuilding program. Centering its storylines primarily on the lives of artists (especially musicians), Treme can, above all, be perceived as a celebration and conservation of the city’s rich cultural heritage, arguing for the importance of New Orleans by drawing on the archive of the cultural memory and turning its deformed city space into a place that has to be preserved at all costs. The complex ecology of Hurricane Katrina will be examined, first, by outlining the material impact of the storm as it is depicted in When the Levees Broke and Trouble the Water. This is necessary for emphasizing the status of the city as a built environment situated in a larger ecosystem with which it has multifold and reciprocal interactions and for underlining the technological aspects of the disaster that oppose narratives that depict Katrina as a natural catastrophe. Second, the social aspects of the hurricane will be inquired into with the help of the two documentaries which convincingly investigate the flawed rescue and reconstruction initiatives and depict the intricate relation between city space, class, race, and (environmental) injustice. Third, the fictional HBO series Treme will be presented as an imaginative counter discourse in the aftermath of the hurricane, arguing for the vitality and significance of the city and its culture in the face of reconstruction and investment efforts negating its past. Furthermore, the documentaries and the television series will be seen as media of the cultural memory themselves, seeking to document the horrendous effects and causes of the disastrous

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hurricane, laying bare its multifold and complex strands, while, at the same time, making a statement for the city so that it may, in the end, rise from its ruins and be “a great American city” again. NATURE’S AGENCY AND THE CITY AS BUILT ENVIRONMENT IN WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE AND TROUBLE THE WATER The “Epilogue” to Spike Lee’s landmark documentary When the Levees Broke. A Requiem in Four Acts 10 includes a haunting sequence: Paul Trotter, a meteorologist of the National Weather Service, who works at the Weather Forecast Office in Louisiana, reads from the storm warning that was issued just a few hours before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. The text reads more like an account of an impending apocalypse than an ordinary storm warning, let alone a weather report. The magnitude and all-consuming power of the hurricane is rendered in a clear and plain language that leaves no doubt as to the force of the storm and explicitly predicts the damage that it will cause and the danger that the people and animals living in this area will be exposed to. It also describes the inevitable effect of the hurricane on the urban environment, rendering how it will transform the concrete buildings once built for shelter into traps and—when one takes into account the structures that will be carried away by the extreme winds—even weapons, how infrastructural power and water supply will break down, how the economy will stop working, and eventually, how nature will be affected—how trees will be ripped out of the earth and a nourishment by agriculture will be made impossible for an unforeseeable time, leaving the inhabitants without either a place to stay nor resources for their survival. It is a stark portrayal of the power of nature and the vulnerability of the urban ecology which is affected in its totality by the strong winds; it is also a true testament to the fact that city spaces are always built into a larger environment with which they reciprocally interact and to which they are, in turn, vulnerable. Cities not only transform nature into built environments, but are likewise transformed by the forces, by the agency of nature. In the following, this argument will be developed and explored by examining the way in which the power of Hurricane Katrina is depicted in the documentaries When the Levees Broke and Trouble the Water. It will be shown how the agency of nature, the winds and surge of the storm impacted the city of New Orleans and how its own built environment became an actant in the catastrophe, turning a meteorological event into a “natural-technological” (Picou/Marshall 2007, 5) disaster. While the weather report is certainly horrifying with regard to the effects of the hurricane that it predicts, its real meaning lies in the fact that it proved to be almost uncannily accurate. As Trotter reads aloud the lines from his storm warning, the sequence constantly switches between a close up of his

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face as he is pronouncing the words and a mixture of home video, television, and documentary footage from during and after the hurricane. Thereby, the pictures and film scenes are ordered in a way that they fall into synchronicity with the report, visualizing the horrendous power of the winds and the storm surge and giving testament to what they did to the city space of New Orleans. We see the overcast sky and driving rain before the silhouette of the city as gusts of wind are blowing through the deserted streets. In the next scene, the streets are already under water that pushes through them like a rapid stream. In the next cut, the camera pans along a destroyed neighborhood after the water has subsided, taking in the foundations of razed buildings, fallen trees, toppled power poles, and SUVs lying on their roofs—in one frame, a wooden house has even been blown on top of the hood of a car. The facades of skyscrapers are shattered, the walls of factories have crumbled, adding rubble to the enormous amount of debris piling up in the streets and on the sidewalks, turning a once vibrant city into a wasteland or gigantic garbage dump. It is in sequences like this that Spike Lee’s When the Levees Broke tries to capture the magnitude of the storm and the unbelievable degree of destruction it had caused in New Orleans, putting together a collage of previously unseen videos of eye witnesses that they recorded with camcorders as well as well-known and almost iconic television material in order to provide his viewers with a truthful and yet haunting account of the force of Hurricane Katrina. And although Lee’s When the Levees Broke makes apt use of footage displaying the ruins of New Orleans, it never exploits the catastrophe in a sensationalist or even voyeuristic manner, but rather seeks to trace the multifold and complex entanglements of environment, urban space, and politics in order to uncover the many dimensions and meanings of the storm that cannot be reduced to an anomaly of nature, but that encompasses the socio-historical, material, and imaginary “landscapes” of New Orleans (Miller/Rivera 2009). When the Levees Broke was shot in the aftermath of the storm and aired on the one year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on the HBO network (Doughty 2012, 257). What was initially intended as a two hour documentary, ended up a four-hour and four-parts long rumination on the causes and consequences of the storm (Aftab 2007, 45), digging deep into New Orleans’s long history of neglect of the underclass and discrimination against African Americans and racial minorities. In this sense, it is an angry documentary, but as its subtitle “Requiem” makes clear, it is, above all, a meditation on the enormous losses endured and on the painful human suffering connected to the storm. 11 When the Levees Broke examines the Katrina disaster from various perspectives without privileging one voice over another and documents a watershed moment in recent U.S. history through an oral history approach in visual form. And although the film “adopts a formal tone” with most of the “personal testimonies” and “interviews taking place in a studio”

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(Doughty 2012, 257), it nevertheless makes apt use of the television medium in its attempt to render the almost complete destruction of New Orleans, capturing the force of the hurricane and the disfigured corporeal city space, laying bare its vulnerability in the face of defective protection and failing levees. Part One of the documentary is almost entirely dedicated to the arrival of the storm and to the subsequent destruction of the city. As Callenbach points out, “each act begins with a sort of overture” (Callenbach 2007, 6) that “leads us along into the disaster carefully and thoroughly” (8): The first act begins with an aerial shot of New Orleans displaying its skyline against a clear blue sky and the wide Gulf of Mexico, introducing the built urban environment and expansion of the city, while, at the same time, indicating its wider geography and embeddedness into a wider ecosystem. The same is true for the various maps that are eventually incorporated into the film, displaying the structure of New Orleans. Some of these maps are taken directly out of meteorological weather forecasts from different television news channels days prior to the storm, in which the city of New Orleans, its surrounding landscape, as well as the Louisiana coastline and the Gulf of Mexico are depicted as a connected geography over which weather systems are constantly moving and shifting course. As these excerpts from the weather reports show, the enormous strength of the hurricane and its direction had been identified as early as August 26, while a mandatory evacuation was only issued two days later. The forecasts are a way of presenting the build-up of the storm, while the anxious anticipation among the population is rendered in interviews of New Orleans residents, most of whom did not leave their city— either because they did not have any means to leave or because they had gotten used, in the hurricane-prone geography of the place, to storm warnings, boarding themselves up in their homes, or making their way to the Superdome that had been opened (due to the lack of other facilities or structures strong enough to house many people and withstanding the powerful winds) as a last resort. One memorable scene from a news report entitled “Tracking Hurricane Katrina” shows one of the deserted downtown main streets of New Orleans, lined with street lamps and palm trees that are already swaying in the wind, while the reporter comments: “It actually looks a little eerie, seeing our city looking like this on a Sunday evening.” The documentary then cuts to a number of scenes depicting the early impact of the storm. To scenes recorded by handheld video cameras of pouring rain being driven through the deserted night streets by gusts of wind and looking like a translucent, watery veil covering the concrete and walls, while trees are swaying to the point of breaking. From off camera, some interviewees comment on the wind. As the former chief of the New Orleans Police Department, Eddie Compass, puts it, when he relates how the power of the wind let glass windows break: “That’s when you could see the true power of

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Mother Nature.” “Mother Nature” is thereby attributed a form of agency that far exceeds any man-made or human agency, since it affects the biosphere and the built environment alike and cannot be stopped. In this way, Hurricane Katrina is no longer a mere natural phenomenon or catastrophe, but in the retrospective narratives and in the news coverage, it becomes a “main character” (Monteith 2010, 477), an actant driven by her own impulse and acting on her own motivation. Comments like these can be understood as a way of incorporating the memories of the often inconsumable and traumatic memories of the storm into a coherent, meaningful narrative, framing Katrina as the main character of a horrifying event and endowing nature with its own destructive agency. All the while, film sequences help visualize the words, capturing the enormous gusts of wind that tear rainwater gutters off roofs and wooden sheds apart. The documentary also presents us with film material from inside the Superdome, recording how parts of the roof were damaged by the hurricane and rain started leaking into the arena. These scenes render the way in which the built environment of the city was transformed by the agency of nature, and human dwellings and shelters were, in a matter of hours, destroyed or badly transfigured by the storm. The worst damage, however, was inflicted by the surge that followed the powerful winds and that flooded more than 80 percent of New Orleans. Video footage from Monday, August 29, 2005, projects water masses flowing through the streets like a rapid stream and continually spreading and rising throughout the city space. As one onlooker points out, the masses of water were so overwhelming and the pressure of the surge was so high, that it led to the flooding of the canalization and sewer system, illustrating the fact that the city space is not only determined by the built constructions and street systems on the surface, but that there is a complex and intricate system of canals, sewers, and tunnels underneath it as well. Accordingly, the city space itself can be seen as a space in which there is a constant exchange and circulation of fluids and substances, especially of water and can itself be characterized as a “fluid terrain.” This is, of course, particularly true for a city like New Orleans that is embedded in a fluid landscape, in a network of canals, levees, and riverbeds. Thus water has been a constant agent, a vital resource, and a potential source of danger since the establishment of the city (Steinberg 2008, 17). On August 29, 2005, New Orleans was transformed into a waterscape, where many houses were literally drowned under up to 20 feet of water and the roofs of houses were sticking out of the surface like small islands on which many dwellers had retreated as a place of last resort. In this context, When the Levees Broke uses many aerial shots, especially from news helicopters in order to render this enormous transformation of the city space and the plight of the inhabitants who had no chance of escape, giving also testimony to the human scale of the disaster and to the traumatic experience that had so badly distorted the lived and built environment.

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The 2008 documentary film Trouble the Water 12 takes an even more personal and direct approach as it is centered around the story of 24-year-old Kimberly Rivers Roberts, and her husband Scott, a former drug dealer. Both were residents of the Lower Ninth Ward, one of the neighborhoods of New Orleans that was affected the worst by the hurricane. Kimberly caught the impact of the storm on her neighborhood with a video camera. She later sold her footage to filmmakers Carl Deal and Tia Lessin who took her “original camerawork as the nucleus of the documentary, . . . structuring the rest of the narrative exclusively around the story of Kimberly and Scott Roberts’s migration, displacement and return” (Doughty 2012, 257). The video is an extremely personal document with the POV-camera perspective almost placing the viewer in the position of an eyewitness experiencing the storm from up close. The film starts with Kimberly walking through her house in nervous anticipation of the hurricane. In the course of the sequence, the sky grows darker and the wind is getting more intense, blowing in the background and into the microphone of the camera. From her porch, she takes in the deserted street where she lives and comments on the scene, rendering it in a spiritual and religious way, perceiving it as an act of God who unleashes the power of nature as a form of punishment (“It’s like the Lord is upset, angry with New Orleans”)—a frequent and common interpretation of natural catastrophes that is problematic in so far as it neglects the technological and anthropogenic aspects of the disaster. The next sequence eventually interweaves news footage into the narrative, portraying the flooding of New Orleans, before it cuts to Kimberly’s footage again. This time, the street is dark and rain is gushing through the windows. As her street and her house are flooded and the water keeps rising, she, her husband, and a few neighbors retreat to the attic of their home. She captures water coming through the windows and the extremely powerful surge rushing through the streets outside. “It’s an ocean out there,” she comments as she grows increasingly desperate: “Everybody lost everything around here. Nobody left with no value, nothing but our lives. And I hope people living. We barely living up here . . . you’ve seen what Katrina has done to us. She has stopped us in the attic. We got couple of items of food, it ain’t much, but I’m running out of juice too.” Trouble the Water depicts a desperate struggle for survival in the face of a large scale storm that has inundated an entire city and incapacitated a whole social system so that, in the end, everybody is left on their own. They are finally brought to slightly higher ground by a neighbor who brings them to his house with the help of a punching bag. When even a few days after the storm, no rescue teams come by to pick up the people that have been literally stranded in the house, they take it on themselves to leave on a boat that they find floating around. As one of the neighbors comments on their city under water: “New Orleans looks dead. . . .”

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This enormous flooding of New Orleans had not been entirely foreseeable, but its occurrence was not a complete surprise either. Ever since its establishment in 1718, New Orleans and its natural surroundings have been, as Manaugh and Twilley put it, “a manufactured landscape” (Manaugh/Twilley 2008, 63), making Hurricane Katrina “a problem of landscape design” (66). That the city shapes the landscape and is likewise shaped by it (Miller/ Rivera 2009, 42) becomes apparent in one of the city’s most famous nicknames, “the Crescent City,” referring to its shape which “followed the great crescent bend” of the Mississippi River (Bullard/Wright 2009b, 21). 13 The intricate connection to the Mississippi Delta has literally been built into the city from its beginning, continuing to shape and influence urban patterns of growth and environmental planning and politics. As a “material flow” (Mathur/da Cuna 2006, 35) carrying sediment and shaping the land around it, the Mississippi has arguably been the most important variable in the environmental history of the city. As Mathur and da Cunha point out, however, this history has relied on “a hard distinction between water and land” (37), trying to keep the waters of the Mississippi at bay and sealing the city off from outside influences by technological means. They invite us to re-conceptualize New Orleans’s surroundings as an interconnected landscape, arguing that “the Mississippi is not a river that runs by a city; it is the fluid terrain that permeates it” (41). 14 New Orleans is an example of the contradictions and conflicts that can arise between thousands of years of environmental history and a relatively short-term urban site and its interference in natural processes. Thereby, the increasing “synergistic interplay between nature and human actions” (Del Moral/Walker 2007, 3) have led to disturbances in the wider ecosystem that largely stem from the transformation of the landscape into a built environment. This can be seen in the system of levees that was built around New Orleans in order to save the city from disastrous floods that became more and more common as it further expanded in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. 15 As Hiles points out, this human engineered straightjacket cut off the local ecosystem from “nourishment from the river,” “leading to more soil compaction” (Hiles 2007, 9) and to the gradual sinking of the land itself. When, in the course of the twentieth century, more than “8,000 miles of pipeline” from oil and gas industry were built, the “marsh grasses” and “cypress swamps” were further destroyed (9). In this context, the impact of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet is exemplary. Originally built as a “shortcut” between the Gulf of Mexico and New Orleans, “the canal destroyed more than 27,000 acres of wetlands” (11) and has considerably added to the continued loss of the region’s most important natural protective barrier against hurricanes (Freudenburg/Gramling/Laska/Erikson 2009, 109–121). Moreover, in the case of a major storm, this canal leads the surge directly into the city space, further endangering human settlements. 16 All in all, these variables have led

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many scholars to conclude that “the flooding of New Orleans was not a natural disaster” (Steinberg 2008, 22), but a human-engineered, a technological one. When the Levees Broke can be seen as a cultural examination of this argument, since it critically examines the role that failed environmental politics have played in the catastrophe and that have, in the end, contributed to the deluge of the city. Spike Lee presents various voices that accuse the government of blowing up the levees near the poor quarters of the city, namely the Lower Ninth Ward, in order to spare the wealthy and historic parts of New Orleans. Although these rumors developed as early as the first few days after the flooding, they have never been substantiated and When the Levees Broke does not favor them in its presentation of the event. It does, however, present them in order to lay open the deep-rooted mistrust among the inhabitants of the poor quarters at the edge of the main levees and canals with regard to the general government, since African Americans and ethnic minorities have long been confronted with environmental injustice and have often been faced with a severe flooding of their residences in the past—from the nineteenth century up to the 1927 Mississippi flood and Hurricane Betsy in 1965. The city was not only lacking the necessary structures and programs in order to safeguard the evacuation of its poor and disabled, but also the vital protective architecture and constructions to counteract a flooding in the first place. As one scientist, Hassan Mashriqui, puts it in Lee’s documentary, the material of the levees “was not strong enough and . . . not armored.” Thus, although the city and the government had implemented the construction of new levees after Hurricane Betsy in 1965, it was only poorly put into practice without the necessary financial and technical means. Therefore, it is no wonder that the majority of the voices presented in When the Levees Broke felt let down by their administration and saw failed environmental planning and environmental injustice at work. Act Four of the documentary also focuses on the inadequacy of the urban flood protection system. As before, aerial shots and photos from the overtopped levees that have crumbled or broken down under the surge help introduce their flawed engineering. Robert Bea, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Berkeley, and Colonel Lewis Setliff, commander of Task Force Guardian Army Corps of Engineers, both assess the different levee breaks around the city that largely stem from an insufficient maintenance and construction—thus, the levees had not been embedded deep enough into the ground, so that, in the end, water could go under them, causing them to collapse. As an excerpt from a TV report on the Army Corps of Engineers’ own investigation of the catastrophic failure points out: “The work was bad. The work of humans, not an Act of God was what led to this awful destruction here.” Rather than being a mere meditation on loss, the documentary thus investigates in detail the cause of the horrendous storm

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surge that inundated most of the city space of New Orleans and projects it as a human-engineered failure of the built environment that, in the end, allowed the forces of nature to take their toll on the urban landscape. Yet, it does not stop there. The technological aspect of the disaster is put into a larger perspective, considering the natural ecosystem of the Mississippi River and its interaction with human constructions. As the author John Barry puts it: “You got to understand the power of the Mississippi River,” pointing out how the land-building sediments of the river are led back into the Gulf of Mexico by canals in order to prevent the formation of sandbars in shipping canals, creating a self-enforcing cycle of and flow of materials that eventually leads to an erosion of the wetlands. Dr. Ivor van Heerden also illustrates the vital importance of the wetlands: “Those wetlands are responsible for reducing storm surges when a hurricane comes along. To expand oil and gas infrastructure, we’ve dredged thousands of miles of canals for pipelines, for drilling and for navigation purposes. . . . Over the last 70 years, we’ve starved our wetlands to death, like putting a rubber band around your hand.” Van Heerden’s comment is revealing, because it also underlines the ecological interconnectedness of the man-made urban structures and the natural geography of the Mississippi Delta, using the metaphor of a body. He makes clear that once the river landscape has been reshaped by human intervention, it also transforms into a technological environment through which the natural ecosystem is greatly disturbed. When the Levees Broke uses various aerial shots in order to illustrate the “fluid terrain” of the Mississippi and the many flows interrelated in this dense network of canals and riverbeds, visualizing the way in which water interconnects the various ecosystems and the way in which New Orleans, too, is part of that larger system. Thus, an ideal flood protection system would not only encompass built structures being able to withstand a major hurricane, but would also take into account the natural geography and shifting landscape of the terrain—both of which have been missed in the complex environmental history of New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina can therefore not only be seen as a destructive force, but also as a force that uncovered a large scale human-induced destruction of the natural environment around New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, showing the reciprocal relationship between nature’s agency and the built environment. It was also nature’s agency that transformed, as Miller and Rivera put it, “the normal physical landscape” (Miller/Rivera 2009, 3) into a “disaster landscape,” “where the roofs looked more like islands than the tops of houses” (2). This utter transfiguration and eventually disfiguration of the built environment is a central trope of the media portraying Hurricane Katrina’s effect on New Orleans and has become a central ingredient of the cultural memory of the catastrophe. Act Three of When the Levee Broke, which tackles the aftermath of the storm and the time in which people tried to restructure and rebuild their lives, begins with images depicting the destruc-

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tion caused by Katrina: In the three minute sequence, various scenes from, during, and after the hurricane are cut together and interweaved in order to render the scale of the disaster and its human aspects, as aerial shots document the chaos that ensued in the course of the storm as people sought shelter in the Superdome and waded through the water. The pictures of movement alternate with scenes of stasis as the interviewees are depicted sitting or standing in front of their destroyed homes after the water had subsided. The camera pans along a street of low-rise buildings where debris is piled along the sidewalk; the facades of houses have been sprayed with paint, indicating whether there is a body inside of them; entire buildings have collapsed because of the storm surge with trunks of trees lying on top of them; toys and everyday objects are scattered on the muddy ground. All the while, a sad score is playing in the background, rendering the scenes with a mournful, almost spiritual quality, while a woman reminisces an old gospel song from times of slavery about enduring hardships, spiritual regeneration, and liberation. This is an interesting introduction to the images described above, since it interconnects them to the (African-American) cultural memory, in a way updating its significance and changing its meaning by integrating Hurricane Katrina into the tradition which relies heavily on images and metaphors of water (Doughty 2012, 262–264). The experience of living through the natural catastrophe and its debris-covered aftermath is thus integrated into a centuryold narrative, the physical landscape and the psychological landscape, the cultural memory and emotional ecosystems merge in this spiritual take on the disaster. The latter aspect is also central in the documentary film Trouble the Water which directly references the song in its title. Here it takes on an even more spiritual quality as the film traces the story of Kimberly and Scott as they restructure their lives in the aftermath of the hurricane, eventually settling for a new beginning in New Orleans. When they return two weeks after the storm, they film the destruction through the windows of a car as they are driving into the city: The handheld video camera takes in defoliated and uprooted trees standing or lying along the interstate and dogs that stray through the deserted streets in the city; a ship is lying on the crossroads, stranded on knee-deep mud that has covered the whole area. Kimberly points at the wasteland that surrounds her: “This is my neighborhood. I know everybody around here. It hurts me to my heart not to see anyone of my neighbors. . . . It hurts me to know that it’s not going to be the same anymore.” To her, the destruction of the built environment also coincides with a disintegration of social bonds and a feeling of community that is closely connected to “place attachment” (Miller/Rivera 2009, 41). In this sense, Hurricane Katrina has disrupted their collective sense of place and turned the built environment which framed their social contacts and relations into a disaster landscape that has severed old ties and left a lot of people traumatized and disoriented,

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without a home to come back to. Both Trouble the Water and When the Levees Broke succeed in rendering the way in which Hurricane Katrina has impacted the city of New Orleans in portraying both the debris and destruction it has left behind—facets of the disaster that have extensively been dealt with in news media accounts of the storm and have been exploited by popular takes on the disaster; and in showing in detail how the disrupted urban environment can be seen as a mirror of the psyche of its inhabitants that have been affected badly by the catastrophe. The urban disaster landscape thus ties in with social and personal traumas and becomes an integral part of the “social, mental and emotional ecosystems” (Nicosia 2009, 1) of the survivors of the storm, since it frames their physical movement in the ruins of the city, and permeates their psyche and their health. The latter aspect is connected to the materiality of the catastrophe in so far as it points to the ruins and the debris on the one hand, and because it possesses a toxic agency on the other. Thus, in both documentaries, people are seen walking through the disaster landscape with protective equipment like respirators and gloves. The material presence of corpses and decomposing bodies was a familiar sight in post-Katrina New Orleans. 17 In Trouble the Water, Kimberly and her husband notice a putrescent smell in the air and find the body of their neighbor’s dog in the street as well as Kimberly’s dead uncle, who drowned in his own home, which had not been inspected yet by the National Guard or the police. The interviewees in When the Levees Broke relate similar experiences. The documentary shows the process in which houses in New Orleans were marked and spray-painted by these teams, indicating whether they had found a body or hazards inside, symbolically transforming the built environment into one where it was literally possible to read the city space in terms of life and death, and where houses had turned into tombs. The presence of corpses within the city space long after Hurricane Katrina was one of its painful relics, but not the only one. Hurricane Katrina’s destruction of New Orleans brought with it an enormous amount of rubble, trash, and hazardous waste as well as the logistic and organizational challenge of removing it. When the Levees Broke presents its viewers with long lines of trucks that transport the debris to so-called Katrina Dump Sites, 18 and systematically ordered compartments of household appliances, making clear that the disaster landscape poses social and psychological problems, as well as encompasses far reaching material and environmental consequences. 19 After all, Hurricane Katrina can also be conceptualized as a “trans-coporeal” (Alaimo 2010) disaster in that it not only produced huge amounts of hazardous waste, but in that its storm surge carried with it an unquantifiable high number of environmental pollutants from industrial sites, oil pipelines, fertilizers, pesticides, and so forth that spread throughout the city space (Tuana 2007, 193). 20 The “Epilogue” of Lee’s documentary also includes an

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interview with pastor James Pullings, Jr. from New York, who took care of survivors and tells of long-term health problems and chronic diseases that developed in the aftermath of the storm. Hurricane Katrina thus “created a whole new set of environmental problems, from contamination and trash to increased erosion” (Hiles 2007, 12) that severely endangered the population in various ways—especially if they came into contact with the waters that surged through the urban environment, “sweeping up dirt, pesticides, bacteria, chemical waste and other debris, and distributing them throughout the city in a layer of brown muck” that was soon referred to as a “toxic gumbo” (13). These “bacteria-infested, hazardous floodwaters that engulfed the city of New Orleans” (Picou/Marshall 2007, 6) did not only affect the people who came into immediate contact with it, but as the waters receded, many of these toxins and chemicals remained in the city, seeping into the soil and into the walls of buildings, reconfiguring the city space into a “landscape of uncertainty” (Alaimo 2012, 180) and a “geography of vulnerability” (Bassett 2009, 50). Thereby the trans-corporeal disaster of Hurricane Katrina further transformed the city space from a “disaster landscape” into a toxic landscape that continues to have adverse effects on its inhabitants. This is another natural-technological aspect of the storm in so far as it exposed degrees of environmental pollution and health risks that had long been present in the city. 21 As Godsil, Huang, and Solomon put it: “From an environmental health perspective, the flooding represented a fork in the road, exacerbating the environmental contamination in New Orleans by spreading contaminated material throughout the neighborhoods and introducing new contaminants that were not there before the storm” (Godsil/Huang/Solomon 2009, 121). For instance, “the river corridor between New Orleans and Baton Rouge is known as Cancer Alley because of the high number of industrial facilities” (118). When the storm surge flooded these facilities it set loose many chemical and hazardous byproducts of the industry that were spread throughout the whole environment and combined with the vast amount of oil that came along with the floodwaters. Hurricane Katrina was accompanied by numerous oil spills that released “over 8 million gallons of oil into the environment” (Picou/Marshall 2007, 6). As was the case with the BP disaster of the Deep Water Horizon oil platform five years later, the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and of the Mississippi River were transformed into a “turbulent sea of twirling material agencies,” where chemical and industrial “substances” were about to “interact with other toxins humans have dumped in the oceans” and on urban dumpsites (Alaimo 2012, 178). Like the BP disaster, Hurricane Katrina is not “an isolated event, but instead consists of ongoing, emergent dynamic interactions” (178) that tied in, in the case of the natural catastrophe, with long-standing environmental risk and pollution and the built urban geography that cannot be perceived as a sealed-off, hermetic

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landscape, but that continues to stand in a reciprocal relationship with the wider natural geography of the Gulf of Mexico. As this section has shown, Hurricane Katrina was a natural-technological disaster event in which the forces of nature and the built environment interacted in multifold ways. While the former rearranged the latter into a disaster landscape, resulting in immense destruction and debris, the engineered, human-built storm protection failed, in fact enhancing the power of the storm by leading to the flooding of New Orleans and by reinforcing the erosion of the region’s wetlands. Therefore, Hurricane Katrina laid bare flawed structures in its built environment as well as a fatal transformation of the natural environment which, together with the widespread environmental pollution, combined to form an urban ecology that is characterized by a high-degree of risk and proved to be immensely vulnerable to a large-scale natural disaster. In the aftermath of the storm, documentaries like When the Levees Broke and Trouble the Water have managed to render these complex interconnections and have, beyond the portrayal of the devastating power of nature and the destruction of the lived urban environment, rendered the human and material scale of the disaster, turning them into important documents of urban ecology in the early 21st century. In the following it will be explored how they illustrate the social dimension of the hurricane, further investigating the intricate relations between environmental justice, place attachment, and urban politics. “THE HUMAN STORM”—HURRICANE KATRINA AS SOCIAL DISASTER Toward the end of the first act of When the Levees Broke, the documentary shows an excerpt from a British journalist’s news report from the heart of New Orleans. As he makes his way through the devastated streets, the camera pans along a line of people who are sitting along the sidewalk in piles of trash, without any resources or relief. Clearly agitated by what he sees, the reporter states that although he is walking through a “virtual refugee camp with thousands of people waiting for some sort of help,” there are “scores of police officers” who are “all concerned about one looter who is in that supermarket.” His comment helps render the way in which Hurricane Katrina became, in the immediate aftermath, a “social disaster” (Swan/Bates 2007, 5): Media images broadcast around the world helped depict the plight of the residents that stayed behind, but also illustrated “hierarchical differences between specific groups residing in the city . . . namely those that managed to flee the devastation and those who were left behind” (Doughty 2012, 258). Those left behind were to a large extent part of the urban underclass which has historically been predominantly African American. The storm therefore

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tied in with a long tradition of social and environmental neglect of a large part of the urban population that was suddenly put center stage in the course of the storm as the media’s attention focused on the dire need of the survivors and underlined the structural disadvantage of the urban poor. More often than not, however, news reports and visual broadcasts from the impact zones of the storm brought these reports together in a way that “focused on violence and criminality,” “resorting to age old stereotypes that align African American identity with criminality” (260), implicitly stating that the suffering in which they found themselves during and after the storm was part of their own making. When the Levees Broke and Trouble the Water expose these discursive strategies and their inherent discrimination and racism, rendering both the immense need of the survivors and the failure of the federal government to provide any help. They also lay bare a history of failed urban politics that has continued to create risk scenarios for the urban poor. Both documentaries thereby outline the social aspects of Hurricane Katrina as an integral part of the city’s ecology. “When I grew up the nickname of New Orleans that I knew was not The Big Easy. People called it The City that Care Forgot. And it was like nobody cared,” says a resident of New Orleans, Gina Montana, in When the Levees Broke, describing the situation for those people that were left behind in the city in the course of the storm. During her interview, the documentary intersperses various images and video sequences from the Convention Center and the Superdome portraying the human chaos that ensued after the storm and the horrifying conditions at these places of last resort: People are lying on top of piles of trash and excrement, others are pleading for help into the camera, asking for water and food for their babies and themselves or for medication for the elderly. The words of the woman also illustrate the feeling of degradation and dehumanization that went along with this situation of being displaced with nowhere to go and no one to help them, making clear that “the four-day delay in providing a reliable food and water supply to survivors” not only “had serious, long-term health repercussions,” but also had serious mental and psychological effects on the urban residents that felt left alone in their drowned city (Penner/Ferdinand 2009, 226). The situation was deteriorating rapidly as people had been left there for days on their own. Louisiana State Medical Examiner Dr. Cataldie describes the situation as “being in a live sewer,” vividly illustrating the lacking infrastructure and relief efforts that added to the plight of the urban residents who had not only lost their homes, but who became part of another catastrophe tied in with failed urban (environmental) politics. In fact, the same situation could be witnessed at many places of last resort within the city. Act Two of When the Levees Broke begins with aerial and ground shots at so-called pick-up points on interstate and expressway ramps where people had, for some part, been waiting for days before buses were

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organized that took them to other facilities and shelters. As a news reporter comments on the scenes that go on around him and on the people that are stranded on the streets: “Most of them are black and poor—America’s underclass, the real victims of what has become a human storm.” The camera pans along lines of people sitting along the sides of the streets, exposed to the bare, hot sun with barely any food or water, sleeping on the hard concrete with trash littered all around them. Slides of photos are often used in the course of the documentary to present its viewers with immediate documents portraying the enormous suffering of the people that were left behind in the city. These photos frame the human scale of the disaster and can be seen as a way to complement the moving video sequences, since they freeze time and capture a moment of plight that has not ended for the victims of the storm, but that has left them with severe traumatization and that demarks a moment in history, when administrative structures and (environmental) politics broke down entirely. Many scenes depict people that are in dire need of medical attention, who are dehydrated, who are having epileptic fits or are lying unconscious on piles of trash. Thus, When the Levees Broke extensively depicts the way in which people were left behind in the deserted and destroyed streets in the aftermath of the storm, showing how the city space—an area of community and commerce—has turned into a wasteland, where people are struggling to survive and aimlessly wandering about, having turned into “body objects” (Fleetwood 2006, 769) or “the living dead” (777). Yet, the documentary does not stop here, but explores in detail the infrastructural breakdown and federal failures that turned, in the long term, Hurricane Katrina into a “human storm” and a social disaster. Thereby, it presents the viewers with various voices from observers, survivors, and city and administration officials in order to weave them together in a tapestry of voices. The documentary dissects the way in which, first of all, the Bush administration had not been prepared for a storm the size of Hurricane Katrina and had no emergency plan ready, although they had been explicitly warned by meteorologists and disaster experts; and, secondly, how Bush and his administration remained seemingly indifferent and detached from the hurricane and its devastation. It is in this context, that the failure of FEMA and especially of director Michael Brown are put into focus, who, four days into the disaster, had been unaware of the almost 50,000 people gathered at the Convention Center and had, up to that point, not been able to organize airdrops of food and water. This helps to reassert the urban ecological dimension of Hurricane Katrina which inundated a large proportion of the city space and forced people who had no means to evacuate to gather at various places throughout the city that were deemed to be safe, but that did not have the proper capacities and resources to properly house them. In this way, Hurricane Katrina becomes an event whose far-reaching and interconnected consequences had been underestimated by the officials. When the Levees Broke thus sketches

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both the environmental and social underpinnings of the disaster, pointing at the different aspects that have made it an important reference point in recent American history. In fact, the historic quality of Hurricane Katrina consists of two distinct patterns: One that involves future urban planning and disaster management and another that evokes the social history of the city of New Orleans itself. The latter aspect is connected to the role of the media in the disaster that both exposed many environmental injustices, but that, at the same time, drew on longstanding stereotypes and baseless rumors in their portrayal of the social aspects of the hurricane (Robinson 2009, 795–799). This double-edged approach of the media to the hurricane has been noted by many scholars and analysts: On the one hand, the “horrifying images” described above “televised again and again, helped to bring issues of race and poverty to the forefront of the collective public consciousness” (Bassett 2009, 49). On the other hand, however, as Berger and Cochran note, the “hypervisibility of the black poor in post-Katrina coverage of New Orleans’ stigmatized victims” and “played on stereotypes of black criminality,” while the “spectacle of suffering . . . was increasingly interpreted through racist and racializing schemas that gave us to know that what we were seeing were predictable images of animalism and depravity among ghettoized blacks” (Berger/Cochran 2007). Especially “through reports of looting and disorder . . . New Orleans was portrayed as both pre-modern and decaying” (Fleetwood 2006, 784), a fact which “has unambiguously reminded us that certain spaces in the city are more vulnerable than others, not only physically but also discursively” (Harvey 2008, 129), since it was especially the severely damaged neighborhoods like the Lower Ninth Ward, which is predominantly African American and poor, that got the most attention and were depicted as an urban jungle or wasteland. Finally, when the urban underclass that could not leave the city gathered in the Superdome and at the Convention Center, the news media issued many “unsubstantiated stories” (Miles/Austin 2007, 34), focusing on the various acts of “looting” that went on in the city, when people started to provide themselves with supplies of food and water, and then reporting on escalating acts of violence, rape, and even murder (Dyson 2006, 141–164). While these rumors added to the fear and panic of many people who had barely survived the storm and were bad enough in that they were suffused with many racial underpinnings rendering parts of the African American citizens as marauding thugs, the real problem was that city and state officials acted on and even enhanced these rumors. Both Governor Kathleen Blanco and Eddie Compass, former chief of the New Orleans Police Department, admit that they were unable to verify the reports, but nevertheless made use of a radical rhetoric that depicted the flooded city space and the places of last resort as areas “totally out of control,” over-exaggerating the problems and

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thereby adding to the grievances that ensued in the aftermath of the hurricane. As New Orleans City Council member Cynthia Hedge-Morrell describes the situation within the city space, due to the scores of police and Army personnel, residents felt like they were in “an armed, occupied city.” The mixture of strong military presence, rampant rumors based on stereotypes of an urban “other” and racist ideology, as well as a feeling of desperation and fear added to the social disaster of Hurricane Katrina, whose complexity is adequately captured in When the Levees Broke, which, as a television documentary, draws heavily on the power of images itself in rendering the story of the storm, but also questions, on a meta-layer, the power of these images and the rhetoric connected to it to adequately render historic experience and social reality. “The intelligibility of Katrina-as-event” (Ishiwata 2011, 39) is thus put center stage in When the Levees Broke, while the roots of the social grievances and conflicts are explored and viewed in connection to a history of failed urban environmental politics (Steinberg 2008, 22). New Orleans has long been characterized by “intergenerational” patterns of poverty (Pearce 2007, 115; Hartmann/Squires 2006, 3) and “acute racial segregation” (Levitt/Whitaker 2009, 6). Furthermore, the city had one of the highest poverty rates in the nation in which African Americans were overrepresented (7), while the latter, in addition, suffered from “disproportionately high rates of infant mortality, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, overweight/ obesity, and HIV/AIDS” (Robillard 2009, 137). As Sanyika argues with regard to these statistics, “the hurricane and flood merely exacerbated the socioeconomic conditions of the majority-black population, and it worsened the municipal infra structure system, which was also in serious disrepair” (Sanyika 2009, 87). The same argument is made in When the Levees Broke, which repeatedly stresses the social injustices and grievances that have plagued the city for a long time and that have their roots in inadequately funded social and educational systems (Flaherty 2008, 35–42). Thus, Hurricane Katrina cannot only be framed as a social disaster that gave way to scandalizing forms of governmental neglect and overt racism, but as an event that merely unfolded a social disaster that had long been evolving within the city of New Orleans. This is also a main theme in the documentary film Trouble the Water that repeatedly interweaves sequences from during the storm with scenes that portray the difficulty of dealing with its aftermath, of building up a new life somewhere else—in the case of Scott and Kimberly Roberts first in Alexandria, Louisiana, and then in Memphis, Tennessee. A sense of felt neglect by city officials and the government is apparent from the beginning of the documentary, which depicts Kimberly riding around the shotgun houses of her neighborhood on a bicycle. The Lower Ninth Ward is an area of the city with a high percentage of poverty that has become ghettoized in the complex urban history of New Orleans (Doughty 2012, 258–259). One factor that

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distinguished these poor parts of the city from other urban areas is the fact that many of its inhabitants did not have the means to leave in a major scale disaster like Hurricane Katrina. Like Kimberly tells her neighbor: “If I had wheels, I’d be going too,” explaining that “I’m not leaving ‘cause I can’t afford it.” The administration’s evacuation plan in the case of a hurricane was based on people leaving in their cars, not taking into account what would happen to the multiple thousands who did not own any automobiles (Fleetwood 2006, 781–782; Dyson 2006, 145; Colten 2012, 172). This failure of organizing public transportation despite the issuing of a mandatory evacuation, along with the flawed construction of the levees along the poor parts of the city—in the case of the Lower Ninth Ward along the Industrial Canal— illustrates the environmental injustice against the urban underclass, but that is only one factor that has troubled the people living there. As Kimberly explains when she walks into her devastated house after the hurricane and gets the only picture of her mother, who died from HIV when Kimberly was thirteen: “She’s proud of me. I’ve been keepin’ myself. It’s been hard out here in New Orleans.” As Scott elaborates on his life in New Orleans later on: “The way I was goin’ in New Orleans I was either gonna be in jail or under the ground, ’cause I was sellin’ drugs . . . you know, you don’t have any other way to go but that way. . . . I just go to this corner right here, make 500, 600 Dollars and call it a day. I hated my life. It was horrible.” Kimberly adds that “I’m trying to better my life. I couldn’t see it when I was on the inside of the city. Now I’m on the outside lookin’ in and I don’t wanna be part of that no more.” Kimberly, too, had been dealing drugs in New Orleans since she was a grown-up living as an orphan on the streets for a while, surviving by stealing things from grocery stores. “I’m not proud,” she says, “I don’t want to hold nobody down.” Thereby the documentary sketches the social situation of a large percentage of the urban underclass who had, even before the storm, been cast out and felt locked in in their urban experience in the “least mobile city in America” (Doughty 2012, 258). Trouble the Water manages, through the personal story of Kimberly and Scott, to give a voice to abstract social data and to give a face to the urban underclass which is not rendered as a menace or an urban other, but as citizens who had been caught up in a vicious circle of being both victims and victimizers, of being part of a human storm long before Hurricane Katrina. One memorable scene in Trouble the Water depicts Kimberly sitting on the load space of the truck with which they fled out of New Orleans to her cousin’s place in Memphis. Weeks after the hurricane, she says “I’m still shocked. . . . They treated us like we was un-American, like we lost our citizenship,” while her cousin comments on negligence of the survivors in the immediate aftermath of the storm: “It’s proven to me that if you don’t have money, and if you don’t have status, you don’t have a government.” Their comments are reflective of the way that many survivors felt after the

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hurricane, since they had little assistance in rebuilding their lives and no perspective on whether they would be able to return to their former homes anymore. The latter aspect is arguably the most important social tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, since the loss of home coincided with the dispersal of hundreds of thousands of people across America into different cities and new communities that were, at least in some cases, welcoming the survivors with open arms (Crowley 2006, 127–128). Especially at the end of Act Two and at the beginning of Act Three of When the Levees Broke, the process of displacement is shown in detail as families were separated and hundreds of children were taken away from their mothers in chaotic and dysfunctional rescue missions. The destruction of the city of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina thus created a large diaspora of New Orleanians all over the United States that were, for the most part, severely traumatized both by the experience of the storm itself as well as by the abrupt loss of place attachment and by the absence of a sense of place in a foreign surrounding. In other words, they had been part of an urban ecology from which they had been displaced and were faced with the need of having to integrate into a new environment without the knowledge of whether they would be able to return to their former neighborhoods or whether they would even have to relocate again. Hurricane Katrina thus not only destroyed the city space of New Orleans, but also disrupted the urban community that has forever been transformed by the storm. The despair that many survivors felt in the aftermath of the storm was further enhanced for those who chose to return home after the floodwaters had subsided. As the attorney and New Orleans resident Louella Givens remembers revisiting her neighborhood: “Everything was gray. There was no green, no flowers, no birds, no dogs, no people, no children.” Her words are a vivid description of the deformed urban ecology of the place where she lived, where the flood had literally drained all life—all color—out of the environment and replaced it with a great void of death and destruction. Tanya Harris, another resident and cultural activist shares these feelings: “It was like looking at a friend who had been disfigured.” Her sentence and her use of the metaphor of a beloved person who was badly maimed are an apt way of describing place attachment and the disrupted sense of place that coincided with the storm and that led to a great degree of disorientation in its aftermath, when street signs had been washed away and whole houses had been torn away from their foundations and had floated throughout the city space like empty vessels. That displacement and disorientation do not only have a spatial dimension, but are also related to a sense of time and history is made clear by various interviews that are indicative of the trauma connected to the experience of a major scale hurricane, since the resulting devastation through the floodwaters has not only transformed the exterior space of the neighborhood, but also the interior space of the private dwelling place, ultimately

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destroying personal possessions and corporeal or media representations of memory (David 2008, 138). 22 The social and personal trauma that took hold of the population in the ensuing chaos consequently had its roots in the experience of loss and in the transformation of everyday surroundings into wastelands where past signifiers and symbols of place, meaning, and identity were missing. Accordingly, the majority of survivors have suffered from severe trauma symptoms like sleeplessness, weight loss or weight gains, heavy drinking, and depression (Flaherty 2008, 54; Nicosia 2009, 6), making clear that Hurricane Katrina as a social disaster, rather than being an isolated catastrophe of a few days, has to be conceptualized as a long-term, lifealtering event with far-reaching and on-going effects. The failure of city and government officials and agencies to reduce some of these long-term effects has been widely noticed and is heavily criticized in When the Levees Broke. As Doughty notes, this has, for the one part, to do with the slow reconstruction and cleaning efforts after the storm (Doughty 2012, 267). Yet, Crowley adds that “the post-hurricane housing circumstances of many of the displaced people constitute a second disaster” (Crowley 2006, 126), since it was not adequately organized by the agency in charge, FEMA. Its initial response was to put the majority of the survivors into trailers. However, it was, in the end, “unable to meet the demand for the trailers” (129) and, on top of that, presented them with trailers that were “unsuitable for hurricane-prone areas” (130) and “contaminated with formaldehyde” (Bullard/Wright 2009a, 4). Apart from that, FEMA was also responsible for organizing the disaster aid after Hurricane Katrina and for handling the applications for disaster assistance—a process that turned into a bureaucratic chaos shortly afterwards, leaving people waiting for their FEMA checks for months in hotel rooms or improvised shelters, while there were no efforts in rebuilding their homes or in clearing the area of debris. 23 Many former residents interviewed in When the Levees Broke are scandalized by the way in which disaster assistance and rebuilding efforts had been postponed and even obstructed by failed politics. Policy makers neither managed to put pressure on insurance companies who were unwilling to pay for flood damage nor succeeded in restoring electricity and water supply in areas where people were willing to move back into their houses after they had been gutted and the debris had been removed for the most part. Especially the social aspects of the urban ecological disaster of Hurricane Katrina were connected to flawed environmental politics and their challenges. 24 The documentaries thus point to the intricate connections between the infrastructural frames of urban life, quality of living, population density, and its resilience, and makes clear that every single one of them is a vital factor in a functioning ecosystem of a city—factors that had been, for the most part, ignored by government officials in the restoration of New Orleans.

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The issue of rebuilding had been, in fact, on the public and political agenda not only when it came to the question how the process of rebuilding should be started, but also in the inquiry of what, where, and whether to rebuild at all. Doane points out that the “discussion . . . shifted” from “the technical aspects of rebuilding . . . to the geography of rebuilding,” whereby some government officials and urban developers openly advocated plans to raze whole neighborhoods like the Lower Ninth Ward and to transform them “into green space, 25 marshland, or even a golf course”—plans that were soon heavily criticized by residents, cultural activists, and New Orleans-based politicians who “advocated keeping neighborhoods intact” (Doane 2007, 113). In the words of Naomi Klein, post-Katrina New Orleans became an object of “disaster capitalism,” a kind of “blank slate for developers” (Fleetwood 2006, 784), 26 where the economy for local inhabitants had broken down along with the urban environment and where experts from outside were coming in to buy up land and property to create new, often fancy apartment complexes or business-related projects, slowly buying out the former residents. Therefore, it is no wonder that disturbing rumors soon spread throughout the predominantly African-American communities of survivors in the quarters concerned, adding to the social disaster of Hurricane Katrina. Many residents interviewed in When the Levees Broke point to the missing reconstruction and cleaning efforts that became especially apparent in the Lower Ninth Ward. Kim Knowles-Yénez, an urban developer who had been visiting New Orleans in the months after Katrina, was also astounded by the lack of redevelopment and about “how deserted some parts of the city still are. We couldn’t help but see that neighborhoods are disappearing in New Orleans or are already lost and may not return” (Knowles-Yénez 2007, 387), also pointing at the lack of grocery stores that would allow residents to buy food. 27 The urban ecology had thus been disrupted for long in areas like the Lower Ninth Ward 28 and was further deformed by redevelopment plans and land grabs in the aftermath of the hurricane, turning New Orleans into “a full-scale neoliberal experiment in recovery and rebuilding” (Allen 2011, 225). In this context Monteith critically points to the fact that many of the rebuilding efforts that were put into place in post-Katrina New Orleans were largely indifferent to the longstanding social and cultural history of the urban environment (Monteith 2010, 476), 29 perceiving it merely as city space to be restructured without taking into account the high level of attachment to it and its fragile ecology in relation to other parts of the city, its inhabitants, or infrastructural aspects like food supply. Instead of enabling a transition from a disaster landscape into a rebuilt environment, many redevelopment efforts had consequently been obstructive, adding in multifold ways to the social disaster that unfolded in post-Katrina New Orleans. In sum, Hurricane Katrina was accompanied by multiple social grievances and inequalities that had not only resulted directly from the storm, but

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that had long been embedded in the complex sociopolitical history of the city. Thus, some of the neighborhoods that suffered the most in the aftermath of the hurricane and that were severely destroyed by it like the Lower Ninth Ward had been ghettoized and disadvantaged due to a dysfunctional school system, an indifferent welfare system, and poor job opportunities. Moreover, they had been exposed to various environmental injustices like being situated next to the Industrial Canal, which, in the case of a major scale hurricane, posed serious risk to the population—especially when one takes into account the insufficient flood protection. Besides, a great percentage of the inhabitants did not have any means to leave the city and could, in the face of an evacuation management plan merely based on automobiles, not evacuate— particularly since there was no public transportation organized by the city administration which issued the mandatory evacuation much too late. During the hurricane, the people who sought shelter at the Superdome and at the Convention Center were left for days without adequate food and water supply, while rampant rumors of looting and violence circled through the media, further stigmatizing the predominantly African American victims of the storm as criminals and eventually “refugees,” illustrating a great degree of discrimination and even racism. In the aftermath of the storm, the social disaster consisted in the flawed and for the most part delayed relief and redevelopment efforts—thus, the removal of debris and reconstruction efforts were only slowly set in motion, while FEMA’s supposed disaster aid was overtly bureaucratic, further adding to the plight of the survivors who were severely traumatized by displacement and the loss of their home. The latter aspect is crucial to the disrupted place attachment and sense of place that could be enhanced after Katrina and that was exacerbated by urban developers who aimed, in many cases, at transforming the city space of New Orleans without paying attention to the history of the place and the intricate connection to its inhabitants. When the Levees Broke and Trouble the Water manage, by giving voice to residents who have been discriminated against and marginalized in the mainstream discourse, to render the human face of the storm and to counter voices by government officials and urban developers that perceive New Orleans as a blank slate. They lay bare the inherent connections between city space, social history, and environmental and political neglect, presenting the viewers with an adequate portrayal of the colorful tapestry of New Orleans’s urban ecology. In the end, they also show that regeneration can only come from the people of New Orleans themselves and their distinct and unique culture—an aspect that will be further explored in the next section with the help of the HBO-television series Treme.

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REGENERATION THROUGH CULTURE—TREME The setting is introduced via white lettering on black screen: “New Orleans, Louisiana. Three Months After” (1.01), 30 it states, introducing the location without giving further reference to the event which it supposedly follows, while at the same moment anchoring the action in a specific time in the history of the city. As the black screen fades out, we see the quick succession of close-up images, depicting mouths, hands, pad cups of saxophones, white feathers shaking in a soft wind. In the background, we hear the murmuring of various people agitatedly talking to one another and hesitant trumpet riffs, testing the sound of the instrument. The scene then cuts to the images of the faces of the people standing around, framing the action. Policemen are watching as liquor is poured into a plastic cup on the street, a bystander is lighting a cigarette, while soldiers are attentively observing the area, where people are slowly coming together. In what first appears to be a wooden barn, some African Americans discuss a music gig. The band leader tries to negotiate the fee with another musician, who wants to play for more money than he can offer him, asking him to look around at the state of the house, making clear that he has a hard time making ends meet in the face of a decaying house without electricity. The musician asks him: “How much water y’all get up here,” referring to the water damage which is barely visible in the dark room. “Shit, you see the line over my head, six, six and a half,” he answers, finally being able to talk the musician into performing together with them. Eventually, the band starts parading down a street lined by people watching their performance, while others are following the musicians who have started playing an upbeat, funky jazz tune. The area is transforming into a swirling, lively, and utterly confusing environment of moving bodies as the music is blaring under a bright blue sky and the band and the bystanders are dancing in unison, parading down a street that is covered by a thin, crusty layer of mud and fallen leaves of defoliated trees that frame the scenery and that is aligned by row houses whose wooden exteriors show signs of damage; a broken refrigerator stands at the side of the road, next to the wreckage of a car. While the setting is a wasteland, it seems to come alive in the joyful parade, which seems to breathe new life into the environment, moving determinedly and vivaciously next to a state of stasis. This feeling of new vitality and commotion is enhanced when a trombone player, who is late, because he had to take a cab to get to the city, is hurriedly joining the band, playing loud riffs as he is walking fast in order to catch them. They exchange a few words, teasing each other with mocking comments about their performance, which is also tinged with local pride. All the while, they continue playing the upbeat music, singing “feel like funking it up” as the crowd is dancing ecstatically

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around them, sporting umbrellas and feathered hats. Then the screen fades to black and the opening credits start to roll. Thus begins the HBO television series Treme, which has been on the air since 2010. It is the latest project of America’s great urban storyteller of the last decade, David Simon, that he realized together with Eric Overmyer (who had also adapted his non-fiction reportage The Corner into the television miniseries of the same title). Like The Wire, Treme is another portrait of life in a major American city in crisis. Yet, where The Wire focused on institutions, Treme is concerned with individuals (Mason 2010), tracking “the loosely connected lives of a multiethnic group of musicians, artists, and creative entrepreneurs trying to revive their city, body and soul” (Tyree 2010, 24). Although Treme thereby becomes the “synoptic portrait” (Lemann 2010, 49) of a deluged city, minutely portraying the damage and trauma that the flood left behind, “the show’s greatest strength is,” as Nussbaum puts it, “not politics but the artist’s life, not justice but beauty” (Nussbaum 2012). Treme sets off, where the news cameras left in the aftermath of the storm, at a point in time, where the city’s inhabitants—those who stayed and those that came back—were literally left behind in the ruins of their city, struggling to find a perspective for themselves in a city that many feared would not have a future. Based on local histories and employing a huge array of local staff, Treme is about the reconstruction and regeneration of the urban ecology of New Orleans, presenting its main characters “not as helpless victims of a natural disaster, but as agents of their own recovery” (Groarke 2011, 265). As a “period piece” (Poniewozik 2010, 46), it entwines its fictional storylines with the history of post-Katrina New Orleans, integrating actual events and characters into its tightly knit narrative fabric which is itself deeply rooted in the cultural memory of the city itself. Accordingly, the series is named after a part of New Orleans called Faubourg Tremé, one of the oldest neighborhoods of the city, adjoining the French quarter. Tremé is often referred to as the “oldest black neighborhood in America,” built around 1800, which later saw a slave revolt (Groarke 2011, 266). Culturally, Tremé is “a key site for the city’s black culture, history, music, and traditions” (Parmett 2012, 193), usually being regarded as the birthplace of jazz music (Langlais 2011, 62). In sum, this part of the city can be seen as a “lieu de mémoire” in the sense of French historian Pierre Nora, 31 a site closely connected to the cultural memory which figures as a geographic entity, but which also resonates deeply with the social imaginary. It is a storied place, evoking “deep musical roots, the resistance to oppression and resilience in face of adversity, and the African roots of black culture” (Groarke 2011, 266) and as such it is also featured in the television series, where the “city space” becomes a “central actor” itself (Parmett 2012, 193). This aspect is already made apparent in the few opening minutes of the series described above, beginning with a lively ‘second line’ parade (Tyree 2010, 26). French critic Pierre Langlais describes the show’s

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aesthetic that intermixes the portrayal of the damaged city space, the struggle of putting people’s lives back after disaster, the colorful parties and processions, and the powerful music that does not only serve as a backdrop to the action, but as its focal point, as a “hymne boulveresant” (Langlais 2011, 62) to the city that argues for its history and significance despite its destruction, and as an “oeuvre chorale” (64) illustrating the resilient spirit of the city’s community despite inadequate help by politicians and government officials. In these terms, Treme will, in the following, be interpreted as a medium of cultural ecology, 32 as a series that openly criticizes and portrays the failed (environmental) politics in the aftermath of the storm; it will also explore how, by drawing on the city’s rich cultural heritage and historic resilience, a counter-discourse is developed that argues for the continuing importance of New Orleans and that gives way to a regeneration from trauma, reintegrating the city into America’s urban and cultural landscape. Treme voices its criticism of the living conditions and the negligence of the devastated city and its inhabitants in various ways: Through the voices of its characters that serve as vocalizers of resentment, frustration, but also their hope for a better tomorrow; through its aesthetics that often depict the characters in the debris of the city space, taking them in in a semi-documentary manner that is careful to explore the destruction of the urban environment, without being overtly voyeuristic, and that aims at capturing and creating a sense of place which stems from New Orleans’s unique architecture—in this context, it is important to note that, as a film medium, the series can incorporate the distinct sounds of the environment along with a powerful musical score, rendering a multi-layered experience of a vibrant heart beating in the midst of a concrete wasteland; and, finally, through some subtle storylines that lay out the bureaucratic inefficiencies and utter administrative failures in disaster aid and reconstruction efforts. One of the characters that serves as a vocalizer of criticism is Tulane University professor Creighton Bernette, who appears early in the first episode of the show. Although a non-native, he has embodied New Orleans’s lifestyle and shows a feverish love for the city’s history and culture. As Julia Leyda describes his character in her insightful analysis, he “embodies one of the few overtly political voices on Treme in its first season” (Leyda 2012, 247), functioning “as the show’s self-appointed political voice of post-Katrina New Orleans” while also “representing the city in his emotional honesty and excess” (254). We first encounter Creighton standing next to a canal in front of a steel bridge whose framework looks frail and rusty as he is giving an interview to a British reporter who inquires about the causes of the flooding of the city (1.01). His rant is indicative of the political statement that Treme seeks to make early on, arguing that Hurricane Katrina was not a “natural disaster,” but the tragic consequence of a “man-made,” inadequately constructed and engineered flood-protection system. A system that ties in

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with flawed environmental politics that nobody has yet taken responsibility for, discursively rendering the storm as a “natural catastrophe” beyond human control. Thus, the argument made here is that government officials need to acknowledge the horrific failure of the protection system as well as the vulnerability of the city space that has been designed by urban planners and policy makers and therefore are responsible for a disaster on which many turned their backs shortly after. The immediacy of the argument is underlined by the change of perspectives within the scene, as Creighton and the reporter are portrayed in low angle shots, framing them in the environment between water on the one side and rubble that has yet to be cleared off on the other. Creighton’s face is framed in a close-up through the news camera in blackand-white images, thereby re-enforcing the emotional quality of his rant and reflecting, on a meta-layer, on the media event that was Hurricane Katrina. The scene also draws on the public discourse that ensued in its aftermath: when the reporter provocatively asks “why the American taxpayer should foot the bill to fix New Orleans?” Creighton promptly answers: “Since when do nations not rebuild their great cities?” However, the interviewer is not satisfied by the response: “For the sake of argument,” he states, “let’s say New Orleans was once a great city,” citing its music and provincial food as cultural merits which “have seen their day,” and implying that the “rest of the country” will probably not welcome its reconstruction altogether. His comment finally sends Creighton over the edge as he throws the reporter’s microphone into the river and eventually goes for the camera as well, when the scene breaks off abruptly. Creighton’s “lack of control” is at once a genuine reaction against public voices that doubted the significance of New Orleans and were arguing against its—in economic terms—costly rebuilding, but also “echoes those other instances where control was lacking: the failure of the levees, of the government, even of American society to adequately respond to the inundation of New Orleans” (Leyda 2012, 256). From its beginning, the series thus aspires to offer political commentary and a culture-critical discourse that exposes the political shortcomings in the prelude to the flood and its aftermath, while also trying to find the right means of voicing criticism and resistance. Creighton, too, is searching for a way to voice his anger and frustration, discovering, in the end, the possibilities of the new media, recording video blogs that he posts on YouTube. The fictional world of Treme and the reallife post-Katrina New Orleans merge in his character as he is partly based on the blogger Ashley Morris, whose comments are sometimes quoted verbatim (Groarke 2011, 267; Leyda 2012, 246). For instance, in his first YouTube post, he shows a great deal of local pride, again lashing out against voices that question the merit of New Orleans or that may even be indifferent to its situation (1.04). His angry speech, which is littered with obscenities, draws on the cultural memory of America’s urban landscape, citing cities which are

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among the great metropolises of the United States and that had been destroyed by natural catastrophes in the past and were rebuilt later on. His comment is a just rebuttal against those who question the future of the city and “demonstrates,” as Leyda puts it “its commitment to portray a cultural politics of survival” (247). In fact, these politics are at the very center of the series’ narrative strand. However, whereas Creighton proves to be a great vocalizer and advocate of the city’s culture, his own role within this framework is merely that of a commentator, not that of a creator. He has a contract with a publisher for a novel on the 1927 Mississippi flood, but he suffers from writer’s block, slowly receding into depression which stems from an unresolved trauma in the aftermath of the storm. As becomes clear towards the end of the first season, regeneration through artistic creation and cultural re-invention is not possible for him—an aspect which is reflected in his interpretation of Kate Chopin’s novel The Awakening that he reads with his students at Tulane University (1.09). In the end, Creighton commits suicide, choosing the same death as the heroine in Chopin’s novel as he plunges himself from a ferry boat into the Mississippi River. Although he possibly perceives his own conscious decision to die as an act of “liberation” in accordance with his reading of the novel, it is not rendered like this in the series, which sketches, especially in the second season, the pain and emotional void that his loved ones feel after his passing. Instead, the series continues to argue for life, despite all setbacks, calamities, and disappointments, using the character of Creighton to, on the one hand, overtly argue for the significance of New Orleans and its culture and to voice anger against those who do otherwise; and, on the other, to illustrate the painful process of regeneration, carefully exploring the deep-seated trauma that cannot simply be healed by drawing on cultural memory, but that has to be actively overcome in the present by facing the hardships of a deluged city. Another character that is bewitched by New Orleans’s everlasting cultural charm, especially by its music, is Davis McAlary, a geeky DJ who selffashions himself as the musical conscience of the city. A New Orleans native, he comes from a white upper-class family, but lives in a shotgun house in Treme where the interior is almost entirely made up of musical instruments and his record collection. The walls are covered with lyrics that he agitatedly jots down whenever he is kissed by the muses. DJ Davis is in many ways Treme’s funny backdrop to a post-Katrina New Orleans ridden by post-traumatic stress disorder and personal and collective failures. He is a Don Quixote-like character, who, by listening to lots and lots of music, repeatedly sets out, in the course of the series, to start his own band and embarks on various musical experiments and adventures that garner him attention, but never the success he hopes for. Yet, it would be wrong to merely read Davis in these terms, since his character is, on the one hand, used to problematize the cultural melting-pot narrative that the series itself takes

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on at times by over-emphatically identifying with black culture (George 2012, 226; Thomas 2012, 216; Leyda 2012, 252); on the other hand, he is, like Creighton, one of the vocalizers of cultural criticism. Whereas Creighton voices his critique in writing and public commentary in interviews or on the Internet, Davis’s medium for addressing grievances and failed politics is music. Although his band projects are often short-lived, they are usually founded on remarkable ideas and projects that fuse political commentary with elements of traditional New Orleans jazz and/or Bounce music and stand-up comedy. In the middle of the first season, he rewrites Smiley Lewis’s song “Shame Shame Shame” and records it with a selection of some of the city’s most renowned musicians, 33 who play themselves in the series, and which turns him, if only for a short time, into the most outright political voice and conscience of New Orleans (1.05). His lyrics reference the immediate politics in the aftermath of the storm, referring explicitly to then-president George W. Bush (referred to by one of his nicknames “Dubya,” deriving from the middle initial of his name), who, in a remarkable denial of responsibility, flew over the destroyed Gulf Coast area without touching the ground in the first days after the storm. DJ Davis thus draws on the social disaster of Hurricane Katrina, especially on an ill-conceived social politics that was grounded on the displacement of the majority of the city’s citizens and misguided reconstruction efforts that, for the most part, aimed at transforming the social landscape of New Orleans by impeding the return of the urban underclass. While Treme manages, through characters like Creighton and Davis, to address various issues and aspects of the disaster that were marginalized in the hegemonic discourse in the aftermath of the storm, speaking out for the worth of a city steeped in local tradition and rooted deeply in the cultural memory, as well as for those who did not have a voice in the public discourse, its cultural criticism is far more powerful and effective when it does not aim at conveying political messages through vocalizers, but rather makes use of the possibilities of the television medium to actually portray the destruction of the city and the “grinding cruelty of life in post-Katrina New Orleans” (Lemann 2010, 51). One of the characters who is introduced early on and who functions as a guide to steer the viewers through “the uprootedness and uncertainty of every single ordinary life in the city” (51) is Albert Lambreaux. A Mardi Gras Indian chief, he returns to his neighborhood to find it severely damaged, finally settling into Poke’s bar, the location where his tribe used to sow their costumes and practice their parade, cleaning up the place and working hard to rebuild it, while patiently waiting for his friends to come back home as well. One of the most memorable scenes of the entire series depicts him as he makes his way back into the city together with his daughter: The camera takes in the broken roofs that are covered up with blue plastic tarp and the shattered facades of block houses that stand like concrete relics in a ruinous

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landscape off the highway, before the scene switches to an inner-city neighborhood, where huge heaps of debris and rubble are piled up in front of houses that look deserted. A heavy construction truck is heard rolling by in the background as Albert unlocks the door to his house and finds its interiors entirely destroyed. The house is rendered like a corpse, its insides decaying under the toxic mud that paves the floor in a crusty, brown layer and the mold that clings to the walls, where the floodwaters have washed away the ink off pictures and memories that framed the place. It is in sequences like these that “Treme portrays” as Leyda puts it “the physical damage beautifully and hauntingly in the . . . harrowing close-ups of the toxic mold that grew while houses sat in several feet of flood water for weeks” and “also dramatizes the emotional damage to individuals and to human relationships” (Leyda 2012, 245). The latter aspect is portrayed through the lens of Albert’s character as he is continually trying to get his son, who works as a jazz musician in New York, back to New Orleans and is fighting for a community that he feels is in danger of disappearing together with the built environment that has been badly transformed by the storm. There are various storylines in the series that deal with trauma, the need to rebuild, and the inefficiency of a bureaucracy unable to cope with the tasks at hand, but Albert’s character is a particularly good object of investigation as his character fuses social and cultural aspects, criticism and outrage as well as regeneration and tradition. I argue that he is a figure in which the cultural criticism of the series as well as its imaginative counter discourse merge to emphatically plead for the future of the city. Although he faces various setbacks in his rebuilding efforts, he shows a great deal of resilience. 34 He is a builder in every sense of the word: he constantly works on the reconstruction of the bar and his own home. Through his character, it is meticulously explored how survivors of the storm had to desperately fight for FEMA disaster aid and insurance money that, in many cases, never came, and how they had to put up with failed politics that did not manage to restore electricity and water supply for those that had come back and were willing to move back into their houses. In this context, it is especially the closing of the housing projects in New Orleans after Katrina that is put into focus as a problematic political decision, since it kept many people, especially poor residents, from returning to their homes and because the projects are, as Albert puts it, “some of the best constructed buildings in the city” (1.07). The camera follows Albert as he makes his way into the housing projects that are closed off by barriers and wire and even guarded by military personnel, examining what appears to be relatively little damage compared to the heavily destroyed buildings that are usually presented in the beginning of the series and that stand, with their thick concrete walls, in stark contrast to the ruins that characterize New Orleans’s urban geography. Albert makes it his purpose to enquire about the reasons for keeping the housing projects closed,

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while also drawing media attention to the issue, finally squatting in one of the buildings until he is arrested by the police (Groarke 2012, 268). “People have to come home,” he proclaims, openly wondering, in the face of the indifference of government officials, that it seems “like they don’t want New Orleans to be New Orleans no more” (1.05). His struggle for social and cultural rebirth is one of the most powerful storylines in the entire series, subtly making clear the burdensome process of re-settling in a city that was not only hit by a major catastrophe, but that was faced with failed policy efforts and disaster capitalism in its aftermath, adding to the trauma of the survivors. His attention to social grievances and slow government response is tightly connected to his cultural and communal efforts. Determined to go parading with his Mardi Gras Indian tribe for the 2006 carnival season, he works hard to convince people to come home and march with him. His cultural endeavor is presented as a counter discourse against flawed environmental politics as well as personal trauma, as a way to overcome grief by holding on to deepseated cultural traditions that constantly enable him to renew life energies and to move on into the future. This becomes clear early in the series, when Albert is visited by the son of another Indian chief, who is looking for his father who has been missing since the storm. Together, they drive into the Lower Ninth Ward which is depicted as a wasteland: The camera takes both in as they walk down the mud-drenched neighborhood. Knocked over garbage cans lie around, in a wired fence, a helmet has been caught up, next to a child’s bicycle, heavy, leafless branches of trees block the way, while a wooden pole has been upset, extending into the dooryard of a boarded-up, wooden row house whose walls have been spray-painted. “I hear they got plans for the Lower Nine. They’re gonna bulldozer all of it, give the land to developers,” the young man says, as both enter the interior of the house, walking through it with their noses covered. “That’s why you need to come back. They can’t bulldoze nothing if the homeowners don’t allow it,” Albert replies determinedly as they step into the backyard which is covered with rubble. “The birds ain’t even coming back to this neighborhood,” the young man notices as he looks around. His comment underlines the overall quality of the scene which can be read as a death-in-life motif that is further enhanced when they eventually find the corpse of his father in a barn behind the house. It is the scene of a dead, desolate environment, apparently without future. Yet, the series does not end there, but revisits the scene at the end of the same episode, when some Mardi Gras Indians have gathered in front of the house of “Wild Man Jesse” who was found dead earlier that day. With the help of tambourines and a marching drum, they have incited a lively rhythm to which they rhythmically sing lines in call-and-response patterns that slowly build up to introduce the members of the tribe, finally calling on the “Wild Man,” who they symbolically conjure from his damaged house, stepping

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aside as if they were making room for him and thus calling him back from the dead. Next to the token tribe flag, made up of huge blue feathers and ornate patches, they introduce him: “Wild man, wild man of the Nation, the whole wide creation. No, he won’t bow down. Won’t bow down. Down on that dirty ground. Because I love to hear you call my Indian red.” They sing a traditional song, going back to the 19th-century that is also infused with shouts and chants loosely based on African dialects that reinforce the mnemonic quality of the traditional performances, which are in themselves rituals commemorating cultural resilience in the face of discrimination and slavery (Mason 2010; Barrios 2011, 102). In the context presented, the ritual is updated in order to restore a spirit of community despite displacement and to regenerate life energies despite a state of destruction that seems to encompass everything. “Lambreaux’s tribe” thereby comes to embody, as Thomas puts it, “the perseverance of the Mardi Gras Indians who remain committed to sustaining and retooling working-class African American folk traditions of costume design, songs and chants, and ritualistic performance” (Thomas 2012, 215). The chant thereby gains a new relevance as it calls for strength as well as spiritual liberation, invoking, at the same time, the “whole wide creation,” thus celebrating life and its constant self-renewing cycles. They are, in the end, disturbed by a group of tourists that rides down the mud-filled and debris-littered street in a bus with the inscription “Katrina Tour.” The tourists take photos of the spectacle in front of the damaged house from inside of the bus, while the bus driver leans out, explaining that “people want to see what happened” to the visibly irritated and angry group mourning their deceased friend. Eventually, the driver acknowledges that the tourists’ gaze is inappropriate and drives off again. The scene has often been analyzed with regard to Treme’s “own status as a form of cultural tourism” (Tyree 2010, 24) or “televisual tourism” (Jackson 2011, 18). 35 Nevertheless, it would be wrong to read the series as voyeuristic or even as a “sanitized tourist version” of New Orleans (Rathke 2012, 261), since it repeatedly draws on popular images of the city, but constantly reverses them, illustrating their fabricated quality. Rather, Treme uses these scenes, on the one hand, as an aesthetic strategy that renders its own televised version of the city authentic (Fuqua 2012, 236; Thomas 2012, 214–215; Gray 2012, 268–271), and, on the other, as the expression of an almost ethnographic interest in the city’s cultural roots that have often become mere tourist attractions without practical use. Therefore, I would argue that Treme is concerned with unearthing the regenerative quality of the rich cultural tradition of New Orleans, reclaiming it as a source of life-knowledge and life-energy. In this sense, Jackson is right when he interprets Albert Lambreaux not as “the dehumanized object of a tour group’s voyeuristic gaze,” but as an “active community leader,” “an anchor to a slowly receding past, a past in need of active and adamant recuperation” (Jackson 2011, 18).

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This becomes ultimately clear in the first episode when he goes looking for people who may join his tribe for Mardi Gras day. The street is barely lit, when he steps into the faint light that falls from the inside of a house to the outside, which is otherwise drenched in darkness. He holds a small tambourine and claps his hands rhythmically together, making swift steps on the deserted, muddy street. In the distance, a dog is barking agitatedly, as Albert stands in the light, dressed in a yellow feathered Mardi Gras Indian costume, looking “like a blazing, impeccable sun” (Poniewozik 2010, 47) in the darkness surrounding him. It is one of the most powerful moments in the entire series as he starts to sing: “I the Big Chief, Guardians of the Flame . . . I make them jump over St. Louis Cemetery, roll that lightning, kick up the tombstones, wake up the dead and make a wombow.” A friend of his, who has a FEMA contract as a construction worker cleaning up debris from the streets, walks out of the house, staring at Albert in disbelief: “Oh Chief, that’s pretty, that’s real pretty. I was wonderin’, if I was ever gonna see something like that again.” Albert steps towards him, proclaiming: “I’m lookin’ for a Trail Chief. Got fire, can’t put it out.” His friend shakes his head, trying to convince him that the Mardi Gras tradition might be done—at least for the moment: “Albert, nobody’s home. Ain’t nobody even thinking about no needle and thread. Some of them houses still got bodies up in them.” Albert, who has started dancing in circles, shaking his tambourine, turns around swiftly, shouting out: “Won’t bow, don’t know how.” It is his ultimate expression of resilience in the face of death and destruction, holding up a deep-rooted tradition that becomes, in this scene, a counter discourse against voices that have declared New Orleans and its culture dead. It is also the moment of cultural memory coming back to life, of a ritual performance and its life renewing energy which is captured beautifully on camera. Albert’s yellow costume stands out in the darkness that has enveloped the city like the eternal flame he calls on in his chant. He becomes, spiritually and physically, a bearer of light and a symbol of hope for an entire community and the ultimate embodiment of Treme’s cultural ecology. This cultural ecology connects both a renewed spirit of culture and community as well as the need to overcome grief and deal with loss. 36 Like Albert’s Indian dance in the dark, and like the destroyed streets of New Orleans, these cultural performances and ritual practices are spatial, in that they are rooted deeply in the cultural memory of New Orleans and in that they take place in the midst of its city space. The countless parades which are put on display in Treme can be read as a way of re-appropriating city space from outside land grabbers who merely perceive it in economic terms, as a space to be developed, and from the ruins of a deluged city, transforming it into a place to be physically experienced and psychologically re-integrated into narratives of survival and new beginnings. Accordingly, DJ Davis proclaims that it “feels like rebirth” (1.01) when he hears the second line parade,

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described at the beginning of this chapter, marching past his window. Through song, dance, and communal celebration the city comes back to life in Treme, while the dead and the losses are mourned in ways that always give way to artistic expression and creative forms of dealing with trauma. This is true for the jazz funeral at the end of Season One which is depicted as an embodied, 37 corporeal practice as the congregation moves away from the cemetery, starting to dance through the streets as the music picks up tempo and on-lookers in the neighborhood watch from the side or join in the spectacle, giving expression to life and constant movement, finally stopping on the crossroad, before the crowd disperses and the scene fades out. As Spitzer points out with regard to second line parades in general, they are “the most powerful musical symbols on the ground,” a way “to articulate the neighborhood space” (Spitzer 2006, 320) and they have taken on a new meaning in the aftermath of Katrina as they “apply to the rebirth of a city” (323). In Treme, too, the various portrayals of Jazz funerals and second line parades are not ends in themselves, merely depicting local traditions, but they mark “transitional moments” (David 2008, 145), where a city that had been proclaimed dead by many comes back to life. In this sense, these parts of Treme’s cultural ecology figure “not only as a way to incorporate grief and loss . . . , but also as the embodiment of a public and political expression of grief and celebration of life” (Nicosia 2009, 11), at the same time reintegrating the city of New Orleans back into culture and arguing for its enduring significance. They are also ways to render New Orleans’s unique “street culture” (Wagner 2008, 180), where “neighborhood streets” regularly turn into stages of cultural performance and communal celebration, rendering the “street as place” (181). Therefore, Treme is to be perceived as a spatial practice itself, re-appropriating and regenerating New Orleans’s streets, its vibrant interconnections, through culture. Although Treme is thus a cultural medium that can be thought of as a spatialized work of art, concerned with turning city space into place for the viewer, it is also, and maybe above all, as Fuqua illustrates, “a listening text,” 38 reveling “in how place sounds” (Fuqua 2012, 237). Treme’s music is indeed the one factor that is generally noticed in all reviews and discussions of the series. In fact, for critics like Lemann “Treme is about music and musicians” (Lemann 2010, 49), making apt use of the television medium’s ability to merge moving images and sound to weave breathtaking musical performance into its dense narrative fabric portraying New Orleans’s cultural resurrection. The show’s aesthetic is fundamentally grounded in New Orleans’s musical tradition, which “can be read . . . as a careful lesson in Jazz music and culture” (Jackson 2011, 19); 39 there are almost no scenes, where extra- or—for the most part—intra-diegetic music is not featured as either a backdrop to or as a focus of the action. In a television series dealing with a broad number of characters, who struggle to rebuild their lives and homes in

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the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, “the music ultimately unites the cast of broken characters” (George 2012, 226). Therefore, Jackson perceives the long musical “interludes” and performances as “ends in and of themselves,” with “the story’s melodramatic machinations” being “a mere excuse for luxuriating in these sovereign symphonies” (Jackson 2011, 19), “launching,” as Cooper claims, “an audio image of the ageless, urbane, aesthetic phoenix that is New Orleans rising after Katrina” (Cooper 2012, 142). As these comments make clear, music takes on a vital role in Treme’s cultural ecology, on the one hand, drawing on New Orleans’s broad musical canon and cultural memory, underlining its status as the “birthplace of Jazz” (Le Menestrel/Henry 2010, 191; Allen/Maret 2011, 116), 40 while, on the other hand, using the songs to create a soundscape that literally infuses the images of the city space with a vibrant, all-encompassing energy and atmosphere that “represents the place as a fragile but living community” (Tyree 2010, 23). Treme works with music’s universal and ageless power to transcend barriers and speak to human conditions, invoking both biophilic and cultural memories and reveling in its Dionysic celebratory and life-affirming quality as a counter discourse against the social hardships and public discourses in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The cultural criticism of Treme and its imaginative counter discourse combine to form a sprawling narrative, projecting, at times, aural paintings of the city and arguing for its enduring relevance, reintegrating it into America’s land map. The series thereby reflects on how art, “place and music are closely intertwined in New Orleans,” so close, in fact, that many perceive the “future of New Orleans” as “inextricably tied to the return of the vibrant music scene” (Le Menestrel/Henry 2010, 179–180). The city and its culture are therefore seen as “irreplaceable treasures,” infusing the city with a “unique mix” of ethnic groups and cultural forms of expression that make New Orleans “distinct” (McLeese 2008, 213) in America’s cultural landscape, but that also provide the city with a specific “sense of place” (Le Menestrel/Henry 2010, 191), where music has “come to embody specific places” 41 (192) and the city space can be read in terms of sounds, stages, and performers. This specificity, this rootedness in local traditions and customs has taken on, however, as David Simon puts it, a “universal” quality (Mason 2010), one that has, especially in the guise of jazz music, spread around the whole world, turning New Orleans into, in the words of Creighton Bernette, “a city that lives in the imagination of the world” (1.01). Treme works hard to illustrate New Orleans’s status as a cultural signifier (George 2012, 232). New Orleans’s culture thereby becomes, literally, a capital to bargain with that certainly has important economic underpinnings, but that, above all, is infused with an imaginative quality that David Simon himself alludes to in an interview:

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Lots of American places used to make things. Detroit used to make cars. Baltimore used to make steel and ships. New Orleans still makes something. It makes moments. I don’t mean that to sound flippant, and I don’t mean it to sound more or less than what it is, but they’re artists with a moment, they can take a moment and make it into something so transcendent that you’re not quite sure that it happened or that you were a part of it. (quoted in Mason, 2010)

Treme is committed to reflect on these moments, but, at the same time, to create them as well, to bring them forth anew in a city that was almost completely destroyed by the disaster that was Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath in which many doubted whether the city was indeed able to come back. It is in this sense that “Treme becomes an active agent, working on the ground, to literally, not just symbolically, produce and plan city space” (Parmett 2012, 201) and to restore New Orleans’s status as one of the cultural capitals of the United States. The show in its entirety can therefore be read as a “re-integrative inter-discourse,” reintegrating New Orleans into the social imaginary and material reality of America. It is, as Simon refers to it, a way of “arguing for the city” (Watercutter 2012), not just for the city of New Orleans, but for the status of urban life in general in the new millennium: “We’re going to be more and more urban people, and more multicultural, and we’re either going to solve these problems that are inherent in the modern American city, or we’re not going to be a first-rate society.” Treme can thus be seen as a way of exploring the specific character of the culturally rich place that is New Orleans, but also as a way of negotiating the fundamental problems of urban values and what it means to live in a community. Treme’s cultural ecology thus plays out, firstly, along the lines of the critical examination of the state of the city after the disaster, depicting how ordinary citizens struggled to rebuild their lives in the face of flawed environmental politics, relief efforts, and post-traumatic stress disorder, also criticizing biased media representations that were either indifferent to these problems or stigmatized New Orleans as a city unworthy of reconstruction; secondly, by creating an imaginative counter-discourse infused with the rich tradition of local culture and rooted deeply in the cultural memory of the city, regenerating life energies and life knowledge that breathe new vitality and resilience into New Orleans’s complex ecosystems; and thirdly, by using this culture to turn the destroyed city space of New Orleans into place again, arguing for its enduring relevance as a “cultural hearth” (Steinberg 2008, 6–7) and its universal, all-encompassing imaginative quality, its status as a lieu de mémoire in America’s urban landscape.

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CONCLUSION One week after what many news outlets titled “Superstorm” or “Frankenstorm” Hurricane Sandy hit the United States’ densely populated Northeast coastline, making landfall on New Jersey and New York City on Monday, October 29, 2012, the Wall Street Journal issued a haunting video on YouTube, 42 chronicling the build-up of the storm, its impact, and its immediate aftermath in the urban areas most affected. The slideshow of images that open the video closely resemble the images of (post-)Katrina New Orleans: We see defoliated and uprooted trees lying on top of houses or cars, inundated neighborhoods, where the roofs of houses stick out of the water like small islands, boarded-up houses and deserted streets that have been covered in a thick, brown muck, making once lively areas seem like wastelands, devoid of forms of life. We also see maps of the coastal area, tracking the growth and route of the storm as it moves across a huge geographic area in which these urban landscapes are located and embedded. Like Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy became a “weather media event” early on, where meteorologists were interviewed and experts assessed the possible risk scenarios in the impact areas of the storm. It, too, became an event, where residents became reporters themselves, posting comments and photos on social network sites on the Internet, chronicling the storm to a degree unprecedented in modern history. Allusions to and comparisons with Hurricane Katrina quickly made the rounds in news commentaries and interviews, 43 while the point of comparison was clear: A major storm that threatened a large urban community. The images of the destroyed New Orleans circled through the popular imagination and the cultural memory at this point, which also became apparent in the urgent pleas by city officials and President Obama to residents to “evacuate” in order to avoid the massive loss of life that was witnessed in Louisiana seven years earlier. If the memory of Hurricane Katrina taught the state and local governments something, it was to be prepared. But then again, Hurricane Sandy was not Hurricane Katrina and although its power was still enormously strong, it did not lead to widespread flooding or the degree of wind damage that could be seen in the wake of Katrina. This has to do, for one thing, with the strength of the storms, but also with the geography of the places affected. As I have discussed in this chapter, what led to the flooding of New Orleans in the first place was not the agency and the force of the powers of nature, but a flawed flood protection system as well as failed environmental politics that, to a large extent, ignored the complex reciprocal interactions of an urban settlement and its natural surroundings, with industry destroying marshlands and natural barriers against storm floods. Hurricane Katrina has therefore to be conceptualized as a technological disaster, one that was the consequence of the interplay between the built environment and the “natural”

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environment and one that made clear that a city is not a sealed off space, but a trans-corporeal one, open to outside (material) flows and substances. The latter aspect was, once again, underlined by Hurricane Sandy, which turned whole neighborhoods and communities in New York City and Atlantic City into disaster landscapes as well. The Wall Street Journal’s video offers harrowing images and video sequences from Tuesday, October 30, 2012, after Hurricane Sandy had made landfall on the Jersey coastline: we see submerged parking lots and flooded subway tunnels, a burned down settlement in Queens which resembles a war zone after a bomb raid, and the skyline of Atlantic City’s and New York City’s skyscrapers against an overcast sky, standing like black monoliths in an apocalyptic world. The breakdown of power and public transportation is a technological aspect as well, one that reminds us that even the most basic accomplishments of our modern world are tied into complex systems, into an urban ecology which is an ecology in every sense of the word, part of an overarching ecosystem in which forces of nature play a vital role. This aspect is connected to the social dimension of the disaster: In the video of the Wall Street Journal commentators speak of a “paralysis” that has taken hold of the city due to massive power outages and the breakdown of the public transportation system. The city as a habitat of humans is thus ultimately transformed in the wake of great disasters like major hurricanes, not only because buildings and houses can be destroyed and even turned into traps, but because the mobility within the city space is limited—a fact that was made painfully apparent during Hurricane Katrina, when tens of thousands of people did not have the means to leave the city and to bring themselves and their loved ones to safety. This chapter has also sketched the long history of environmental injustices that a large percentage of African Americans and racial minorities had been faced with in New Orleans for decades. And it has described social grievances and discriminations that were uncovered by Hurricane Katrina and that continued in its wake, when residents of poor city neighborhoods like the Lower Ninth Ward were obstructed from returning to their homes by a misguided and ineffective reconstruction and rebuilding policy, which, like the media reports in the aftermath of the storm, were infused with racial stereotypes. Thus, disasters like hurricanes not only bring into view the intricate relationship between the urban built environment and its natural surroundings, but also the manifold mechanisms of social systems within a city which are themselves connected to the ways in which city space is organized and to environmental politics that manage risk scenarios for the different parts of the population living in a city. In the case of New Orleans, this organization of city space and environmental politics clearly handicapped the urban underclass that lived in urban areas which were insufficiently protected against storm surges. Moreover, they were further disadvantaged by ghettoized structures that did not allow access to pub-

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lic transportation and access to healthy food prior to the storm, linking in with a dysfunctional school system and an inadequate job market. Thus, it is conscious decisions of urban planning that decide on who will be affected the worst by a major storm and that can provoke “human storms” long before a “natural” disaster. The Wall Street Journal’s video ends with a remarkable quote by New York governor Andrew Cuomo, who says not to, although the levels of destruction “could have been far, far worse,” “minimize what we went through. You know, sometimes we can have a short memory. After the storm we went through on Monday, everything should not be back to normal on Friday. It’s gonna take time.” His comment underlines a common, but problematic trend, one that is also described by Christof Mauch, who points to the fact that as “victims” of (natural) disasters recover after catastrophes and cities are slowly rebuilt, “media interest . . . quickly subsides” and there are “few memorials” or other media of the cultural memory that “keep alive the memory of great natural disasters” (Mauch 2009, 3). This short term social memory with regard to great disasters like hurricanes is problematic in so far as it helps to minimize the danger and risk scenarios that human settlements will have to face in the future on a global level. While hurricanes are, more or less, local phenomena of a short time period that can wreak enormous destruction across a distinct geographic area, we should nevertheless be aware that the degree of risk of disasters occurring like Hurricane Katrina will continue to rise in the future as more and more people are settling in cities— many of which are in geographically unstable or even unsafe areas like coastal regions, near volcanoes, earthquake-prone landscapes, etc. Therefore, it is vital to keep catastrophic events like Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Sandy alive in our memory cultures, since they help identify sources of potential risk, especially regarding protection systems and structures of the built environment, as well as social mechanisms of evacuation, supply, and recovery. Hurricane Katrina has especially helped focus attention on the technological aspects accompanying natural disasters and how they can reenforce the power of nature, leading to the catastrophes which become, in the end, human-induced or anthropologic ones. As Miller and Rivera put it: The case of New Orleans has taught us not to make bigger and better levees and continue to technologically enhance the physical landscape, but rather to work with the physical landscape and to be cognizant of its natural interactional potential. Human society must move back to a more symbiotic view of the environment. A radical shift in perspective is needed so individuals and governments can understand that what is detrimental to the physical landscape is also detrimental to the social, economic, and political landscapes. . . . The belief that humans exist either outside of or above nature leads to the production and reproduction of human vulnerability in the urban landscape because it

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presupposes that humans are, for the most part, incapable of being significantly affected by natural hazards. (Miller/Rivera 2009, 128)

The comment helps to refigure the relationship between urban areas and their “natural” environments as an interactive, symbiotic one. This shift in perspective, from one that perceives cities as closed-off realms and human habitats to one that acknowledges their embeddedness in a larger, all-encompassing ecosystem, is central to future challenges of urban planning in the face of climate change. In this sense, Hurricane Katrina did not only severely disrupt the ecology of New Orleans, but has helped us to re-conceptualize an urban ecology which has to be based on reciprocal and sustainable integration in and interaction with the more-than-urban landscape and more-than-human world. That is why it is important to attribute a central place in our cultural memory to Hurricane Katrina, not just because of the loss of life and destruction connected to it, but also because of what we can learn from it. In this context, the documentaries When the Levees Broke and Trouble the Water analyzed in this chapter are central media of the cultural memory in so far as they not only store images and video sequences documenting the impact of the storm and of its painful aftermath, but also because they, each in their own way, portray the manifold technological, social, and environmental aspects of the disaster and how they contributed in turning Katrina into a catastrophe for New Orleans. They can be read as counter discourses against a rhetoric that has tended to conceptualize hurricanes as natural occurrences or even as acts of God, out of reach of human influence. Instead, they have underlined how human decision making, urban planning, and environmental politics have, to a large extent, provoked the flooding of New Orleans and have made the city vulnerable to major-scale disasters. Moreover, they have also captured the human dimension of the hurricane, rendering the plight of its victims that did not only lose their possessions in the course of the storm, but that were plagued by post-traumatic stress disorder and unjust reconstruction politics long into its aftermath, when the news cameras had all but disappeared from the scene. The same is true for the HBO television series Treme that has, in powerful storylines and beautiful images, portrayed the cumbersome rebuilding efforts in New Orleans and has focused on segments of the population that have largely been ignored in the mainstream media discourse. It has also made apt use of the film medium’s possibility of merging video and sound to produce an imaginative counter discourse against voices who questioned the future and significance of New Orleans, arguing for its continuing appeal and drawing on its broad archive of cultural expression which becomes, in the wake of disaster, a source of life-renewing energies and of the hope for a new beginning. Thereby, it makes clear that cities are not only places embedded in a natural surrounding and systems of com-

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plex social mechanisms, but also the breeding ground for human culture and self-expression, for creativity and community. Cities are vital in every sense of the word and New Orleans is vital to America’s urban and cultural landscape. The documents analyzed in this chapter are, as cultural ecological media, therefore not only concerned with conservation, but with reintegration and regeneration. NOTES 1. For the whole article, see http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/11/opinion/11sun1.html (13.04.2013). On that passage also David 2008, 138. 2. For the whole speech, see http://edition.cnn.com/2005/POLITICS/09/15/bush.transcript/ (13.04.2013). 3. All in all “it resulted in the death of over 1800 people, caused flooding and/or structural damage to 2.5 million residences, and displaced between 700,000 and 1.2 million people,” leading to the “largest forced migration of the American population since the Dust Bowl in the 1930s” (Picou/Marshall 2007, 2). 4. On the construction of the levees and a comparison of Hurricane Katrina to Hurricane Betsy, still a stronger storm, that hit New Orleans in 1965, but caused less damage see Colten 2012, 160–161. 5. These “anthropogenic” underpinnings of natural disasters show themselves especially in “the severity and duration of chronic impacts” and in the toxic contamination of the environment, but in the case of Katrina they are even more complex, since the steady increase in major scale hurricanes is attributed to “global warming” by many scholars (Picou/Marshall 2007, 9). Scientists see a correlation between the increase in worldwide temperatures and the consistent rise of the sea levels and the emission of greenhouse gases by human industries which allows them to perceive nature events like hurricanes as human influenced occurrences (Giegengack/ Foster 2006, 23; Steinberg 2008, 19). 6. The full extent of the social disaster became clear, when “on August 31, 2005, police in the West Bank city of Gretna blocked a bridge from New Orleans, preventing large numbers of African American evacuees from escaping the deluged city” (Hartman/Squires 2006, 2). It was due to episodes like this that “Hurricane Katrina quickly became iconic . . . for its revelatory images and immediate uncovering of racial disparities in the U.S.” (Allen/Maret 2011, 115). 7. On housing before and after Katrina see Crowley 2006, 124–125 and Steinberg 2008, 21. 8. The reporting on Katrina did not only “uncover” race and class disparities, but also made other segments of the population invisible. As Bassett points out, especially “minorities living in rural povery” remained “unseen” (Bassett 2009, 54). The same is true for the parts of the population living outside of New Orleans along the coastlines or in the rural parts of Louisiana that were for the most part ignored in the news media’s take on the storm. Since the focus of this work lies on urban spaces, however, these people will be hidden here as well without negating their existence or diminishing their plight and suffering in the course of the storm. 9. These examples have been explored together before. Cf. Doughty 2012, 257, who investigates questions of race, migration, and return as they are presented in the film documents. They have, however, never been seen as documents of an urban ecology before. 10. When the Levees Broke. Dir. Spike Lee. HBO: New York, 2006. DVD. 11. As Spike Lee explains the subtitle “The requiem is said out of respect for those who have died and are still dying, and I think the title elevated the project above some run-of-themill documentary” (Aftab 2007, 45). The main title itself is an allusion to the blues song “When the Levee Breaks” by Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie, written about the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 (Taylor 2010, 484). 12. Trouble the Water. Dir. Tia Lessin and Carl Deal. New York: Zeitgeist Films, 2009. DVD.

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13. For instance, Manaugh and Twilley describe the Mississippi River not as a “rigid system” (Manaugh/Twilley 2008, 63), but as an ever-changing, dynamic flow. In this sense, the land itself could be said to possess a kind of creative agency. On the environmental importance of the Missisippi River in general see Miller/Rivera 2009, 24–27. 14. In the same vein, Giegengack and Foster have outlined the way in which “the river rapidly accommodates itself even to very subtle short-term changes in its immediate environment,” turning it into a “complex natural system” that “has been substantially modified by human intervention” (Giegengack/Foster 2006, 21). 15. As Colten notes, the continued levee construction did and does not minimize risk, however, but “reconfigures” it: “If overtopped, they would serve as a bowl and capture flood waters of up to 20 feet” (Colten 2012, 171). 16. The Missisippi River Gulf Outlet, simply abbreviated MRGO (or “Mr. Go” among locals) is thus often referred to as a “hurricane highway.” Freudenburg/Gramling/Laska/Erikson 2009, 91. 17. Although corpses were a gruesome aspect of the material experience of Hurricane Katrina, Nicosia reminds us that they do not add to its “toxic” agency (Nicosia 2009, 4). 18. These dumpsites, located in “the swampland of eastern New Orleans” (Hiles 2007, 16) continue to pose environmental threats and problems, since the hazardous waste poses enormous risks to the population nearby, contaminating ground water etc., keeping up with the long environmental history of injustice in the region (Bullard/Wright 2009b, 27). 19. The disposal of waste and debris in the aftermath of Katrina was an enormous environmental problem—one that has not been altogether solved yet. This is, for the most part, due to the toxic agency of the materials in need of disposal. Cf. Hiles 2007, 15–16; Bullard/Wright 2009b, 26; Godsil/Huang/Solomon 2009, 115 and 124; Miller/Rivera 2009, 39–40. 20. Nancy Tuana, in her discussion of Hurricane Katrina, has examined how material agents and human bodies became entangled in a “complex interaction” of “social practices and natural phenomena” (Tuana 2007, 193). She thereby comes up with the notion of “viscous porosity” which conceptualizes the mutual openness and interactions between humans’ bodies) and the “more-than-human” world. Cf. also Alaimo 2010, 14–15. 21. A common example in this regard is the Agriculture Street Landfill, an old city wastesite “that was developed for subsidized housing in the 1970s,” an area where residents have long complained about “mysterious cancers and other illnesses” (Hiles 2007, 13). Cf. also Godsil/ Huang/Solomon 2009, 120, and Bullard/Wright 2009b, 23–25. 22. Recent memory studies have shown how memory as a process “attaches itself to sites” (Nora 1989) and needs externalization in objects that function as containers and stabilizers of past experiences like photographs, paintings, letters, and so forth. In other words, of things that are tightly related to a sense of self and of identity, things that had been, for the most part, lost in the storm surge that swept through the city (Schliephake 2012, 195). 23. On FEMA’s disaster assistance see Crowley 2006, 129–139. On statistics regarding the number of residents in post-Katrina New Orleans see Bullard/Wright 2009b, 30–31. On the difficulty of “locating medical assistance” in the storm’s aftermath see Robillard 2009, 140–144. 24. On the housing problems and institutional crises in New Orleans see Crowley 2006, 140. 25. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, for instance, was quoted saying that he deemed it unwise spending billions in rebuilding, when “a lot of that place could be bulldozed” (Ishiwata 2011, 50). Cf. also Simmons/Casper 2012, 681 and Steinberg 2008, 9. In this context, especially public housing has been focused on as places that could be raised and bulldozed, although the public housing projects, which were home to thousands of residents, did only show minor flood damage. Cf. on this aspect Sanyika 2009, 95–95 and 99–109; Bullard/Wright 2009b, 28–29; Barrios 2011, 103–107. 26. Contrary to this view, Simmons and Casper argue that “New Orleans after Katrina was never, nor could it ever be, a blank slate” (Casper/Williams 2012, 679), since it was tied up to a complex history of “racism and inequalities” (675) and a high place-attachment by its inhabitants which also presented itself—as we are about to see—in a resilient culture. Cf. also Wagner 2008, 172.

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27. Bullard and Wright add that even “before Katrina, predominantly African-American communities in New Orleans were struggling with the mass closings of shopping centers and grocery stores” (Bullard/Wright 2009b, 36). 28. Although the Lower Ninth Ward especially has been rendered as a place of poverty and great social need, this image mainly portrayed by the media is inadequate, since the majority of residents were actually homeowners. Cf. Knowles-Yénez 2007, 392; Miller/Rivera 2009, 50. 29. On New Orleans’s distinct “Creole Urbanism” see Wagner 2008. 30. Treme. The Complete First Season. New York: HBO Video 2011. DVD, season 1, episode 1. Similarly all subsequent citations from the series in text refer in the same form to the respective season and episode. 31. Cf. also David (2008) who conceptualizes the “levee breaches” as “lieux de mémoire” in Nora’s sense (152). 32. On cultural ecology see Zapf 2002. 33. The re-writing of old, familiar tunes in the wake of the disaster and re-interpreting their meaning has been a common practice in New Orleans’s post-Katrina culture. Cf. Le Menestrel/ Henry 2010, 184; Pearce 2007, 127. 34. That he is himself traumatized and deeply disturbed as well becomes clear early, when he brutally beats up a teenager that he has caught stealing construction materials. 35. On Treme as “television tourism” also Parmett 2012, 201–202; Thomas 2012, 215–216. 36. As Groarke puts it, the “cultural heritage of New Orleans also includes its unique celebrations of life and death,” which are made aptly apparent in Treme, whose first season “opens with a second line parade, and ends with a jazz funeral” (Groarke 2011, 266). 37. Cf. on the aspect of embodiment in jazz funerals also Nicosia 2008, 7. On jazz funerals and second lines in general David 2008, 145; Allen/Maret 2011, 123; Spitzer 2006, 320–323; Pearce 2007, 118–119. 38. Treme is literally a “listening text,” when one takes into account that David Simon sent the script to the producers with notes on what music they should listen to as they were reading the respective parts of the text. Cf. Mason 2010. 39. For a comprehensive and insightful discussion of Treme’s “narratives of New Orleans’s Jazz history” see George 2012. 40. On the evolution of jazz in New Orleans in general see Pearce 2007, 118. 41. On this aspect see especially Pearce 2007, 120 and 128–130, where music is not only illustrated as an important cultural product tied in with the history of the city, but where it is made clear that, to a large extent, the city had been built by musicians, who worked as carpenters by day. 42. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KeaG1jRLIBw (19.05.2013). 43. Cf. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-11-05/sandy-s-power-dwarfed-by-katrina-sgutting-of-the-gulf.html (19.05.2013).

Chapter Four

The More-than-Human City Material Agents, Cyborgs, and the Invasion of Alien Species

The urban ecology outlined in this book has thus far developed along the lines of a cultural ecological approach that defines culture as a central ingredient of urban ecologies and a new materialist take on the city that views cities as dense networks of material interactions. This chapter will take this argument one step further and explore the way in which the urban imagination is always already imbued with the “other” and the more-than-human world in which urban discourses, sign- and meaning-making processes are enmeshed. Thereby it becomes possible to problematize and to question an anthropocentric perspective on urban space. Rather than seeing cities as human-dominated ecosystems in which material interactions are dominated by human actors, a cultural urban ecology should be concerned with uncovering the way in which humans themselves are an integral part of the material processes that constantly shape and re-shape our urban worlds—both as regulators and creators of material substances and as bodies that are themselves porous and open to the actants that permeate our cities. This re-conceptualization of the urban as a “more-than-human” space entails the call for a new environmental politics that integrates non-human actants into its conceptual framework of environmental planning and action. Although humans can transform natural landscapes into built environments and can plan and distribute urban space, there are also other elements at play that determine the living conditions in and the environmental impact of cities. Urban planners have to take into account the disposal of waste and sewage when structuring space. Industrial sites and power plants may supply cities with electricity and jobs, but they also create emissions of gasses, toxins, and the like that visibly 139

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affect the (urban) climate. While these examples make clear that there is always a moment of human regulation attached to material interactions in cities, they also show that materials make up, to a large extent, what we refer to as environmental politics. Rather than being solely acted upon, they act themselves and constantly force decisions regarding the way in which humans want to situate themselves in the “more-than-human” world. Cities are a prime example for this since their environment is made up of a high degree of material interactions and of the dense interplay between organic and nonhuman actants. They are, in short, a material environment. In the following, this status of cities will be explored with the help of cultural examples that have long reflected upon the more-than-human dimension of urban space and have found imaginative ways of expressing the material embeddedness of human life. A medium that has explored, in ever new scenarios, the way in which humans and non-human actants are always interrelated and co-extensive in urban environments is the film medium. Not only has the growth and the development of the film industry coincided with urbanization, it is also a medium that is made up of an interplay of material and spatial processes as well as of the interaction between humans and technology. Films operate in a built, manufactured environment and show the human place in this environment. That films do not solely reflect or realistically depict urban space becomes clear when one looks at examples that have created their own version of contemporary or imaginative cities and have developed their own language for rendering the non-human dimension of this environment. Two film genres that have repeatedly done this are the sciencefiction and monster film that often play out along the lines of disaster scenarios in which human control of urban space and technology is tested in the face of the “other.” My examples are Fritz Lang’s sci-fi classic Metropolis, Bong Joon-ho’s South Korean monster drama The Host, and Neill Blomkamp’s alien parable District 9. They offer themselves for an analysis in a work on urban ecology, because they reflect, on the one hand, the development of the film medium and its connection to urban life, and because they all re-vision urban space as a “more-than-human” world in which human politics and non-human life processes are intricately connected. All three films introduce symbols and metaphors for non-human and material actants that question human hegemony and challenge human agency in the face of social conflicts. They depict how the urban status quo is undermined by forces that exceed human agency and show how the (environmental) disasters that ensue are driven by misguided environmental politics that stem from hierarchical and anthropocentric thinking. They thus engage a perspective that views urban ecologies as tightly inter-connected spaces in which material agents and non-human life forms make up integral parts of social and political relations—a perspective that trades in an anthropocentric viewpoint

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for one that highlights openness and sees cities as dense networks of material-discursive relations. This distinctively posthuman perspective entails important consequences for the way in which humanity’s place in the world is perceived: The American philosopher John Dewey conceptualized the relationship between humans and their respective environments as an organic one in every sense of the word, consisting of manifold links between the body and the “morethan-human world:” “The need that is manifest in the urgent impulsions that demand completion through what the environment—and it alone—can supply, is a dynamic acknowledgment of this dependence of the self for wholeness upon its surroundings” (Dewey 1980, 59). Human life is by no means, Dewey reminds us, self-sustaining. We live in an environment that we actively or in-actively appropriate and use in order to stay alive. We depend on other (human) beings as well as on material objects, substances, or chemical connections for our thoughts and actions. As “bodily natures” (Alaimo 2010) we are intricately inter-related with our surroundings, reciprocally exchanging products of physical and mental processes. The body’s relationship with the respective surroundings is one of constant and dynamic co-formation and transformation, in which other bodily agents play a fundamental role. Be it the microbes and micro-organisms that are responsible, for example, for digestive processes or the machines and objects that become extensions of our own bodies and which we engage in our daily lives—tools, communication technologies, or vehicles—all of them make up the “surroundings” that Dewey invokes and with which we are in co-existence. As Jonathan Hale puts it, Dewey illustrates “how dependent we are on a whole network of tools and techniques involving both physical and intellectual functions” and reflects on the “ethical dimension” in “the relationship between the organism and its environment” (Hale 2012, 516). The “ethical dimension” that Hale invokes could also be described as an ecological one, since Dewey makes use of a network imagery in which the whole is always more than the sum of its parts. Moreover, in shifting the perspective to material objects and nonhuman agents, it is also an approach to a decidedly posthuman perspective which recognizes the importance and role of the more-than-human world in daily life processes and calls for a non-anthropocentric take on the environment. This image of the human as embedded within a complex and dynamic relationship with nonhuman nature will be taken up in this chapter as a way to re-imagining the urban as a sphere in which manifold agents interact and as a way to enabling the development of ethical positions on contemporary urbanism and its impact on non-human nature. In this sense, the posthuman city is not one that implies sameness between the various human and nonhuman actors, but that recognizes their difference in the mutual and contingent processes that make up our urban worlds. These are consequently to be

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thought of not as spheres of human dominance but rather of co-existence, where humanity’s place in nature can be negotiated and re-imagined. That the urban is indeed a decidedly posthuman sphere becomes clear, for instance, in Hale’s discussion of architecture as the cultural “technology” concerned with the transformation of natural into built environment. Drawing on Andrew Pickering’s theory of the “mangle,” which deals with the corelation of human and material aspects in bringing about scientific knowledge, and the “dance of agency” that Pickering sees at work in these processes (Pickering 1995), Hale views the process of constructing a building as a material process with elements that remain outside of human control, but that possess an agency of their own: “In the act of constructing a building . . . the tectonic character of a raw material emerges from its resistance to beings shaped and transformed into a building component” (Hale 2012, 520). Although Hale stresses the human intentionality that is embedded in raw materials, it also becomes clear that they possess an agency of their own in so far as they are resistant to specific usage or determine the geometrical forms of buildings. Moreover, there are other agents at play, which are removed from direct human influence, like, for instance, the weather that leads materials to erode, move, or collapse, underlining that the built environment is not an environment solely formed according to man’s will, but remains ever shifting and dynamic (521). What is true for the built fabric of the urban is also true for urban society as a whole. Bruno Latour, in his Actor-Network-Theory has shown how society is not solely made up of human agents, but of material actants that interlink the social sphere and present options for action (Latour 2010b). Be it the raw materials described above or extensions of the human body like tools, weapons, or vehicles, all of them make up an assemblage of objects that enable human interaction and constitute the material fabric of the social. In the same vein, the flows of materials and commodities that William Cronon has described in Nature’s Metropolis (1991) or the pipelines and canals that bring water into cities (Kaika 2005) function as integral, coexistent parts of urban life—not to mention pets, wild animals, weeds, and plants that have made the urban their natural habitat. All these elements combine to make up “the dense networks of interwoven sociospatial processes that are simultaneously human, material, natural, divisive, cultural, and organic” (22) and that consist of the “intermingling of things material, social and symbolic” (Swyngedouw 2003, 899), which characterize our urban worlds in which the human is but one of the factors that shapes these complex environments. Before this background, this work shares in Louise Westling’s call for a posthumanism 1 that seeks, as Westling puts it, “to define the human place within the ecosystem by interrogating or erasing the boundary that has been assumed to set our species apart from the rest of the living community” (30). Drawing on phenomenological philosophy in the wake of Merleau-Ponty

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(1964) and, more recently, David Abram (1997), as well as new approaches in science, she characterizes this new “posthumanist” view as one that reimagines the human place in nature as a constant exchange and interaction: “We are no longer alone as transcendent Minds locked in decaying bodies on an Earth where we don’t belong and separate from the myriad creatures around us. Now we can see ourselves as vibrant bodies pulsing in harmony with our whole environment” (Westling 2006, 36). This intertwining of our bodily natures and the world underlines the co-existence of ourselves and the “more-than-human” sphere, reflecting on the process by which this co-relation is experienced and eventually mediated. While we are certainly beings who take in our surroundings in a sensory manner, we nevertheless do not automatically merge with our environments. We are of an environment, but we do not blend with it. That other broad realm called “culture” gives us the means with and by which we engage with our surroundings—thoughts, language, and tools. Our experience of nature and the “more-than-human” world has to be mediated in some sort of (culturally infused) way. That is why it is, to quote Grewe-Volpp, necessary to find a posthuman “position that takes into consideration human embeddedness in the physical-material world as well as humans’ difference from nonhuman nature, a position that heeds human interdependence in ecosystems and at the same time does not ignore the culturally and socially constructed complex of human life” (GreweVolpp 2006, 74). Such a position has been formulated, for instance, in the posthuman environmental ethics brought forth by Stacy Alaimo in Bodily Natures (2010) as well as in the theory of “material ecocriticism” formulated by Serenella Iovino and Serpil Oppermann (2012). Alaimo’s concept of “trans-corporeality” has highlighted the intricate interrelation between bodies, places, and material substances and how they affect issues of environmental health, showing how both material agents as well as discursive practices render environments and bodies “toxic.” In this context, “the material self cannot be disentangled from networks that are simultaneously economic, political, cultural, scientific, and substantial” (Alaimo 2010, 20), while “flows of substances” (21) likewise determine and make up the condition of these “networks” (21). 2 Her “posthuman environmental ethics in which the flows, interchanges, and interrelations between human corporeality and the morethan-human world resist the ideological forces of disconnection” builds on the insight that “matter is not a passive resource for human manipulation and consumption, nor a deterministic force of biological reductionism, nor a library of codes, objects, and things to be collected and codified” (142), but rather recognizes the dynamic agency of material substances in order to counter a view of the world as “a passive repository of resources for human use” and to bring forth an alternative view which “entails an openness not only to the deviants that result but also to the wider sense that the world is

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ever-emergent” (143). This approach is crucial to an urban ecology, because it makes clear that the urban is not solely a human-dominated habitat, but rather a complex ecosystem in which many different materials, substances, and bodies meet and merge in manifold ways, creating environmental conditions with a strong and lasting impact on the wider ecosphere. This entails a re-conceptualization of the human body that is impossible to separate from the rest of the world and that demands the development of new ethical positions on the place of the urban in nature, which is, like the human body, constantly re-emerging in the exchange and flows of substances and materials that make up its fabric. As Serenella Iovino describes “the ontological vision of the material turn,” it “is the picture of a world of inter-connected dynamics,” a “. . . real—concrete, material—posthumanist picture, in which different forms and sources of agency feed each other, resulting in a constellation of things, lives, events, and concepts” (Iovino 2012a, 65). This implies an ethical program, since “it puts emphasis on the ethical dimension of the bonds between language and matter, for example in terms of representation of political values, citizenship, and different social agencies” (65) and thus “re-elaborates the horizon of human action according to a more complex, plural, and interconnected geography of forces and subjects” (64). The “material ecocriticism” brought forth in this writing is one that asks of us to perceive “matter as text,” “as a site of narrativity” (57–58, emphasis in original) and “text as matter,” as a concretization of the intricate relationship between material agency and the way in which it becomes reflected on and mediated in cultural systems. The material side of culture and the discursive side of matter are thereby interlinked in an approach that lays open how “humans share their narrative horizon with other subjects and other things, aware that the effort to listen to the world in the entirety of its voices is essential to the very project of being humans” (66). Cultural meditations on the interaction between humans and non-human agents in an urban system are therefore integral parts of an urban ecology themselves, constantly reimagining humans’ place in nature and imaginatively engaging with the “Other” in an environment that is not altogether human after all. In the following, I choose films as examples of cultural meditations on the “posthuman” or “more-than-human” city, because I would argue that the film medium has always lent itself to an exploration of the material dimensions of everyday life. This argument is not new, of course—it has been present in manifold theoretical examinations of the medium’s capacity to render reality. Yet, nowhere has it been laid out with more theoretical fervor and precision than in the writings of German philosopher Siegfried Kracauer. According to him, films are primarily made for the portrayal and disclosure of physical reality (Kracauer 1985, 55). 3 One of the first films ever made, L’arrivée d’un train of the Lumière Brothers, which has been brought to new prominence by its central role in Martin Scorsese’s latest masterpiece, Hugo, for instance,

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simply shows the arrival of a steam train in an overcrowded train station. Bodies move around in confusion as the train rushes into the station and thick plumes of smoke ascend into the air (58). It is not only the portrayal of movement and time which is at stake (the movement- and time-image that Gilles Deleuze focused on in his writings on film), but also the “worldimage” that Deleuze invokes as well (Deleuze 2009 and 2011): The depiction of physical objects within a spatial environment. For Kracauer, film’s ability to focus on objects is its most important characteristic, including those objects—Kracauer calls them “Ausfallerscheinungen”—that usually exceed further attention: waste, disposed of goods, dust (Kracauer 1985, 86–87). For Kracauer films have, like no other medium, the ability to portray the physical totality of the world, the interaction and correlations between bodies, materials, and fluids that exist in a specific environment. Instead of rendering the objects of the world as mere abstractions, films imbue them with meaning, showing them in their relevance for and influence on social interactions and the environment (379–402). In other words, films have the ability to show objects and substances in their agency and to reflect on the way in which they inter-relate with the human sphere of the social. Thereby, they become a medium of “experience”—of the experience of things in their concreteness (“die Erfahrung von Dingen in ihrer Konkretheit”) (385). Drawing on Lewis Mumford, Kracauer argues that films help to perceive and appreciate material objects in their reciprocal presence and dynamic emergence: “film . . . shows us a world of imbuing, interacting organisms” (“der Film . . . zeigt . . . uns eine Welt sich durchdringender, sich beeinflussender Organismen”) (388). This understanding of the film medium will be taken up in this chapter and interfused with the idea of the “more-than-human city” established above. The city is a world of permeating and “interacting organisms” and apart from the film medium’s long-time fascination for cities and city space, it can itself be understood as a “posthuman” medium: Not only because it can uncover the material dimensions of life, but because it is itself a medium which is characterized by an intricate interplay between human actors and non-human actants—cameras, lights, projectors, and screens. It is itself an elaborate technology constantly exploring the real and imagined realms of this planet. The “more-than-human city” will be examined with the help of three films that lend themselves to an urban ecological analysis: First of all, Fritz Lang’s epic film Metropolis from the silent era will be taken as a prime example of the cinematic envisioning of an urban future in which machines come to play a fundamental role in the strict spatial stratification of society, giving way to hybrid bodies and, eventually, a cyborg that comes to undermine the dichotomies and polarities on which this urban order is based. Secondly, Bong Joon-ho’s 2006 South Korean monster film The Host will be regarded as an example of the filmic portrayal of the manifold flows and

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interconnections within an urban environment, in which environmental pollution creates toxic bodies and transforms the city space, illustrating the interrelations between the use and abuse of environmental politics, material agency, and citizenship within a posthuman setting. Finally, Neill Blomkamp’s South African movie District 9 will be explored as an urban parable of environmental injustice and social stigmatization in the guise of a genre film, in which an alien species has literally been stranded in Johannesburg and is encamped in a township settlement, from which it is to be relocated while the protagonist undergoes a strange metamorphosis which puts his own humanity at stake. VISIONS OF SPATIAL STRATIFICATION, URBAN MACHINERY, AND SOCIO-TECHNOLOGICAL DISASTER: FRITZ LANG’S METROPOLIS When Fritz Lang’s epic futuristic film Metropolis opened at the Ufa-Palast am Zoo-cinema in Berlin on January 27, 1927, it was an urban and cultural spectacle in every sense of the word—not only did it present its viewers with a cinematographic vision of the city of the future, set in the year 2000, but part of the film’s urban vision had been re-located from the screen of the cinema’s interior, to its built exterior, transforming a part of the cityscape. As Anton Kaes describes the scene: The theater’s exterior walls were covered with a gleaming silver coating. Brilliantly shimmering at night and faintly glistening during the day, the building radiated an eerie otherworldliness. Advertising gimmick as well as technological feat, the silvery walls projected a modernity associated with metal machinery. Futuristic technology was displaced not only in the film’s fictional world but also outside, in the public space, which thus became an extension of the movie set. (Kaes 2009, 174–175)

What certainly constituted a marketing strategy by the production company Ufa (Universum Film-Aktiengesellschaft), visibly advertising the film to Berlin’s public, could also be seen as a reflection of modernist zeitgeist and as a conscious comment on contemporary affairs, rendering visible the futuristic trends implicit in urban life and urban planning as well as their technological underpinnings. With Metropolis, the future had arrived. As many commentators have noted then and now, it was a contradictory future indeed, fraught with antagonisms inherent in contemporary discourse (Jordanova 2000, 173), while also exploring the “contradictions of technology” by “staging both its dystopian perils and its utopian possibilities” (Ruppert 2001, 22); all these aspects wrought in an overtly complex and dense plot that, with a running time of nearly three hours, demanded a lot of its

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audience. Indeed, at the time of its premiere, it was almost unanimously dismissed by the general audience and film critics alike, who, although they noted the film’s impressive visual effects and stylistic grandeur, denounced its story as well as its ending, which was conceived as naïve and simplistic, dissolving all too easily the conflicts it had built up to the film’s heart racing climax (Bachmann 2000, 3). Nevertheless, as Rutsky notes, “the film’s eclectic mixture of cultural elements also helps to explain why Metropolis . . . has remained remarkably popular and relevant” today (Rutsky 2005, 180). Moreover, the film’s artistic vision has lost nothing of its enduring appeal, presenting its viewers with visual effects that have paved the way for all the major science fiction films that have followed in the tracks laid out by Metropolis—Star Wars, Blade Runner, Brazil, or Terminator, to name but a few— and a portrayal of futuristic urban and technological life that has forever been implemented into the canon of our audiovisual cultural memory. As Thomas Elsaesser has shown, this is not only due to the fact that Metropolis’s influence on film history is beyond measure and that it has become an integral part of (post-)modern pop culture (Elsasser 2001, 7–8), but also because it still speaks to contemporary urban discourse. Its spectacular set design has influenced architects and urban planners and its presentation of the role of machinery and technology for urban life in general has lost nothing of its relevance—if anything, in the meantime, it has gained ever newer meaning through the emergence of an increasingly technologized society and the concurrent development of hybrid bodies and cyborg technology (85). In the following, it will be explored how Metropolis tackles these issues by drawing the vision of a spatially and socially stratified urban environment in which the mastery of and through machinery plays a vital role. In this context, it will also be shown that Metropolis outlines a complex ethical discourse, investigating the role of technology for a (post)human urban society and projects, in turn, a dark vision of its abuse in the face of conflicting urban politics, presenting its viewers with a social-technological disaster of dramatic proportions. 4 In this context, the role of nature will be explored as a realm forcefully excluded from urban life and as part of an imaginative counter discourse long neglected in the discussion of Lang’s film. Before turning to the urban spatial structure laid out in the film and its interaction with technology, it is necessary to say a few words on the history of Metropolis itself for it is, by no means, clear what is meant when one refers to “Lang’s film.” Due to unsatisfactory audience numbers, the film was considerably shortened and even re-arranged for foreign release—without the consultation of Lang—resulting in various versions circulating around the world. 5 Since 1927 the original version was lost and although German film historians and restorers like Enno Patalas worked hard to restore at least a version that would resemble the original one (Patalas 2000), it was not until 2008 when an almost complete copy of the film was found in

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the archives of the Museo del Cine in Buenos Aires, containing scenes that were deemed to be lost since 1927. These scenes were finally digitally restored and re-integrated into the existing remastered film, resulting in a new version that was released in 2010. It is this version that I will refer to in the following, since it gives the best and most encompassing impression of Lang’s artistic vision that proves to be as captivating and awe-inspiring as it was at the time of its making. 6 Resulting in an overly lengthy shooting period which lasted for almost a year and involved up to 36,000 extras and huge set designs at Neubabelsberg, Metropolis became the most ambitious and expensive German movie of the silent era, exceeding its budget more than eightfold (17–19). Mentioning the painstaking process of its production and the sheer size and enormous logistic efforts of this cinematic project makes sense in so far as these aspects mirror the main subject matter of the film: an urban microcosm of the future, shaped by gigantic concrete skyscrapers and based on perilous industrial labor. In this future Metropolis, the society is hierarchically divided into a proto-capitalist elitist class on the one hand, dwelling in luxurious high-rise buildings and spending their leisure in night clubs like “Yoshiwara,” the “City of Sons,” a gigantic sports arena, or the ever-blooming “Eternal Gardens” on top of the city; and a nameless mass collective on the other, the working class, working 10-hour-shifts under abysmal conditions and living underground in a shabby, dark underground city. Located inbetween are the machines that have to be operated with immense bodily effort under the careful watch of the city’s ruler, Joh Fredersen, whose fully technologized and operational bureau is located in the center of Metropolis, in the New Tower Babel, a gigantic skyscraper which also functions as the central nodal point of traffic and commerce. His son, Freder, is indifferent to urban politics or the conditions of the working class until he sees the saintlike Maria in the Eternal Gardens, where she leads hundreds of children from the under city to show them their “brothers” in the upper city. Maria is the antithesis to Fredersen, preaching to the workers in the 2000-year-old catacombs under Metropolis and promising that a “mediator” will come to ameliorate their living conditions peacefully, upholding social unity and cohesion. Freder, who has followed Maria into the dark tunnels and has witnessed firsthand the bad conditions of the working class, finally sets out to become this mediator himself, dressing like a worker and spending a lot of time in the under city—a fact that is not lost on his father who eventually visits his old rival, the scientist and innovator Rotwang. When he learns that Rotwang has created a machine-woman in the guise of Rotwang’s lost love Hel (who became Fredersen’s wife and died while giving birth to Freder), he orders him to give the robot the appearance of Maria in order to create confusion and cause trouble among the working class and to lead Freder back into his arms. Rotwang fulfills Fredersen’s wishes, but secretly shapes the cyborg

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Maria’s actions according to his own will, while holding the real Maria (who resembles his lost love Hel) as a prisoner. The false Maria dances in the night club Yoshiwara at night and preaches fanatically to the workers during the day, finally leading them to revolt and to abandon their posts in order to destroy the machines. This nearly ends in a catastrophe as the under city is flooded and the worker’s children are left at home. The real Maria, who has managed to escape from Rotwang’s house, and Freder, who has been searching the under city for her, eventually rescue the children, while the angry mob of workers feel deceived by the false Maria whom they find dancing in the upper city. They burn her like a witch at the stake and recognize that she is, in fact, a robot. In the meantime, Freder and Rotwang face off on the roof of a nearby cathedral, where Freder finally saves Maria from the scientist, who plunges to his death. It is here that Freder becomes the promised mediator, reconciling his father Fredersen with the workers, as the film concludes with the epigraph: “The mediator between head and hands must be the heart.” While this plot has often been scrutinized as being too complex and too fraught with historical and mythic allusions as well as with an unsatisfactory ending of an all-too pressing social question, the cinematographic presentation of future urban life and the awe-inspiring architecture and filmic effects of Metropolis have equally been noted and celebrated. In fact, many critics argue that Metropolis has mainly to be understood as a “filmic portrayal of a city” (Byrne 2003, 2), not of a real, existent city, but of a city of the future, loaded with technological, spatial, and built elements that have their roots in urban discourse and architecture of the soaring 1920s. The latter aspect had been underlined by Lang himself, when he wrote about a boat journey to New York in 1924 with film producer Erich Pommer and architect Erich Mendelsohn, where he had been invited to present his latest film Die Nibelungen—according to Lang his first impression of the lit Manhattan skyline at night had an overwhelming effect on him: “The buildings seemed to be a vertical veil, shimmering, almost, weightless, a luxurious cloth hung from the dark sky to dazzle, distract, and hypnotize. At night the city did not give the impression of being alive; it lived as illusions lived. I knew then that I had to make a film about all of these sensations” (quoted in Kaes 2009, 174). 7 Biographers have noted that the script for Metropolis had already been finished by the time Lang visited America (Jacobsen/Sudendorf 2000, 9), yet there can be no doubt that “New York’s luminous cityscape left its mark on the film’s visual design and electrifying energy,” especially when one considers the fact that Lang “had studied architecture and painting before he turned to filmmaking” and “infused all of his films with a rich spatial imagination” (Kaes 2009, 174). In many ways, Metropolis was the product of a new urban era, one that had already witnessed the spatial and social effects of urbanization and one

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that continued to imaginatively sketch out urban visions of the future, infused with conflicting takes on how to live together in spaces of high density and the place of nature in urban society. 8 These aspects were combined, for instance, in Le Corbusier’s famous design of a “vertical garden city” in 1922 (Jacobsen/Sudendorf 2000, 21) or in the designs for the architectural competition concerning the construction of a skyscraper adjoining the Friedrichstraße in Berlin in 1921 (Elsaesser 2008, 93). Skyscrapers or “tower houses” were the architectural buzzword of the day, partly driven by an analysis and import of American urban planning that was marked both by fascination and repulsion, 9 and an “utopian ideal” that conceptualized “the high-rise building as a city in itself” (93). As Neumann notes, this “skyscraper mania” (Neumann 1994, 149) was not lost on Lang, who was familiar with these designs and, eventually, incorporated them into his futuristic epos. Accordingly, Metropolis can be seen as influenced by and as a direct comment on the urban discourse of its time, as both a “laboratory of modernist cinema and architecture” and “the beginning of an intensive interplay” (Jacobsen/Sudendorf 2000, 9) between these two realms. 10 With Metropolis, films stopped merely portraying and reflecting on urban architecture and space, but rather became imaginative sources for and repositories of future urban design. That Lang’s own vision of contemporary urbanity was not just characterized by a fascination for the shimmering skyscrapers of Manhattan, but also by skepticism and even fear becomes clear in Metropolis in the portrayal of the under city, the “undercurrent” and “threatening second layer” (Bachmann 2000, 5) of the bright, flashy lights 11 garnishing the steel skyscrapers above. Consequently, Metropolis, the city, is marked by a strict social hierarchy which is reflected in its spatial structure: An impressive, all-consuming urban landscape above, glimmering of neon signs at night and buzzing with a soaring car traffic on the elevated roads and aerial highways with airplanes flying between the concrete canyons by day, and the dark, moist caverns below, where the workers reside in simple barracks and shabby houses. Everything is movement in Metropolis, a movement that is predominantly expressed vertically, along the sky-reaching high rises in the upper city and the deep-reaching tunnels of workers in the under city. Early on, next to staircases and bridges, elevators are introduced as a main motif in Lang’s film which function as mechanical devices interconnecting the different parts of the city. Although both parts are thus interrelated, mobility is constrained, for neither do workers travel upwards nor do members of the city’s elite visit the quarters of their industrial workers. The same is true in a social sense, since the society is marked by a strict hierarchy, where only descent is possible (as becomes clear when Joh Fredersen fires his longtime helper Josaphat, who, in turn, becomes a confidant of Freder). Accordingly, it is no wonder that the plot is set in motion by breaches of the vertical mobility in

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Metropolis: Maria takes the workers’ children to the highest elevation of the city, the Eternal Gardens, where she shows them how their “brothers” live and also presents them to the rich and affluent, who spend their leisure time there. This scene is partly presented out of the subjective perspective of Freder, for whom the appearance of Maria is like a ghostly apparition. The scene is lit in a way that she appears like an ethereal, otherworldly being, radiating with a strange light that sets her apart from the otherwise dim surroundings and the poorly looking children, who encircle her and closely cling to her. The sight of Maria and the children is a wake up-call for Freder who, in turn, follows them down into the city of the workers, where he enters an unknown world, marked by stark contrasts to the luxury he is used to. Freder becomes the central figure in Lang’s film who travels between these two spheres and constitutes a mediator in a spatial sense (before he takes on this role in a spiritual as well as social sense at the end of the film). Both the city of the workers as well as the upper city of Metropolis with the Club of Sons that harbors libraries, theaters, and sports arenas are characterized by the “semblance of order” (Jacobsen/Sudendorf 2000, 25) and a clear spatial structure, neatly ordered along vertical lines (Byrne 2003, 9) that order the daily working process of the laborers. Joh Fredersen, who oversees his city from a fully technologized office which is connected to every part of his gigantic city, becomes a symbol of a proto-capitalist and industrialist urban hubris, whose “desire to soar above the earth, above human limitations and conditions” is mirrored in the “vertical lines of the building at the city’s centre” (3), towering high above the ground and visibly removed from the earthly sphere below. Contrary to this, the spatial configurations of the working class are strongly restricted spatially, located in enormous caverns below the earth, where no sunlight ever shines. It is only above the ground that natural spaces exist, notably in the sports arena of the “Club of Sons” and in the “Eternal Garden” with its fountain, lush vegetation, and peacocks. Yet, these too are “artificial spaces” (Rutsky 2005, 189) “laid out in accordance with an intention to dominate natural phenomena and create a pleasing venue for sexual diversions” (Byrne 2003, 7). As Rutsky rightly observes, “nature seems to be almost entirely excluded from the space and mise-en-scene of the city” (Rutsky 2005, 189). However, it is remarkable that the aforementioned scene of the fateful meeting between Freder and Maria, which sets the events in motion, occurs in this domesticated nature, hinting at hidden, unrepressed energies. Another example for one of these hidden spaces, are the catacombs, slightly removed from the neatly ordered spatial stratification of the cityspace. It is here that Maria preaches to the workers and promises salvation. All in a space removed and “outside” the “technological control” (Ruppert 2001, 23–24) of Fredersen, embedded deep inside the earth in dug tunnels and caverns that have an altogether different appearance than the high-tech

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world of the upper city or the industrial world of the under city. Scattered bones and skulls attest to the age-old existence of the catacombs and reflect their function as a place of refuge, but also give them an eerie, ghostly appearance. They function both as a repository of spiritual renewal as well as a symbol of the life elements and life knowledge that has been cast out by the urban industrial society above. Accordingly, the spaces that escape this neat order “display a marked tendency towards organic rather than geometric forms” (Rutsky 2005, 189). Next to the catacombs, a good example of such a “thirdspace” in Metropolis is the house of Rotwang, the occult scientist and innovative magician, which, as the viewer learns, is the oldest house in the city, in fact, “older than the city itself.” It is a traverse space between the shiny streets of the upper city, located next to high-rise buildings and with a direct access to the catacombs with wooden doors and stone interiors. It is here that Rotwang not only harbors an enormous library that helps him to crack the code of the map of the earthen tunnels beneath the city that the workers carry in their pockets (which Fredersen is unable to read or to comprehend), but also the laboratory that allows him to construct the cyborg, modeled on his lost love Hel, who has a shrine in his home. These “thirdspaces” (Ruppert 2001, 23) are cleverly placed in Lang’s film, symbolizing at the same time life energies repressed in urban life as well as spiritual, occult, and uncanny practices excluded from a highly rationalized and hierarchically ordered society. They become the places of a rich imaginative discourse that runs counter to the otherwise futuristic vision of Lang’s film, highlighting those aspects that have been brushed aside by development and progress. Progress is visible everywhere in Metropolis, especially in the guise of technology and machinery. Next to the aforementioned elevators that interconnect the different parts of the city and that become equivalents of its verticality, other machines, too, fulfill roles that are vital to the inner-workings of the urban microcosm. Some are related to transportation—like the airplanes that fly between the skyscrapers in the upper city or the cars and trains that make up its hectic traffic on the ground—, while others are means of telecommunication. For instance, Joh Fredersen, the architect and “head” of Metropolis is connected to the machine rooms below the earth. His desk is made up of manifold switches with various functions, showing that he is in many ways in total control over his city with technology being connected to his panoptic gaze as well as keeping him from being seen—thus, the big dark veils in his office are operated by a simple switch that can easily shut out the outside world or open it up before the eyes of its master. Electricity is an important technological feature as well—however, it takes on different functions in the two parts of the city. In the upper city, it is used to highlight the glimmering neon signs shining from the high-rise towers and facades at night, while below the earth, it is used to light the living quarters and bar-

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racks of the workers, creating, in the absence of natural sunlight, a fluorescent, cold, and artificial atmosphere that is rendered with “low-key lightning . . . to create a mood of somberness, unhappiness and claustrophobia among the workers” (Trutnau 2005, 22). The machines that create this electricity and the energy to keep this gigantic organism of a city moving are located in the transitory space between upper city and under city, in spacious machine rooms (Byrne 2003, 4), “linking,” at the same time, “the two levels of society” (Halper/Muzzio 2011, 475). Accordingly, Metropolis opens with the orchestrated movement of pistons and a turbine engine, a scene that is, as Kaes puts it, “punctuated by the inter-spliced image of a ten-hour-clock, yet another machine, indicating the imminent start of a new shift” (Kaes 2009, 178) that begins when the whistle blows and a kernel of gigantic pipes releases the pressure in thick, bright billows of smoke into the air. The scene not only shows that “the city draws its energy from below ground” (177), but also sets the rhythm of the film and of urban life. Metropolis therefore reflects on how the city not only depends on technology, but also on how machinery has come to dictate rhythms and cycles of life and work, creating a monotonous “process entailing the temporal disciplining of the body through a regime of industrial Takt,” while also “figuring the city itself . . . as a kind of meta-body” (Cowan 2007, 237) in which humans and machines interact to make up a gigantic, conflicting whole. In fact, Metropolis is marked by two opposing images of technology that are each equated with the different spaces of the city: On the surface, we see how technology enhances the life quality of the inhabitants, whereas it becomes an opposing force underground (Ruppert 2001, 23). Here, the workers are projected “as mere cogs in the wheels of industry—men who have been turned into anonymous slaves whose rote actions mirror the movements of machines” (Wosk 2010, 404), presenting the viewer with a conflicting view of industrial modernization and countering the utopian version of the futuristic upper city with a dystopian one of its dark underbelly. Hence, the film begins not only with the portrayal of clogs and pistons rhythmically moving up and down, but also with the projection of two lines of workers walking in a “highly stylized staccato gait” (Cowan 2007, 237) as one shift ends and a new one begins. Siegfried Kracauer (1984), in his discussion of Lang’s film, has famously referred to this composition as a “mass ornament,” 12 as a carefully composed organization of a mass collective “in which the individual is radically submerged in highly structured formations” (Kaes 2009, 176). Yet, this submersion of the individual is not merely a social phenomenon, but one actively brought about by industrial work at the machines that demands the supervision and handling of the workers. In this context, one of the most famous scenes of the film is revealing: When Freder follows Maria and the children down into the City of the Workers, he enters a huge machine hall, where many workers rhythmically work at a colossal machine that the came-

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ra takes in in a still from ground level, rendering the awe-inspiring size of the steel construction. As Dover notes, “the cogs and engines of the machine room absorb the movement of the massed workers as material” (Dover 2000, 276) so that the workers seem to merge into the machine with robotic movements. 13 They become, in other words, parts of the machine, while the machine becomes alive with their movement in a curious metamorphosis. As Dover comments on these “morphologies”: “The workers with no faces are alive, but they behave as robots and they exist as functional bits,” while “the machine is object, thing, a material other” that “shapes into human form.” As she further remarks, “Lang’s aestheticization of the worker automata acts to further dehumanize them” (277), to render them as robotic beings themselves. This dehumanization that the workers undergo already foreshadows the posthuman appearance of the cyborg in Metropolis and is complemented by a vision of Freder who witnesses the exhausted breakdown of one of the workers which leads to an angry malfunction of the machine and an eruption of gases and fire that injures others and leads to Freder’s hallucination: The machine turns into a giant Moloch, taking “on a demonic life of its own, not only controlling but actually consuming the lives of the workers” (Rutsky 2005, 190) that are pictured as shorn slaves reminiscent of ancient Egypt, who walk up the steps in rows into the wide open, flame blazing mouth of the metal beast. The scene is a perfect example of the rich visual imagination of Lang’s film as well as of the way in which cinematic technology is used to comment on modern technological advancements and urban machinery, turning Lang’s film into a meta-movie that is conscious of its own methods of production and the power of techno-visual illusion. The issue of illusion and deceiving appearance is thereby introduced as a leading motif in Lang’s film that is nowhere as present as in the figure of the false Maria, the machine-woman that is created by the inventor Rotwang by means of science as well as dark magic. After her creation, she becomes, in many ways, the main and most complex character of the movie, a posthuman being with a robot interior and human features, electrically copied from Maria. The human machine is far removed from the true technology of the time of Metropolis’s making, yet it serves as a vibrant metaphor of a mechanical and bodily fusion of man and mechanical object, of a technological hybrid that has lost nothing of its visionary force and has to be seen as one reason for the movie’s ongoing popularity. When the viewer first sees the robot, it is seated on an elevated chair in Rotwang’s house with an inverted pentagram in the background. 14 The eventual transformation scene, where Rotwang trans-figures the features of the robot into those of Maria is arguably the most impressive of Lang’s films with elaborate special effects, including the use of fluorescent “photo-chemistry” (Wosk 2010, 405). The scene is marked by the interplay of the portrayals of Maria’s human body, the metallic frame of the robot and the laboratory “filled with objects which

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move in unpredictable ways: liquids in vessels, electrical surges” (Dover 2000, 277) and mechanical apparatuses, while the separation between these bodies and objects slowly begins to interact, to merge, and to finally dissolve into one another (278), resulting in the creation of a posthuman hybrid. In this sense, Metropolis can be read as a reflection of and a mediation on the complex interactions taking place in modern urbanity—in a society, where human agents are not the sole actants of daily life, but are rather accompanied by an innumerable number of materials, objects, and substances created in daily processes of metabolization and industrial labor, which bring forth ever newer configurations and mutations, adding ever newer elements to this intricate mix (Swyngedouw 2005). Metropolis offers a vision of an urban ecology interconnected with technology in which urban machinery takes on an integral role, culminating in the posthuman body of Maria, which underlines the agential force of the machines. The robot Maria is the most impressive character in Lang’s film, because she embodies multiple aspects and layers of meaning that are often repressed in the futuristic city of the film, but that are nevertheless implicitly present, culminating in her hybrid body that “at once enchants and horrifies because . . . it moves spontaneously to a degree where both viewer and characters within the film cannot tell the difference between the biological and mechanical” (Dover 2000, 280). She becomes the central character in an imaginative discourse in which the “relationship between the biological subject and technological object” (275) is negotiated and where her cyborg body not only incorporates human and mechanical elements, but rather “combines all of the elements that have been repressed by Fredersen’s technological regime.” She can thereby be seen as a counter discourse, where the repressed “magical/spiritual, more natural, feminine elements” (Rutsky 2005, 290) come to life and turn against the urban stratified system that has maimed them for too long. Thus, she is, like the real Maria on whom she is based, the only well-rounded female character in Lang’s film; but where the latter is kind and forgiving, looking for equilibrium between the different parts and inhabitants of the city, the false Maria is both alluring and revolting, a “disruptive social force” (Ruppert 2001, 24). 15 In her appearance, the machinewoman “problematizes all dualities and oppositions” present in Metropolis’s hyper-modern universe—between man and machine, nature and culture— transgressing the “boundary between human and artificial” (27). Therefore, she can be seen as a cyborg figure in the sense of Haraway (1991, 27–28), a cultural-technological hybrid who negates the strict polarities on which society rests, while embodying, at the same time, a “potentially liberating” (27) force. Of course, her erotic dances in the Yoshiwara nightclub, with which she turns the men of the upper-class into her sex-crazed followers, or her fanatic speeches in the catacombs that turn the working-class into a bloodthirsty angry mob make clear, it would be wrong to merely interpret the

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cyborg as liberating, for it should also be seen as destructive. Although she clearly possesses a strongly emancipatory quality, representing the secluded female and uncovering the poor living conditions of the working class, she does not stand in for an alternative system; in other words, she does not become the mediator that the real Maria has promised, but a catalyst of violent revolt, anarchy, chaos. She asks the workers: “Who feeds the machines with their own flesh?” and eventually demands of them to “Let the machines starve, you fools! Let them die! Kill them—the machines!” forcefully undermining the technological regime on which the city rests and on which she herself is based. Her main impulse is thus self-destructive. The character of the false Maria lets another repressed element come to the fore that eventually leads to the destruction of the under city, namely nature. The workers abandon not only their work posts at the machines, but also storm the machine room at the very center of Metropolis, aptly titled “heart machine.” While the use of the other machines mainly consists of supplying the upper city with energy and electricity, the “heart machine” has a different use entirely. As Cowan explains by drawing on Harbou’s novel, it is “a pumping mechanism, audible throughout the underground city as a ‘beating pulse’, which functions to keep the danger of flooding in check by continually pumping away the excess water building up beneath the city.” The “mediating between technology and the forces of nature by imposing rhythmical order over nature’s dangerous flows” (Cowan 2007, 240) adds to the way in which “Fredersen’s controlling rationality is applied not only to the natural world, but also to the workers” in the “repression of the ‘feminine’ aspects of nature, and of human nature” as well as of “magical and animistic views of the world” (Rutsky 2005, 188–189). The false Maria brings these different aspects to the fore: With her Dionysian appearance that is, like the Greek god, ambiguous, embodying female sexuality as well as a wild irrationality long cast out from Metropolis, she leads the working class—much like the members of the city’s elite—into a wild frenzy who follow her submissively. In the most spectacular part of the entire film, it is shown how the Dionysian dancers led by the false Maria make their way through the city spaces of Metropolis, first below the earth, later on in the streets of the upper city, where the upper class carry their erotic dancer in a lantern procession and a drunken craze, while the workers dance around the destroyed heart machine below. At the same time, it is shown in magnificent shots, employing an impressive set design, low-key lightning, and a plethora of children extras, how the city of the workers is flooded by masses of water that spurt out of the ground floor, the walls, and the ceiling as if this repressed force and flow of nature wanted to join in the orgiastic dances going on around it. The scenes that follow are the most dramatic in the entire film, when the real Maria is the only adult left in the under city, desperately assembling the

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children near a gong-like monument in the middle of a square, while the water is quickly rising and walls are starting to collapse under the immense pressure. Freder and Josaphat find Maria and the children and lead them to safety into the dark upper city. Interestingly enough, they decide to bring them into the Eternal Gardens—what has, at the beginning of the film, served as a place of luxury and sexual play, now becomes a safe haven, where the children are led into a realm—the realm of nature—from which they had been locked out their whole lives. Albeit both spheres of nature—the destructive one as well as the life-giving and preserving one—are created through human intervention, they nevertheless make up “thirdspaces” themselves, places and forces that come to undermine the neat structure of the city and that harbor those life energies that are otherwise absent in its neat, mechanical design. What ensues in Metropolis in these scenes is a socio-technological disaster that almost ends tragically when the children are drowned in the inundated city of the workers. Although they are eventually saved, this part of the film sits uneasily with the viewer, because it depicts the immense failure of technology on which the futuristic city of Metropolis rests. The built structures and the mechanism of the heart machine are ways to keep the forces of nature in check, while, at the same time, exposing the workers to high degrees of environmental risk by displacing them to the flood-prone spaces below the earth, leading to the social dimension of the catastrophe. The false Maria thereby comes to embody the failure of technology and its destructive impulse, uncovering its ambiguous aspects: Without technology, the city of Metropolis would not be able to exist, whereas the failure of technology leads to a breakdown of the social order in the city and leaves it defenseless against the forces of nature that had been held in check by massive machinery. Metropolis thereby reflects on the false assumptions on which the technological rationality of the city is based, namely that it allows mastery over nature and guarantees the social stratification on which it is founded. The socio-technological disaster that plays itself out in the last third of the film is a destructive reversal of this rationality and becomes part of an imaginative counter discourse that brings those elements back to life which have been repressed in the mechanical urban system. In conclusion, Metropolis can be interpreted as a cultural ecological film, 16 exploring the underlying social tensions of urbanism and the ambivalent effects of technology in a time of fast-paced modernity and industrialization. By depicting the dark sides of technological progress in the dehumanization of the working class and the stratified city space, the film makes use of a culture-critical metadiscourse which stages those elements that have been repressed in the technological rationality of the future, skyscraper city. These elements are shown in an imaginative counter discourse that makes use of “thirdspaces,” removed from the panoptic and technological gaze of the city’s leader, Fredersen, like the catacombs below Metropolis, Rotwang’s

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laboratory, or the spaces of nature at the end of the film. In this context, the machine-woman Maria becomes a symbol of the post-human that embodies the conflicting polarities established in the film—especially those of man and machine—but that also brings those elements back to life that have been violently repressed in Metropolis, leading to the near catastrophe of the socio-technological disaster that drowns the City of the Workers. Eventually, these elements are brought together in a re-integrative interdiscourse which makes use of the metaphors of the body and the heart that have constantly recurred in the course of the film: After the false Maria has been burned at the stake and the real Maria has been saved in a dramatic climax, Freder becomes the mediator who symbolically unites Fredersen and the workers again, while the title card reads that “the heart has to be the mediator between the head and the hands.” It re-integrates the human into the mechanical, dehumanized society of Metropolis and makes, in fact, use of an ecological viewpoint in so far as it recognizes the urban society as a whole system. The posthuman element of this city is drawn ambivalently in Lang’s film: On the one hand, it becomes clear that the city cannot function without technology, on the other, it is also illustrated how technology functions as a mechanism of control and dehumanization. The posthuman cyborg Maria is an emancipatory figure in so far as she helps the workers to liberate themselves from the latter aspects, but she also symbolizes the (self-)destructive and irrational side of technology, one that turns against its creators. The narrative of technological progress is here undermined by one that underlines the digression of human elements in the face of a highly ordered, mechanized life. Reenvisioning the human—and nature’s place—in a posthuman society is thus at the heart of the ethical discourse of Metropolis—one that is still going on in our digital age. TOXIC DISCOURSE AND THE BIRTH OF AN URBAN MONSTER—BONG JOON-HO’S THE HOST Whereas Metropolis is a science-fiction classic from the silent film era, set in a near future with a strictly hierarchized urban society in which machines come to play a fundamental role, South Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s The Host is a contemporary monster movie which stages the appearance of a mysterious amphibious mutant that lives in the Han River and comes to terrorize the inhabitants of Seoul. With a fast-paced rhythm and impressive special effects—designed by the young San Francisco film team The Orphanage—as well as memorable characters, The Host is the highest grossing South Korean film ever produced. A genre movie, using a plethora of the conventions of monster films and inverting them to re-imagine the social implications of the genre and to introduce a stronger plot in the otherwise

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rather schematic tradition, The Host is an intricate genre mix, using elements of science fiction, screwball comedy, and family tragedy. 17 Although this vivid mixture of genres is not new to Asian cinema, it has come to be a signature of young director Bong Joon-ho (Park 2008), who first gained international acclaim with his brilliant serial killer film Memories of Murder in 2003 and who grew up enthusiastic about the colorful program of the American military television company AFKN which played an integral part in spreading American culture in South Korea and in the biography of the socalled New Korean Cinema, which can be seen as one of the most vibrant (trans-)national cinemas in the world today, including—next to Bong Joonho—cinematic masterminds Park Chan-wook, Kim Ki-duk, and Kim Jeewoon. According to Bong Joon-ho the television series and movies that he saw on AFKN formed his interest in genre conventions and led to his decision to become a director himself. It was only later on, in college and the Film Academy that he began to reflect on the ideological implications of the military network and the military presence in his country, aspects which he now strongly criticizes in his movies. 18 Nowhere is this criticism as present and vivid as in his 2006 film The Host, which is not merely a monster movie, but a cleverly constructed commentary on South Korean society as well as (environmental) politics. As will be shown, The Host is a film about environmental pollution, involving a complex toxic discourse in which not only the birth of the monster is caused by environmental indifference, but where toxic materials and chemical agents become integral parts of misguided politics which turn against the urban population itself. The city of Seoul is thereby portrayed as an intricate network of interconnections and flows, symbolized by the huge system of drainage and sewage canals where the monster hides, as well as the fluids—water, rain, chemicals—which make up a main motif of the film, symbolizing a permeating and interrelated urban ecology. The film opens with a short prologue, set in the year 2000, in a morgue of a U.S. military base, where many bottles of formaldehyde are disposed of by pouring their contents down a drain from which they eventually flow into the Han River. It is only years later when the supposed results of this act become visible in the form of a giant mutant who, one sunny day, hangs from one of the bridges interconnecting the different parts of Seoul and suddenly plunges into the water and onto the promenade, hunting down the disbelieving onlookers and seemingly devouring them arbitrarily before vanishing into the dark waters of the river again. During this scene, we meet the main characters of the film, the Park family, who run a small kiosk on the urban peninsula. The shop is run by the slow-minded and clumsy Kang-du who sets himself apart by dyed, blonde hair, and his father, Hie-bong. Kang-du’s daughter, Hyun-seo, comes home from school just before the attack of the monster and is eventually swallowed completely by it right in front of her helpless father’s eyes. In the aftermath of the tragedy, he is joined in his mourning by

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his unemployed, alcoholic brother Nam-il, an unsuccessful college graduate, and his sister, Nam-ju, a famous archer who is known for her lack of confidence in big competitions. As the surviving relatives of the monster’s victims gather in an improvised shelter, government officials in yellow hazmat suits enter the hall and take them away to a military hospital. Allegedly, the monster is the carrier of a highly infectious and deadly virus, since an American G.I. who had been in close contact with it, developed a bad skin disease (and eventually dies in the course of the film). Accordingly, the Han River is sealed off by the authorities who patrol its shores with cars and boats, spraying thick clouds of an unnamed disinfectant. Kang-du, who had also been in close contact with the monster is, together with his family, put into quarantine. Yet, he receives a call from his supposedly dead daughter who tells him that the monster has taken her deep into the canalization, where she is kept in a deep shaft, unable to flee. When the authorities do not react despite the family’s plea, they escape from the hospital and begin to roam the drainage system themselves in the search for Hyun-seo. After a perilous search and various setbacks—some caused by the intervention of the authorities—they finally face off with the monster on the banks of the Han River, while the American military is about to employ a biological weapon (called “Agent Yellow”) against it—an action that is opposed by a group of local protesters and environmental activists. The family eventually manages to kill the monster as thick clouds of toxic agents are released around them. However, they are unable to save Hyun-seo, who eventually dies of a lack of air or even chemical intoxication. The film ends in the family kiosk, where Kangdu has visibly changed his appearance and has matured, adopting a homeless boy who had also been in the captivity of the monster. The plot takes its starting point from a real-life incident: In 2000, a U.S. army officer dumped tons of toxic chemicals into the Han River, polluting its water and endangering its wildlife (King 2011, 133–134; Hsu 2009). When his act became public, it caused an uproar among Korean news media as well as environmental and political activists who saw it as evidence of the imperial occupation by the U.S., involving the violations of Korean human rights through the abject neglect of public health. This severe act of environmental injustice led some commentators to ask whether the Korean people are “people to be dumped upon” (Hsu 2009)—the more so as the U.S. officer was not court-martialed by a Korean court, but by a military court which only imposed a small monetary charge and eventually re-installed him in his previous post. The “slow violence” (Rob Nixon 2011) that became visible during this incident may not have been resolved rightfully, leaving behind frustration and anger among the local inhabitants who felt attacked in their own (urban) environment, but, at the same time, it opened up an imaginative space for artists like Bong Joon-ho, who took it as a creative impulse to render the violations of human and environmental rights in artistic form and

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thus to create a space of resistance in the face of injustice. Monster movies have always functioned as imaginative realms of portraying the dark underbelly and hidden, irrational fears of civilization, bringing to light creatures that, in their horrifying appearance and cruel actions, embody the absolute “other” of human nature and culture, while, at the same time, being the direct result of irresponsible behavior of those civilizations and cultures that they come to trouble. Monsters, although they may reside in hidden, inaccessible, or wild places are therefore not equated with nature, but rather with a nature manipulated and mistreated by human culture, coming to haunt those which have violated the ecological equilibrium. In the case of The Host, the monster that suddenly appears out of the depths and continuous flow of the Han River is born of environmental pollution through toxic chemicals and becomes the embodiment of a toxic discourse that functions as the main subject in Bong Joon-ho’s film. The movie opens with an establishing shot in the preparation chamber of a U.S. military morgue. The cold light, which dominates the scene, is reflected by the grey steel interiors of the laboratory, initially illustrating the somber, artificial setting of the sequence. Two pathologists in laboratory coats are seen standing at a long table with scientific instruments and various bottles. The elder of the two begins to speak with a thick American accent, saying that he detests “dust” more than anything in the world, while pointing to a collection of brown glass bottles with a thin dusty layer on their bottle necks. He eventually asks his Korean colleague, Mr. Kim, to dispose of the bottles and to pour their contents into the drain. The Korean subordinate protests, reminding the American officer that it is “formalin,” which is poisonous and will eventually end up in the Han River. Yet, it becomes clear that the implications of this action are perfectly obvious to the superior, correcting his assistant that it is “formaldehyde” and cynically commenting that “the Han River is very broad. Let’s try to be broad-minded about this,” before ordering him to finally get rid of the bottles. The next cut depicts the assistant as he is emptying the fluids of one of the bottles into a steel drain, with the poisonous toxicity of the chemicals underlined by the fumes which visibly ascend from the drainage as well as the gas mask that the assistant is wearing. With a plastic glove he skeptically examines the bottle neck, brushing away a few dust grains, before the camera slowly zooms away from him, panning along a long line of empty bottles, neatly aligned on a seemingly never-ending table as the scene fades out. The toxic discourse that the scene projects is thus both rendered orally (Mr. Kim repeatedly utters the words “poisonous” or “toxic”) as well as visibly, drawing attention to the fact that the environmental pollution which ensues from the disposal of the chemicals is by no means an accident, but rather a conscious action conducted against the better knowledge of (scientific) reason. Although the full implications of this scene are not clear at this early point of the movie, it is vital because it

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offers the first shocking moment of the horror film: The American officer is indifferent to the environmental pollution of his deed, while his Korean assistant willfully obeys—after short and inefficient protest—the command of his superior. Moreover, the reason for the pollution seems arbitrary, almost banal: Although their contents are still usable, the bottles are covered in a thin layer of dust and, consequently, have to be disposed of. Materiality is therefore established as a main subject of Bong Joon-ho’s film early on: a materiality often equated with death and decay (“ashes to ashes, dust to dust”) is here brought together with a deadly chemical agent. The dust that seems to pollute the otherwise neat interior of the morgue gives way to a worse, far-reaching pollution of the watery flows of the Han River, illustrating the presence of matter in an urban environment and the way in which it can engage human action or become an actant itself. The scene does not fade to a black screen, but rather blends into the next one: The camera pans along a wide stream of water that continuously flows in a pale current, while the subtitles read: 2002, Han River. Two fishermen are depicted standing in the water, when one catches a peculiar fish in a cup. He shows it to his companion who comments in disgust that it looks horrible. Although they do not know where the creature has come from, they guess that it has to be a “mutation” of some sort. As one of them tries to touch it with his finger, the camera introduces the larger setting of the scene and takes in the two fishermen from behind before the skyline of Seoul with a park area and sports arenas vaguely outlined against huge skyscrapers in the background, clouded by a thick veil of grey clouds which give the scene a dreary, somber mood. The creature bites the fisherman in the finger and can escape in the river, while the other one is astonished by the number of tails that it has. The sequence only lasts one and a half minutes, but it is central to the film, because it is directly connected to the first scene of the prologue set in the morgue. On the one hand, this relation is made visible by the tracking shots that blend into one another: The emptied bottles, which have been neatly aligned have been poured into the drain and have eventually been flushed into the Han River, which flows in a continuous movement and which is rendered in the scene with the fishermen. The implicit meaning of the scene is that the toxic chemicals have spread in the currents of the river and have also found their way into the food of the city, which is reinforced by the depiction of the fishing rods of the fishermen which have been cast in the water. On the other hand, the comments of the fishermen that the peculiar looking creature with many tails might be a “mutation” ties in with Mr. Kim’s earlier warnings about the toxicity of the chemicals and their possible effect on the environment. The “monster” that will come to haunt the city is therefore presented as a direct outcome of the mindless pollution of the environment and becomes, in the remainder of the film, also a symbol of the “trans-corporeality” (Alaimo 2010) of organisms in a city of flows: The

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chemicals are swept into the waters of the Han River, where they permeate and even alter the bodies of fish and other wildlife, which eventually end up in the bodies of humans, setting in motion a horrendous cycle of poisoning. In the remainder of the film this order of the food chain is reversed, as another being comes to make up its end, swallowing up humans and consequently symbolizing the way in which the pollution of the water has transformed the environment, mutating into a realm with its own, harmful force and its own “new species of trouble” (K. Erikson 1991). The film thereby reflects on the dynamic and ever-changing interplay between substances, bodies, and material agents which create new actants which are, although they have been influenced by human actions, removed from human control, opening up a space for the posthuman to express itself. In The Host, it comes to the fore violently when it heaps out of the Han River and chases the surprised people who have been going for a walk or were having a picnic on the promenade. Before this attack, however, there is another interesting sequence in the prologue: After the fishermen let the creature escape, the camera cuts to feet running on a Han River bridge in 2006—the time of the movie. The rain pours down, forming puddles on the ground which splash up as the feet touch the wet concrete. The camera then takes in a businessman who has climbed over the handrail of the bridge and is about to commit suicide, while his colleagues sprint towards him in order to stop him. He notices something dark and big swimming in the water and asks his colleagues whether they have seen it too. When they react dismissively, he jumps and plunges to his death in the turbulent water of the river. The scene is important, because, on the one hand, it alludes to a multitude of suicides of Korean businessmen in the wake of the IMF-crisis, re-connecting it to the opening sequence which implicitly criticizes the U.S. military still stationed in Korea and thus ties it to a more encompassing critique of globalization (Hsu 2009); on the other hand, the falling rain which drenches the pavement and the people standing on it becomes an extension of the troubled waters of the Han River, visibly illustrating the way in which the city is not only interconnected through steel constructions like the bridge, but also through the flows and fluids that permeate it. The rain falls into the river like the chemicals that have been swept into it, while it leads the river to rise and the canals to overflow, underlining the dynamic exchange of substances in an urban environment. Falling down or plunging is a recurring motif of the film concerning both objects as well as bodies and stresses a feeling of helplessness as well as the imminent threat of a catastrophe waiting to literally drop down on somebody or, in this case, a city. Interestingly enough, the monster is first seen in its full size and appearance as it is hanging from the bridge where the businessman had jumped before, clutching the steel frames with its long tail. The sight of the body of the monster this early in the film (about ten minutes into it) is clearly a violation of genre conventions—usually monsters

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are only seen in their entirety towards the end of a film—but it is also a clear sign that The Host has other intentions than the lingering suspense of an invisible threat with its storyline heading into a different direction altogether. The observers aligning on the side of the river stare in disbelief at the monster’s body dangling from the bridge as it lets itself fall into the water. The setting of the scene is a small kind of peninsula in the Han River, where mainly working class people come to spend their leisure in the summer and on holidays with a sparsely built environment and rich greenery (Delorme 2006, 47), giving the scene an almost idyllic atmosphere with the skyline of the city in the background. The onlookers watch the creature swimming towards them and mistake it for a big fish, throwing all kinds of things— food, a beer can, garbage—into the river to provoke a reaction from the beast. Yet, it swims past them only to surface a little further down the river, leaping out of the water and sprinting along the promenade, attacking the people who had tried to feed it. Chaos and confusion erupt as the monster wreaks havoc, hunting down people and destroying parked cars in the most spectacular and dynamic sequence of the entire movie. Besides the great choreography of the action and special effects, two things are of importance in this scene: Firstly, food is introduced as a main motif in the movie not only because the people try to feed what they think is some kind of fish or big amphibian, but also because the kiosk of the Park family is presented as a central meeting point on the river promenade with its different kinds of foods and drinks as well as with a giant stuffed head of a boar, behind which Kangdu saves some money for his daughter Hyun-seo. The equation between beast and food is further established when Hie-bong asks his son to serve some customers squid, which he fries on a grill outside of the small store, eating one of the fish’s tentacles—a fact which does not go unnoticed by the customers, who claim that an octopus always has “ten legs.” The customers’ comment re-enforces the discrepancy between the normal shape of seafood and the mutated body of the monster which has many “feet” itself, invoking a transformation through agential force and underlining the way in which the appearance of the monster is a violation of expectations, an anomaly of creation that reverses the roles between hunter and prey, swallowing its victims. Secondly, the monster never enters the city space of Seoul itself. It rather remains on the city’s outskirts or below it, in the wide-reaching canals, symbolizing the threat that lingers on the edge of the urban hemisphere. Accordingly, it is—during the first part of the film—mostly shot before a natural background, among giant weeds or tall grass that grows near the river or in front of the lush vegetation of a few trees standing on the opposite shoreline, where it swallows Hyun-seo. The monster is therefore primarily equated with nature, with a sphere outside of urban culture and civilization. Although the riverbed is artificially constructed of concrete, there is thus the sense that there are forces which cannot be contained or repressed, violently

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erupting and threateningly lingering underneath the domesticated realm at the intersection between built and natural environment. Before the background of the attack of the monster, the film establishes a second layer of meaning, one that comes to make up its other central plotline from which it takes its title. Shortly after the assault, when the surviving dependents of the victims mourn in a big sports hall, which has been converted into an improvised catastrophe shelter, a media report is issued by the officials who claim that a U.S. army officer who has been in close contact with the monster shows the signs of a deadly virus, one that is eventually ascribed to the monster. It is therefore no longer solely perceived as a beast that devoured a few individuals, but as the carrier—the “host”—of a virus that can easily spread and contaminate the entire city. The monster, whose own action scope is limited to the river and the canals that lead into it, consequently turns into a threat for the urban space as a whole. The toxic discourse which has been established at the beginning of the film with regard to the chemical agents that have led to the mutation of the monster is thereby further enhanced, now including other microscopic organisms, “silent travelers” (Kraut 1995) and agents, which can permeate the entire population of the urban environment, once again underlining the trans-corporeal imagery that the film uses to reflect on material and non-human agents in it. This discourse is eventually infused with images that are well-known from urban disaster movies or media reports of the mass-outbreak of a deadly virus— scientists walking around in yellow hazmat suits, soldiers that wear gas masks, spaces that are sealed off with barriers and warning signs that warn of “biohazard danger.” The environmental politics in the face of a large scale disaster and urban risk scenario are thereby presented as seeking to control public space on the one hand and the bodies of the inhabitants on the other (Hsu 2009). Thus, the area around the Han River and the small peninsula are evacuated and declared a restricted area with access controlled by the authorities, while the inhabitants and those who have gotten into contact with the monster or its victims are kept in quarantine (some against their will). The body politics that ensue are not concerned with tracking down or exploring the origin and nature of the beast, but rather with analyzing signs of the virus in the bodies of the inhabitants, although none of them shows any symptoms of being ill (Hsu 2009). They are literally incarcerated in a hospital and treated like outcasts who have lost their right of citizenship—hence, the authorities do not believe Kang-du when he tells them that his daughter has called him from a shaft in the canalization. When the Park family members protest against this treatment and escape from the hospital to track down the monster on their own, like the beast they are hunted themselves, consequently being called the “infected family” and searched for with posters all over the city. The “Monster” that the original Korean title—Gweomul—evokes thus takes on a plethora of meanings, not only referring to the amphibious

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mutant, but to the family and, in the end, also to the authorities who treat the victims of the attacks and the city’s inhabitants like culprits themselves, apparently being more interested in keeping them detained than searching for the actual beast. 19 This becomes apparent during the middle part of the movie, when an excerpt from a Korean news report is integrated into the action: Two reporters read the news, stating that the infected U.S. officer has died and that members of the “infected family” are still missing. As they put it, that is why the U.S. government as well as the World Health Organization have decided to intervene in Korea, since the Korean authorities seem to be unable to cope with the situation themselves. The report is then interfused with information on the “virus” itself, which is illustrated with the help of images—a graphic that depicts how it is transferred from animals to humans, men walking around in hazmat suits and detectors scanning body heat in airports. The film thereby clearly alludes to worldwide health crises like the avian flu or SARS (King 2011, 125), which also saw the implications of strict health regulation rules as well as a sensationalist and speculative reporting that spread faster than the virus itself. While the movie reflects on the discourse that ensues after the outbreak of a supposedly highly contagious and dangerous disease in an urban area, it again renders this discourse as a toxic one with critical undertones directed against Western hegemony. Thus, the news reporters continue that the U.S. plan the first time application of a chemical weapon, called “Agent Yellow,” which was developed for use against bioterrorism or new viruses. “This extremely powerful and effective system, once activated,” they quote officials, “completely annihilates all biological agents within a radius of dozens of kilometers.” “Agent Yellow” is, on the one hand, an allusion to the use of “Agent Orange” during the Vietnam War (Hsu 2009), which was used to defoliate forested areas and drive the rural populace into U.S. dominated cities. On the other hand, the images that accompany the report show U.S. soldiers in trucks and in the desert, invoking the war in Iraq as well as in urban areas, making clear that Seoul, too, could soon become the ground of a military operation. What is promoted as a measure against the monster and the looming threat of the virus, which could contaminate the entire city, is thereby presented as an act of biological warfare, whose actual victims could be the inhabitants of Seoul themselves. The chemical agent that the U.S. military plans to use is therefore connected to the toxic chemicals at the beginning of the film which have led to the public health crisis in the first place. The crisis itself is shown in sequences like the news report as well as in spatial terms. In one particular scene, some people are standing at an intersection in the pouring rain, waiting for the traffic lights to turn green. While they are all wearing face masks, one of them starts coughing hard, which earns him suspicious looks of the bystanders. When he loosens his mask and

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spits into a big puddle on the ground, they turn away in disgust. Just in this moment, a bus drives through the puddle, splashing the water on the group of people waiting to cross the street. The scene is once again indicative of the trans-corporeal imagery of the film, underlining the way in which bodies, fluids, and non-human agents like viruses make up a complex whole in a densely populated (urban) environment and also reflecting on the way in which these agents are rendered discursively. The latter aspect is especially important, because in the film the alleged virus that the monster hosts turns out, in the end, to be a hoax, based on misinformation and false reports. Yet, in the city itself, it has very real consequences and takes shape in the fear of the inhabitants as well as in trucks and boats which spray thick clouds of disinfectants. The city and its river are thereby discursively turned into toxic environments and health endangering places themselves, while the looming threat of a (non-existent) virus provokes chemical and toxic responses. At the same time, the bridges, intersections, as well as the many kilometers of sewage canals that are shown (especially on maps) highlight the network imagery that the film uses in order to reflect on the way in which these drastic measures, which are initially reduced to the area around the Han River, affect the entire city space because of the virus’s ability to spread easily. The monster, which roams around in the wide-stretching canals below it, becomes an apt metaphor for the way in which the intoxication lingers beneath the city, invisible, yet everywhere. The different strands of this toxic discourse are finally brought together in the heart-racing climax of the film: On the promenade next to the Han River and a bridge inter-connecting the two different parts of the city, a great crowd of protesters and environmental activists have gathered who try to oppose the use of “Agent Yellow.” They are pushed back by the police, as the yellow canister with the chemical agent is slowly brought in by a crane, hovering menacingly above the ground. At the same time, the monster has been attracted by the big gathering and the noise from the other side of the river and swims towards the crowd. When some protesters become aware of the approaching beast, a mass panic erupts and the protesters and security personnel disperse in different directions, except for a few who either try to face the monster ascending from the river or who stand in the way of the chemical device. The yellow gas is eventually released in a blast of smoke which quickly envelops the surrounding environment in a hazy fog. The beast tumbles under the impact of the blow and has visible trouble breathing, convulsing on the ground. Kang-du, who has tracked down the monster and followed it, uses the opportunity to throw himself at the monster which has swallowed his daughter and a young, homeless boy. He yanks both out of its clutch, but can only recover the lifeless body of his daughter who supposedly died because of a lack of air as well as possible intoxication by the chemical cloud. The horrendous effects of “Agent Yellow” become visible not only in

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the withering body of the beast, but also in the bodies of the bystanders who remained in the impact zone of the chemical: Blood is running out of their ears and noses, attesting to the damaging neurotoxic and organic effects of the poisonous gas. The monster, which itself came into being through the chemical pollution of water, eventually fights for its life, especially against the Park family who, in the end, manage to kill it before it can jump back into the Han River. The scene thereby alternates between images of the moving body of the beast and the hovering canister of Agent Yellow. As Hsuan Hsu has noted, both resemble each other closely in their form, whereby a visible parallel is established that is meant to connect the two and to underline their violent effects on the local inhabitants—while the beast hunts them down near the river area, the chemical permeates their bodies and poisons their urban environment (Hsu 2009). Both are, in turn, biological weapons and become symbols of irresponsible environmental politics that pollute the ecosphere and even lead to a manipulation thereof, bringing forth mutations of life forms and creating toxic bodies with an unpredictable agency of their own. The Host presents its viewers with the visions of a posthuman city in which chemical and material agents, human bodies, as well as media and scientific discourse “intra-act” (Barad 2007) to make up a conflicting, closely interrelated whole. It is not only a clever film with a powerfully crafted criticism of the U.S. presence in South Korea, but also an environmentalist film which reflects on the pollution of the environment by indifferent politics which do not take into account the trans-corporeal agency of chemicals that can travel through an intricately connected city of flows and permeate bodies, endangering not only the (urban) wildlife, but also the city’s inhabitants. The monster is a mutation that directly results from this pollution and becomes a symbolization of its material agency; in other words, it becomes the main protagonist of an imaginative counter discourse that metaphorically stages the life-altering effect of a toxic pollution which is otherwise hard to perceive, but which nevertheless violently affects every living being. The monster also becomes an example of the “entanglements between material configurations and the emergence of meanings” (Iovino 2012a, 56) since its bodily nature constitutes not only an anomaly, but because it is supposedly the carrier, the host of an unknown, fatal virus. Although the virus turns out to be a hoax, the media reports and the scientific discourse that ensue around it, discoursively construct an image of a monster whose horrifying nature extends far beyond its mere bodily appearance, as it includes the invisible micro-organisms it is believed to harbor. The fear that is provoked among the population is a true testament to the way in which the dense urban space can be seen as a posthuman space in which materials, fluids, and objects interconnect social systems in ways that are often outside of human control, leading to ever-new and changing configurations. In presenting the ways in

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which humans influence these configurations and respond to unwanted deviations, The Host is also concerned with presenting a posthuman ethics which is not based on violent action, but rather mutual respect for one another as well as for the environment. Preventing environmental pollution is one of the vital lessons that a movie like The Host can offer, turning its posthuman vision into a vital ingredient of contemporary urban ecological discourse. SCENES OF AN ALIEN GHETTO AND THE URBAN “OTHER”: NEILL BLOMKAMP’S DISTRICT 9 Many biological writings on urban ecology examine the “invasion of alien species” (Klotz/Kühn 2010) in an urban habitat, asking what happens when new species are brought in, for instance, by humans and how they affect local populations and the urban vegetation. Neill Blomkamp’s 2009 science fiction film District 9 explores the very same question, only that his alien species is one in every sense of the word, arriving from an unknown planet in a gigantic spaceship which hovers over Johannesburg and from where the aliens are finally brought down into a shantytown on the edge of the city. Their arrival sets in motion a total revolution of the urban ecology, since they soon outnumber the local inhabitants who feel overwhelmed by the aliens that resemble a mixture between big crustaceans and bugs and by their strange behavior which seems uncivilized and rude. Eventually, a plan is brought forth by government officials and a private enterprise to relocate them in a tent settlement far outside of Johannesburg in order to return to normalcy and to restore the old urban order. Neill Blomkamp’s cinematic and imaginative experiment in urban ecology became a huge worldwide success, garnering over 200 million U.S. dollars and four Academy Award nominations as well as rave reviews by critics who admired the intricate genre mix of sci-fi, monster and action film, and social drama as well as the fusion of B-movie aesthetics with well-crafted special effects. Commentators were impressed by the clever social commentary of the film (Tessé 2009; Corliss 2008; Barrett 2010), dealing with contemporary subjects like segregation, social tensions, and racism in an imaginative and metaphorical way by introducing the so-called “Prawns” (that is what the aliens are called by the local population) into human society. 20 My reading of the movie will not be primarily concerned with a socio-historical interpretation, but with one that regards the film as a study into the urban ecology of a city which has, indeed, been invaded by an alien species. Thereby, I will examine how city space is rendered in District 9, exploring how the social stigma of being a “Prawn” is reflected in the slum aesthetics of the movie. Moreover, it will be shown how the relationship between human and alien is negotiated in Blomkamp’s film in the figure of Wikus van de Merwe, who, in a curious metamorphosis,

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begins to transform into a “Prawn” after exposure to a strange alien fluid. Before this background, District 9 also becomes a posthuman parable about how humans deal with the absolute “Other” in urban environments. 21 The film begins in a semi-documentary—”mockumentary”—manner: 22 Filmed mostly with handheld cameras and the insertion of television reports as well as interviews, the story of the alien arrival and the development of the settlement of “District 9” is shortly summed up: In 1982, a giant spaceship appeared out of nowhere and stopped over Johannesburg, where it has hovered ever since without moving. Nothing happened, until, after months of waiting, officials decided to start an expedition mission to the UFO, where millions of aliens were discovered in bad shape—apparently, a kind of virus had infested the ship. After international pressure grew, the South African government finally decided to evacuate the ship and to settle the survivors in a shantytown on the edge of Johannesburg which has, after tensions with the local population grew, been transformed into an alien-exclusive ghetto. Next to the “Prawns”—the aliens apparently have no name for themselves—the only inhabitans of “District 9” are mostly criminal elements, for the most part of Nigerian origin, who sell the aliens raw meat and cat food—especially the latter is a kind of delicacy among the extraterrestrial species—at exorbitant prices and in exchange for alien technology. For although the new arrivals do not seem to have any culture whatsoever, they possess an impressive arsenal of extremely powerful hand weapons. However, they are linked to their weapons with a kind of biological code so that humans cannot operate them. Both the Nigerians as well as a private enterprise called MNU, Multinational United, the second largest weapon manufacturer in the world, are keen on deciphering the genetic code that allows the aliens to use their weaponry— yet, by very different means. While the Nigerians mainly use strange voodoo, MNU use their strong government contacts to evict the aliens from their grounds and to re-locate them to a tent city in the desert outside of Johannesburg. The goal of this removal is, on the one hand, to restore the old social order and city space of Johannesburg, which have both been considerably altered by the alien arrival, and, on the other, to get access to more weapons which are supposed to be hidden in District 9 and to, eventually, crack the genetic code in a zone far removed from public attention. The film’s protagonist, Wikus van de Merwe, has been given the task of serving the eviction notice to the aliens. An ordinary, bureaucratic guy, who speaks a thick Afrikaans accent, Wikus is not your classic film hero, since he also behaves in a hostile way towards the aliens. This starts to change, however, when he comes into contact with a strange alien fluid, which begins to transform him into a “Prawn” himself. The substance was painfully collected by an alien, called Christopher Johnson, who is a kind of scientist and wanted to use it for the repair of the spaceship. Both form an unlikely alliance when Wikus repeatedly moves down the social ladder after he starts to behave strangely in

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public and grows an alien claw on his left arm, which allows him to operate the alien weapons. He is finally hunted by both the authorities and the Nigerians and finds shelter in Christopher’s shack. The alien explains to him that he could try to reverse his metamorphosis with the help of the substance that Wikus had confiscated before. Since the small canister is stored in the headquarters of MNU, Wikus and Christopher break into the highly secured building and return it to District 9. Here, the action-packed climax of the film takes place, which ends with Christopher’s successful repair of the spaceship and his promise to the now fully transformed Wikus that he will be back to bring help from his mother planet. That the alien arrival has visibly altered the spatial outline of Johannesburg becomes visible during the first minutes of the film, when the camera takes in the skyline of the city from one of its suburbs, slowly zooming in on the urban skyscrapers standing out against the bright, heat- and smog-shaded background. Hovering directly above the urban center, however, is what resembles a huge steel construction with the upper half slightly rounded and a bottom that looks like the mirror-inverted skyline of the city, establishing a visible connection between the urban settlement on the ground and the strange aerial object. The sight of a giant UFO menacingly floating above human settlements, especially major metropolitan areas, has, of course, come to be one of the central tropes of science fiction films, from War of the Worlds to Independence Day, reflecting on the urban fears of an alien or foreign menace coming to haunt one’s habitat or of a lingering catastrophe waiting to unfold and to bear down on the urban environment. But whereas in these narratives, the spaceship usually starts attacking the humans on their ground and destroying their city, in District 9, the roles, in a clever undermining of genre conventions, are reversed: Instead of the aliens landing on the Earth, humans enter the spaceship, penetrating the exterior and looking for signs of life. Scenes of this landing are integrated into the film in a documentary manner—the snippets filmed with a handheld camera and low key lighting give the interior of the ship a dark appearance. Creatures that resemble crustaceans are crowded in a dense space with no light. The narrative strand thereby closely follows that of a humanitarian crisis with the aliens taking on the role of refugees who are given a place to live in a new, supposedly safer environment (under international pressure and supervision). The hellish aerial space from which they are taken (various fires blaze in the background of the otherwise dark and overcrowded ship with strange creatures outlined against the flames) and which has apparently been infested with some kind of plague, is traded in for a well provided camp on the ground, thus establishing an intricate connection between environmental and humanitarian politics and spatial structure. It is, however, important to note that the aliens are not so much refugees actively looking for help, but rather displaced persons, who have been moved by humans for political and moral

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reasons, 23 infusing the narrative from the beginning with an ethical discourse on the action towards and interaction with the complete “Other.” The semi-documentary aesthetic of the first half of the film which seemingly uses video footage from different sources, archive material from previous news reports, as well as interviews with people dealing in “alien affairs” or local neighbors of the “Prawns,” is used to introduce the viewers to this strange setting of an alien ghetto and to explain how it came into being, but it is also meant to question the narrative and the interpretation of the action, placing the responsibility of judging the procedures on the viewers themselves. As a sociologist interviewed in one of the sequences explains her own take on the first alien displacement: “We didn’t have a plan. There was a million of them. So what was a temporary holding zone, soon became fenced, became militarized. And before we knew it, it was a slum.” Accordingly, a quick succession of scenes illustrates her words, showing barbed wire, high fences, military guards who watch the aliens strolling around aimlessly. While the mass encampment thus takes place for allegedly humanitarian reasons, there are no measures shown to integrate the alien arrivals into the proper city space or even into society, shutting them out of daily life and enclosing them in a sealed-off area with a deplorable environment. The shantytown settlement of the “Prawns” does not show any built infrastructure, no vegetation, no sanitation, underlining the helpless and, in the end, misguided environmental politics in the face of an arrival of millions of foreigners (in this case, from another planet). 24 What comes to be called “District 9” in the movie thus closely resembles the “arrival cities” and “slum areas” explored in Chapter Two of this study, which are made up of ruralurban migrants, refugees, or displaced persons themselves. The tent cities as a refugee shelter on the outskirts of urban areas or the improvised settlements of migrants have come to be integral parts of the city spaces of hundreds of cities worldwide, especially in the Global South. However, instead of regarding “District 9” as a metaphor for the situation of blacks in apartheid South Africa, although this is certainly an important historical subtext, I read the film as a parable reflective of contemporary patterns of mass migrations into urban areas. Both are to be seen as socio-historical phenomena with intricate spatial and ethical implications as well as drivers of violent conflict and social tensions—aspects that are also explored at the beginning of District 9. Neighbors of the “Prawns” complain about having to live close to the alien beings, 25 implying violent assaults and criminal threats of the new arrivals. Various signs strictly segregating society and the use of city space are shown (“For Use By Humans Only,” “No Non-Human Loitering”), implying the stigmatization and inferior status of the aliens, which culminates in violent rioting and attacks on the alien settlement that aim at driving them out of the township. While the scenes shown in the film only depict attacks being carried out by humans, in interviews the aliens are rhetorically rendered as

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the aggressors, as a threat to be expelled or even eradicated, giving way to a fanatic rhetoric that eventually leads to the radical government measures portrayed in the film. At the center of these measures is an alien relocation program, carried out by a private enterprise. Multi National United is dealing in Alien Affairs on behalf of the South African government and becomes a symbol of corporate interest in the course of the film, because, as it turns out, the corporation’s main objective is to crack the genetic code that will allow them to use the highly sophisticated alien weaponry; a goal that they try to achieve with experiments on “Prawns” and even a secret genetic engineering program. Next to the public pressure and government interest in the space on which District 9 is located, there is thus also a strong financial and economic interest in the alien relocation operation. Yet, this is not reflected in the official statements of MNU, whose main representative at the beginning of the film is its protagonist, Wikus van der Merwe. As he explains their operation: “Our task is to move 1.8 million Prawns from their present home in District 9 to a safer and better location 200 kilometers outside of Johannesburg city. We’ve built a nice new facility, where the Prawn can go. . . . The people of Johannesburg and of South Africa are going to live happily and safely, knowing that that Prawn is very far away.” His words are interspersed with scenes of the heavily guarded township of District 9 with its deplorable condition and with scenes of the allegedly “better location” in the desert which is solely a huge tent city with barely any infrastructure or vegetation, making clear that while the people of Johannesburg may be finally freed of the daily nuisance of the alien beings, nothing will, in fact, change for the “Prawns” who will continue to live in a very bad state. These words are therefore also the symptom of a seemingly long tradition of environmental politics which perceive guarded and gated communities as solutions of social problems without taking into account the actual needs of the people (or, in this case, beings) living there. District 9 is thereby reflective of an all-too common phenomenon of mass urbanization today, which produces heavily segregated and gated communities along class and ethnic lines, leading to a very heterogeneous city space based on division rather than interconnection. Relocation and redevelopment programs have become popular methods of urban politics and planning to push unwanted parts of the population to the outskirts of cities or even further away from them. The internment camp 26 for the aliens is the culmination of environmental politics that perceive the occurring problems and grievances only in spatial terms without taking into account their structural underpinnings. Moreover, “the legality” of the eviction of the aliens is declared a “whitewash” in District 9, since, as Wikus himself points out, “the Prawn doesn’t really understand the concept of ownership or property so we have to come there and say ‘Listen, this is our land. Please will you go?” Although the aliens have been assigned their dwellings by the government,

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they are taken away from them under the allegation of the abstract concept of a public land to be re-claimed for official use, reflective of the way in which many squatter settlements worldwide, which had come to be homes for many people, were forcefully taken away from them after they had been settled. A documentation team follows Wikus with a camera to capture the alien cleansing of Johannesburg on tape, adding to the documentary style of the movie. For its first half, there is thus always a camera inside of the film, as part of the action which creates not only a very subjective viewpoint of the procedures, but lets the viewer come into the movie who constantly has to make sense of what he/she is seeing. This technique is also used to infuse the narrative with a sense of shock, especially when the convoy of MNU trucks (which with their wide paintings and big MNU-lettering conspicuously resemble UNO-vehicles) enters District 9. A heavy steel gate is opened and the convoy drives into the camp with the camera taking in the dusty, garbage littered streets, and shabby, rust-bitten huts of the aliens. They practically live in dirt together with a few animals like chickens, donkeys, or pigs who stride around the alleys. The scenes thereby alternate between the handheld camera that follows Wikus and his team as well as surveillance cameras with a black-and-white screen, which are installed at critical points in the alien settlement, and with a bird’s-eye-view from helicopters, which scan the area and have snipers on board in case of confrontations on the ground. The alien slum area is thus patrolled and policed with the help of a panoptic gaze that introduces the viewer to the spatial outline and structure of the slum. While this perspective remains detached and depicts only abstract space, which is also portrayed on the maps of the district in the bureaus of MNU, the handheld camera on the ground gives a different impression altogether: It shockingly captures the abject state of the alien settlement, focusing on the narrow alleyways, the heaps of garbage, and the improvised shelters made of sheet and plastic. This perspective gives District 9 its unique aesthetic, placing a science-fiction scenario in a Third World setting. That it is, indeed, a sciencefiction scenario becomes not only clear in the figures of the “Prawns” who are taller than humans and look like a giant interbreeding between insects and crabs, but also in the depiction of the interior of the huts, where the officials find hidden stashes of futuristic weapons, alien technology, as well as breeding places with alien eggs. These interior scenes are hidden from the panoptic gaze of the surveillance cameras and helicopters and interfuse the realistic portrayal of a shantytown settlement with a fantastic element. Throughout the entire film, details of township life have been incorporated to form an interesting backdrop to the action infused with science-fiction elements. Accordingly, District 9 was shot in South Johannesburg, in a part of the Soweto (short for South-Western) township called Chiawelo. The visual representation of the dust- and garbage-infested city space makes up the true horror of District 9, portraying vividly the realities of life in an urban

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under- or otherworld on the outskirts of Johannesburg. As Nel describes the visual aesthetic, it “depicts a contemporary, urban, African ghetto: dirty, claustrophobic squatter homes, litter-strewn, nightmarish labyrinths and alleys” (Nel 2012, 552). Thereby, “the cinematic representation of urban ghettoization exposes the underlying class, race, economic and ethnical dimensions of . . . contemporary Third-World social structures” (554), which are mostly reflected in city spaces. Gated communities have long become a daily reality both for the affluent and rich as well as for the poor and socially marginalized, with the latter being pushed into hazardous and polluted zones at the edge of the city. The Chiawelo neighborhood, for instance, had been built on an old landfill, which is depicted in detail in the film with heaps of garbage raised between shabby shacks and old waste literally paving the streets in the absence of concrete or pavement. The inhabitants of Chiawelo as well as the aliens in the film did not only have to endure the environmental hazards of living on a landfill, but also lived off it, with recycling of reusable material being their main source of income. As Nel points out in this regard, “the film projects the fear of the disintegration of social structures, identities and human lifestyles. The chaotic environment and dystopian urban decay within which the aliens function stand in direct opposition to the orderly and neat encampment of the government housing” (553) and make up a shockingly different urban reality only a few miles away from Johannesburg’s skyscraper-lined business district and inner city. The alien settlement therefore becomes a symbol of the urban “Other” present in countless squatter settlements worldwide, as a threat that, like the spaceship which continually hovers over the city, hangs over the urban society. One way of dealing with this supposed threat at the edge of the city, has long been relocation and redevelopment. Accordingly, the part of Chiawelo which was used for the filming had only recently been set for redevelopment with its inhabitants being re-settled in another part of Johannesburg—hence, the main storyline of the film, the planned removal of alien elements from this part of the city, is based on real-life events. Nel sees the film as “an obvious reference to District 6, an inner-city suburb in Cape Town, which was declared a white area by the former apartheid government” with its “60,000 residents . . . forcibly relocated to the Cape Flats and all buildings . . . demolished on grounds of ‘slum clearance.’” The same pattern could be seen in “the forced removals from erstwhile Sophiatown, the cultural heart of black Johannesburg, to Meadowlands in Soweto . . . ” (556). Present redevelopment projects as well as the forced removal of great parts of the population during the apartheid regime are thus implicitly present in District 9, which becomes an imaginative discourse on urban environmental politics and how racial and economic aspects function as crucial underpinnings directly influencing environmental injustice and spatial conditions.

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In this context, the physical appearance of the aliens plays a fundamental role. With their claws and crab-like-mouths with which they communicate in a strange language that mainly consists of “clicks,” their bodies are rendered in a way that seems repulsive to humans and for which they are strictly separated from the human sphere. The film thus constructs a boundary between the human body “and the abject or repulsive body of the Other, in this case bodies which are experienced as non-human, unhygienic, uncivilized, contagious and contaminating,” which is also reflected in the strange habits and criminal tendencies of the aliens that pose a threat to “the social order and structure” (559). Yet, in this context, it is important to note that, for almost the entire film, the alien culture is merely portrayed out of the perspective of humans. The only alien that plays a leading role is “Christopher Johnson” who is, as the viewer comes to see, a brilliant scientist who cares lovingly for his son and his “people.” He expresses emotions and thoughts that (together with his name bestowed upon him by the authorities) render him, in the course of the film, more humane than the MNU agents or the Nigerian weapon dealers. The other aliens merely appear in secondary or supporting roles, and only for a short time, so that it is questionable whether the view of the aliens as a brute and inferior race and culture propagated by the officials and the media truly holds; the more so, as the aliens are not offered any perspective for a better life. As a scientist explains the “derogatory term ‘Prawns,’” which is used for the aliens, “implies something that is a bottom feeder that scavenges the leftovers.” Accordingly, the film shows various scenes in which aliens scavenge through heaps of garbage in their district or rummage in dust bins for food or other stuff that they could possibly use. Yet, at the same time, it also becomes clear that they have no other choice, since they do not receive any government aid and are not supported in building an infrastructure that would help them to grow their own food or to supply themselves in a different way. Moreover, the government does not seem to be interested in any communication with them. For although their language has been learnt by alien affairs workers (and the other way around) nobody seems to be interested in learning about their ways or their home planet, simply leaving them for themselves in their gated and heavily guarded township. In their appearance and behavior the aliens in District 9 stand in a long tradition of science-fiction genre conventions, yet they also function as vivid metaphors for the urban “other,” a part of the population that is socially disadvantaged, discriminated against, and marginalized by the hegemonic discourse, thus adding to the rich subtext of the film. The aliens and their settlement infuse the movie with a posthuman element, giving way to an exploration of the posthuman city and an ethical discourse on living with the “Other.” The main site where this discourse is imaginatively played out, is the body of Wikus van der Merwe. In the begin-

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ning of the film, he is presented as a clumsy and unlikeable character with outdated clothes and a thick Afrikaans accent, whose seemingly tolerant attitude towards aliens is undermined by his arrogant treatment of them and his hostile destruction of their eggs in an act of birth control. However, he and his life abruptly change, when he comes into contact with a strange alien substance that he finds in a kind of canister while searching an alien shack for weapons. Shortly after the contamination, he constantly has to throw up. Moreover, black liquid starts to run out of his nose and he begins to lose his teeth and nails. What looks like an infection with a strange virus soon appears to be the initial steps to a complete metamorphosis, 27 since he grows an alien claw where his left arm had been injured in a fight. He is taken to the MNU headquarters into a laboratory, where genetic and medical tests with aliens are conducted in secret. Yet, instead of treating him like a case of illness, the agency decides to dissect him and crack the genetic code that has led to his hybrid body and thereby to gain access to the bio-technological system of the aliens’ weapons. As a MNU official puts it: “This body represents hundreds of million, maybe billions of dollars of biotechnology,” while scans of the strapped body and cruel medical experiments conducted thereon are shown to the audience that, in the remainder of the film, sees the gradual transformation of Wikus’s body into an alien being. He eventually flees from the secret laboratory and finds shelter among the aliens in District 9, turning into that complete “Other” which he, too, had sought to drive out of Johannesburg. Thereby the boundaries of human and non-human are explored which are not only rendered on a physical level, but also on a rhetorical one as Wikus becomes socially cast out in the media that dehumanize him and call him a “traitor.” When his social ties are thus cut, he forms an unlikely alliance with Christopher Johnson. In the beginning, he selfishly hopes that Christopher can cure him and reverse his transformation. However, as the film continues and Wikus realizes that he will not elude his metamorphosis and sees the caring and loving character traits of Christopher, he decides to help him and his son to escape to the mothership. His posthuman state helps him realize, as Nel puts it, that he “will have to reconstruct his human identity on a moral level. In other words, he must give new content to his identity in order to re-articulate the essence of his humanness” (564, emphasis in original). Therefore, District 9 turns into an ethical discourse on what it means to be human in a world that has been built on radical dichotomies, which are cleverly blurred and undermined in the course of the film, and to live in a city marked by rigid segregation, where a large part of the population has to endure degradation, discrimination, and, in the end, dehumanization, rhetorically and spatially rendered as “Other.” All in all, District 9 offers a posthuman vision of contemporary urbanity in Third World or developing countries. It depicts the ways in which large parts of the population have been physically cast out from the main urban

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core into shantytowns or squatter-settlements, where they are eventually left on their own, giving way to parallel societies and various grievances like poverty, malnutrition, and a lack of perspective. Based on a realist depiction of the living conditions in parts of the Soweto township in Johannesburg, District 9 infuses its discourse with fantastic elements by introducing stranded aliens into this urban setting. The dysfunctional spaceship that hovers over the city becomes a symbol of the lingering menace of the settlements at the edge of the city and their deplorable and marginalized state, invisible under the otherwise beautiful and modern skyline. The alien beings that have been evacuated from their ship and taken into a heavily guarded camp thereby function both as metaphors for the dehumanized status of slum dwellers who live on garbage and are exposed to various environmental hazards without having a political agency of their own, as well as for a posthuman discourse which explores the question of what it means to be human in a society based on rigid dichotomies and segregated communities, where the social differences have become manifested in spatial divisions. The metamorphosis of the protagonist Wikus van der Merwe into an alien, into a “Prawn,” marks the culmination of this discourse as Wikus has to learn to live with and in his hybrid body and to define his humanness in a different way. Where he had been selfish and racist before, he becomes open minded and cares for others, helping Christopher Johnson and his son to flee. His humanity is, at the end of the film, symbolized by a small flower that he makes out of garbage—a symbol of the hope and love that he, despite his altered state, has managed to retain. The scene illustrates one of the main messages of a powerful film: namely, that even below the abject state of downtrodden spaces and repulsive bodies, there is beauty and, in the guise of the “Other,” the ethical imperative to care for the cast out. CONCLUSION Cities are dense networks of material and discursive relations and interactions between multiple agents that can be human or non-human, organic or artificial. This chapter has challenged an anthropocentric perspective on the urban that narrowly conceptualizes it as a human-dominated ecosystem and as a sphere regulated by human actions and decisions. Although humans transform and distribute space and administer urban infrastructures, there are other agents at play that make and re-make our cities on a daily basis. To reenvision urban environmental politics from a decidedly posthuman perspective means to focus on these points of convergence where human culture and the more-than-human world merge and meet and where human actions are enhanced, thwarted, or undermined by non-human life forms or materials. Urban environmental politics means looking at the environmental impact of

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human actions in a material environment, where the human planned and regulated space and the material agents do not stand in a hierarchical order, but are rather co-existent, constantly affecting and altering the living conditions in our cities. This is vital for inspiring new urban politics that bring non-human actants thoroughly within the picture. The issue whether our urban world will prove to be sustainable and environmentally just is not solely a question of the distribution of space and the use of resources, but also a question of dealing with and recognizing the material impact of our cities—both on the inhabitants as well as on the wider ecosphere. Cities are, before this background, to be thought of as a managed and engineered environment—but one where this management and engineering is not exclusively done by human actors. Humans and non-humans, technology and material agency, culture and nature constantly interact in our urban spaces in manifold forms that question a binary thinking and that make clear that the urban is always already “more-than-human.” The latter aspect helps to underline why a posthuman urban ecology as it is envisioned in this book has to draw on cultural media for an adequate examination of urban life: It is here, in cultural media and texts, that the narrow boundaries of our thinking are constantly challenged and tested and where the more-than-human aspects of urban life come to the fore as symbols and metaphors that have long influenced our urban imagination. One cultural medium that has repeatedly examined, engaged, and staged the vision of a more-than-human city is the film medium. As it has been argued in this chapter, films are the quintessential material medium, not only because of the many diverse technologies, machines, bodies, and spaces that are involved in their production, but also because they are literally obsessed with physicality and (the movement of) objects within a specific environment. They help us uncover the material and bodily dimension of everyday life and reflect upon the way in which any action or environment is made up of a plethora of human and (non-)human actants that constantly interact and make up a complex, heterogeneous whole. The posthuman perspective of these material aspects has especially been explored in the science-fiction as well as the monster genres. Metropolis by Fritz Lang, for instance, is still a powerful meditation on the place of technology in urban life, reflecting on the way in which machines have come to determine (movement in) urban space and the rhythms of life. As the cultural ecological reading of the film has shown, it critically stages the de-humanizing effects of technology, while imaginatively examining the relationship between man and machine in the hybrid figure of the cyborg, which comes to undermine the spatial and social order of the city and, in the end, leads to a re-integration of the human into a posthuman environment. Bong Joon-ho’s great monster film The Host takes its main impetus not from futuristic scenarios, but rather from present day environmental injustice

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and pollution in the city of Seoul, where gallons of toxic chemicals had been dumped into the Han River at the beginning of this millennium. Starting from this brutal act, the film portrays how pollution comes to haunt the city’s inhabitants in the form of a monster, a kind of amphibious mutant who lives in the interconnected flows—the water and sewage canals—of the city, reflecting on the way in which the urban makes up one permeating whole in which deviant bodies and material agents move and merge in manifold ways, producing toxic environments. By depicting the political handling of this disaster scenario, the film is also concerned with the question of environmental politics and environmental ethics within a space in which public and environmental health are determined by a variety of (non-human) actors. Neill Blomkamp’s 2009 hit District 9 takes on a similar perspective, imaginatively sketching out an alternative present-day Johannesburg, which has been invaded by an alien species whose spaceship is literally stranded over the city’s center, hovering in the air. As it turns out, the aliens are not so much invaders, but rather displaced beings who have been brought by humans from their spaceship into an improvised settlement camp at the city’s outskirts. In the course of the film, they embody, with their strange alien bodies and behavior, the absolute “Other” and, eventually, get cast out of the urban system, being exposed to environmental hazards and social marginalization in a downtrodden slum area. In the course of the film, their state becomes a parable for squatter-settlements worldwide which are characterized by abject environmental conditions and a lack of proper citizenship— conditions that are questioned by the metamorphosis of the film’s protagonist Wikus, who turns into an alien being himself instead. This leads to a negotiation of what it means to be human within a posthuman environment and to the question of boundaries within cities and bodies. In sum, these films are only three examples of (contemporary) culture dealing with the material and discursive interactions between humans and non-human actors within an urban environment—they, too, function as imaginative repositories for future urban design. The “more-than-human” or “posthuman city” has, in fact, long become a central ingredient of contemporary and future urban planning and architecture. A good example is the Brooklyn-based philanthropic, nonprofit organization Terreform ONE, 28 which is concerned with reducing the ecological footprint of cities by focusing on urban ecological design. One of its key thinkers, architect Joachim Mitchell, now a professor at Columbia University, has been involved, for instance, in the development of a stackable electric car at MIT that eliminates carbon emission and can be parked at mobile docking stations all around a city, “folded and stacked like shopping carts.” 29 The project is based on the view of a car as an active agent, rather than a passive commodity—an actor within the large urban network that is able to literally “think” for itself. 30 The basic idea is to change the premises of urban

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planning: “Cities have been designed around cars. Why not design a car around a city?” The goal is to reduce the amount of space that is used for hundreds of thousands of cars and other vehicles and to minimize their ecological footprint at the same time. Joachim sees mobility and transportation as key issues in urban ecological planning as a whole, since it generates high amounts of waste and uses heaps of raw materials that could be put to other usage or even be preserved. Therefore, future urban mobility could be based on other agents like “low-hung blimps tethered to buildings, moving through the city 24/7,” while the energy needed to keep them moving could be created on site, with the help of wind turbines or solar panels on every rooftop. This future urban design would also re-engineer the materials used for building, re-imagining the materials that are involved in the production cycle: “Rather than cutting down a tree and transporting it from forest to mill to lumber-yard to building site, the house is a tree.” The so-called “Fab Tree Hab,” which literally “grows homes from native trees” 31 merges various agents: The “living structure” of a tree “is grafted into shape with prefabricated Computer Numeric Controlled (CNC) reusable scaffolds.” Consequently, this “Fab Tree Hab” is quite possibly the posthuman vision of the city per se: The house is a living being of its own, while the technology that shapes it according to its usage is entirely computer-operated, literally removing human impact from the building/growth cycle, while embedding the house into a living, breathing ecosystem. What reads like ecotopian science-fiction in the present could soon become an alternative to urban planning and design as work groups all around the globe come up with their own respective visions of an ecologically sustainable or self-sufficient city in a competition that involves not only a race against the perils and dangers of global warming, but also the promise of economic progress. What unites these approaches is a re-conceptualization and re-thinking of the material fabric of our cities, taking into account the manifold material and human agents, substances, and technologies that are involved in the complex metabolisms and interactions of urban life (Swyngedouw 2005). While cities function as the urban habitat, they are not solely human-dominated. They are rather to be seen as ever-emergent and dynamic spaces in which the flow of bodies, fluids, chemicals, and waste create a permeable space that determines, in the long run, the environmental health conditions within an urban environment as well as the ecological footprint of a city. Sustainability has become a buzzword and a catchphrase in contemporary discussions about urbanism that needs to be based on the materiality of cities. A posthuman urban environmental ethics that recognizes the mutual co-existence of and the reciprocal interaction between humans and the environment, between the (non-)human bodies and material substances is therefore necessary, if cities are indeed to be part of that “health ecology of human civilization” that Gregory Bateson had in mind: “A single system of environ-

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ment combined with high human civilization in which the flexibility of the civilization shall match that of the environment to create an ongoing complex system, open-ended for the slow change of even basic (hard-programmed) characteristics” (Bateson 2000, 502, emphasis in original). “Urbaneer” groups like Terreform ONE work at and for the interfusion of environment and human civilization in the form of the ecological city by creating a “nascent alliance among environmental ethics, urban aesthetics, and generic science” (Carruth 2011, 85), while “designing habitats and cities to be livingbreathing-growing systems in which biological, biotechnological, and cybernetic elements work in concert to generate sustainable urban environments, meaning environments that can sustain communities as well as flora and fauna” (94). Thereby, they show the flexibility of both mind and action that Bateson demands in his writing (Bateson 2000, 504–511) and that involves, in the end, a re-conceptualization of our urban habitat, that highpoint of civilization, as a posthuman one. Only then will it be possible to adapt our urban environments to the manifold environmental challenges and changes that the future, and especially global warming, will bring, an advent of agency far removed from human control. NOTES 1. Much earlier, in 1985, Donna Haraway has addressed this issue in her hugely influential “Cyborg Manifesto” where she introduced the cyborg as a hybrid figure, overcoming dualisms between animate bodies and machines in order to outline new politics in a transgenic age in which organisms consist both of organic and technological components. Building on this approach, Donna Haraway has contributed much to the re-conceptualization of nature (GreweVolpp 2006, 74–75) and to the place of the (human) body in it. On posthumanism in general see Hayles/Terranova 2003 and Vint as well as Westling who distinguishes between separate waves of posthumanism. 2. Cf. also Iovino 2012a, 59. 3. For a detailed discussion of this theory cf. especially Kracauer 1985, 71–94. 4. Thomas Elsaesser aptly charactericzes Metropolis as a “Science-Fiction-Noir-Katastrophenfilm” (a “science-fiction-noir-disaster-film”) (Elsaesser 2001, 7). 5. In Germany, too, the shortened U.S. version was shown from the end of 1927 onwards, resulting in a film that now lasted under two hours and that was even more confusing and complex, since entire storylines were left out in favor of what distributors thought was a more dramatic plot. For instance, the rivalry between Rotwang and Fredersen, which is integral to the plot of the film and Rotwang’s motivation in the creation of the machine-woman, was left out in the U.S. version. 6. Then again, it is not solely Lang’s vision that viewers face when watching Metropolis, but also that of Lang’s cameraman Günther Rittau, photographer and special effects specialist Eugen Schüfftan, and set architects Otto Hunte, Erich Kettelhut, and Karl Vollbrecht (Bachmann 2000, 17), as well as that of his wife and scriptwriter Thea von Harbou, who had been working on the plot from 1923 onwards. Cf. on Lang’s biography and the production process of Metropolis Roberts 2008, 54–67. On the role of the German film company Ufa, especially of its main producer and director Erich Pommer cf. Bachmann 2000, 4–10. 7. Cf. on Lang’s impression of New York and the effect on Metropolis also Jacobsen/ Sudendorf 2000, 9; Bachmann 2000, 4–5; Neumann 1994, 147; Halper/Muzzio 2011, 474; and Trutnau 2005, 11.

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8. As Jacobsen and Sudendorf (2000) note with regard to the latter aspect: “On the one hand there was enthusiasm for technology and fantasies that the human race could totally control nature, while on the other hand the first signs of a regional and environmental movement had appeared” (17). 9. Cf. on the “intense discussion of Americanism and issues of monumentality in contemporary German architecture” Neumann 1994, 146. Cf. also Kaes 2009, 182–187. 10. For a comprehensive discussion of architecture in Metropolis cf. Neumann 1994, 149–153; Halper/Muzzio 2011, 479-483; and Kaes 2009, 175. 11. On the importance of electrical neon “light” for modern city building cf. Jacobsen/ Sudendorf 2000, 23. 12. Cf. on Kracauer’s influential discussion of Lang’s film Kracauer 1984, 158–159. 13. As Cowan describes the scene: “From Freder’s point of view we observe the workers twitch back and forth like pendulums in a mechanical dance,” in “a choreography of cadenced bodily movement” (Cowan 2007, 237). 14. As Trutnau analyzes the scene, “the lighting is centred on the robot causing the metallic surface to shimmer, while giving the scene a threatening impact,” the more so, as the robot is placed between Fredersen and Rotwang, putting “the humans down at viewer level” through its elevated position and physicality, “elevating the ‘superhuman’” (Trutnau 2005, 24). 15. On the interpretation of the false Maria as female “vamp” cf. Huyssen 2000. 16. On cultural ecology and the triadic discourse model cf. Zapf 2002. 17. This aspect is widely noted in the discussion of Bong Joon-ho’s work in general and in the analysis of The Host in particular. Cf. Hsu 2009; Codelli/Niogret 2006; King 2011, 127–128; Roddick 2006. On the aesthetic of the film see also Valmary 2011. 18. Cf. on U.S. military broadcasting and its influence on Korean cinema, especially on Bong Joon-ho: Klein 2012. On genre and Bong Joon-ho’s film as example of transational cinema cf. Klein 2008, and Nikki 2011. 19. Cf. on the aspect of environmental politics by the authorities and institutions also King 2011, 133–138. On the geopolitical aspect of biosecurity Hsu 2009. 20. However, others have strongly criticized the film (Brown 2012; Hairston/Gunnels 2011; Russell 2013) for the very same reasons, pointing out that although the film manages to become a parable about (post)apartheid South Africa, it nevertheless gives way to stereotyped and unwelcoming images of blacks (the “Prawns”) as well as a racist portrayal of Nigerian immigrants who are indeed very negatively depicted in District 9, thus undermining the culture critical impulse of the film. Cf. on the different readings of the film also Rieder 2011, 49–50. 21. Many commentators have compared the plot of District 9 to James Cameron’s Avatar from the same year, which is set on the planet Pandora and examines corporate greed and ecological exploitation of resources before the background of the story of the transformation of a human into the avatar of an alien body of a local inhabitant. Cf. Veracini 2011; Rieder 2011; Russell 2013; Barrett 2010. 22. Cf. on this technique Jones who criticizes the second half of the film because it gives way to a more traditional Hollywood aesthetic (cf. Jones 2010). 23. On a slightly different interpretation of District 9 as a film about settler colonialism cf. Veracini 2011. 24. On the spatial exclusion of the aliens cf. Smith 2012, 145–158. 25. On the aspect of living with the alien “other” cf. B. Beck 2010. 26. At one point, Wikus discloses that District 10, as the new alien settlement is called is, in fact, a kind of “concentration camp.” 27. On metamorphosis in District 9 and a comparison to other metamorphoses as in Kafka’s famous short story “Die Verwandlung” or biblical “transfiguration” stories cf. Aichele/Walsh 2011. 28. For a concise discussion of Terreform One cf. Carruth 2011. 29. www.wired.com/politics/law/magazine/16-10/sl-joachim (10.09.2013). 30. Via computer technology it is connected to information systems that tell the car where there are traffic jams and how to avoid them or where there are available parking spots and how to get there. Moreover, made out of soft materials, the car would not only avoid accidents with

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pedestrians, because it “knows” that a body is vulnerable, but it would also be able to “‘read’ potholes and send warnings to nearby drivers and city repair crews.” 31. www.archinode.com/bienal.html (10.09.2013).

Epilogue

Just outside of the buzzing metropolis of Shanghai there lies Chongming Island, located at the mouth of the Yangtze River. It is an idyllic place, surrounded by wetlands with a rich wildlife and a reserve for birds. It is also the place of the world’s first truly eco-friendly city: Dongtan. Announced at the turn of the century by the Chinese government, the project was given to the British design consultancy “ARUP” in 2005. The eco-friendly city is based on groundbreaking concepts that could very well become blueprints for the sustainable urban planning of the future: 1 The buildings will make efficient use of energy sources, generating it from renewable sources by, for instance, recycling organic waste, which is no longer seen as a byproduct of urban life to be disposed of, but is now perceived as a valuable resource of its own. Moreover, Dongtan will be self-sufficient with zero-greenhouse-emission transit—only electrical or hydrogen driven vehicles are allowed on the island, while sustainable energy sources like wind turbines and bio-fuels supply power. Food is grown inside of the city, using modern methods of urban agriculture like vertical plants and rice fields, relying on organic production methods and recycling the water used in the process. Urban gardening on rooftops will help to filter rainwater and enable insulation. With its innovative infrastructure, the city is planned to harbor 500,000 inhabitants by 2040, becoming a truly green alternative to China’s massive urban spill and a template for urban development by interconnecting Shanghai with the adjacent province Jiangsu, guaranteeing a vibrant urban community and the economic viability of the city. Originally planned to open in 2010 in time with the Shanghai Expo, what sounds like an urban planner’s utopian fantasy has long turned into an urban planner’s nightmare. Due to funding problems as well as a corruption scandal, the project has been delayed and has come to an unplanned halt. If you were to visit Dongtan today, you would find a ghost 185

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town consisting of the solitary frames of buildings with a few birds nesting on top; the only indication of the ambitious urban project as of yet is a wind turbine farm whose energy remains unused. Dongtan is a prime example of contemporary urban planning that fuses architecture and ecology (now often termed “arcology”) as well as environmental concern with urban development and economic growth. What sounds like a shattered eco-topian dream is, in fact, only one example in a long line of similar projects. Some, like Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, 2 have great chances to fare better than Dongtan. Like its Chinese counterpart, it is a city built from scratch in a desert area near the Abu Dhabi International Airport and is designed by renowned international star architects. Like the Chinese showcase project, it is a large investment object as well as a publicity stunt, a national symbol of green-minded, future-oriented policy. Yet, where Dongtan proved to be too ambitious and was stopped due to the lack of funding, Masdar City is backed by billions in oil money from the sheikdom—however, the global financial crisis did not pass by unnoticed, delaying the time of construction which is now estimated to finish around 2025. Masdar City, too, is designed as a zero-carbon city with only clean-energy vehicles allowed within the city’s perimeters as well as an energy supply solely based on renewable sources like wind and solar power. Moreover, the city is meant to become a worldwide center for “cleantech” companies, thereby underlining the future-oriented direction of the urban project, while also safeguarding economic interest. Projects like Masdar and Dongtan are prime examples of ways in which urban planners have realized the need to re-think urban design in a time of ecological crisis and, simultaneously, growing patterns of urbanization (Ingersoll 2012). They are also examples of the way in which aspects like city space, materiality, and environmental politics merge to create our urban habitats of the future. These elements, which have been taken as primary units of analysis in the course of this study, continue to make up urban ecologies which have been re-conceptualized in the concept of the eco-city: Where once city space had primarily been designed around transportation devices and vehicles like cars in a dense network of streets, it is now re-aligned to fit the needs of pedestrians and cyclists, giving way to car-free zones and more green areas. Moreover, “unused” space like parking lots or rooftops are transformed into repositories of energy supply as the places of solar panels or wind turbines. Apart from that, the materiality of cities has come to the fore as a central element in ecological urban planning. On the one hand, the waste products of cities like carbon emission, sewage, or industrial waste are recognized as deviant agents with negative effects on the urban ecological footprint. On the other hand, they are now also seen as resources to be re-used and recycled in processes of energy production. Finally, the city as a whole has now been made the focus of environmental politics as it becomes in-

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creasingly clear that cities are major contributors to climate change and places where the ecological crisis shows itself acutely. Changing our cities by making them greener and self-sufficient is seen as a major strategy in the environmental policy of the 21st-century. Cities are, at last, perceived as complex ecosystems of their own, intricately bound up with the wider ecosphere. Projects like Masdar City and Dongtan, although they may be flawed, are to be welcomed for their green-agenda and their sustainable urban vision, which will, in the long run, contribute significantly to a re-conceptualization and re-imagination of what the urban is and in how far it is to be understood in ecological terms. Yet, they have also been aptly criticized as blueprint designs which construct cities from scratch without offering perspectives to or solving the problems of already existing cities that are faced with grave environmental challenges. This issue is now addressed by groups like Terreform ONE, which consists of a colorful potpourri of architects, urban planners, ecologists, teachers, community activists, and others, and which seeks to inspire new approaches to urban planning, making use of a distinct ecological city design that, in the group’s words, “re-invents and negotiates the complex mix that encompasses the next city.” 3 What they refer to as “urbaneering” is an urban ecological concept that aims at transcending the narrow boundaries between different occupations and professional fields, giving way to a trans-disciplinary design which is itself based on ecological principles by highlighting the manifold interconnections and inter-relations that make up both a city as well as the factors and agents involved in its planning. Apart from that, commentators like Nicolai Ouroussoff have pointed out that newly built eco-topian havens like Masdar City add to “the growing division of the world into refined, high-end enclaves and vast formless ghettos where issues like sustainability have little immediate relevance” (Ouroussoff 2010). His comment is reflective of the patterns of urbanization pointed out in Chapter One, “‘Eco-Cosmopolitanism:’ The Local, the Global, and the Ecology of World Cities,” which perceives urban growth as the most pressing environmental concern on a global level. At the end of this century, approximately three-fourths of the global population will live in cities. Most of these new city dwellers live in Third World or developing countries, far removed from the green design of “urbaneer” groups or elitist eco-cities. While these groups and building projects are important for contemporary urban ecological design and will make up important stepping-stones in future urban development, it is vital to take into account the marginalized zones of the vibrant urban centers. As the analysis of contemporary non-fictional urban writing has shown, it is here, in illegal squatter-settlements, downtrodden slums, shantytowns, or townships that the effects of the global ecological crisis manifest themselves and the environmental impact of cities become visible with terrible effects on the local population. Located at the intersec-

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tion between built and natural environment, these settlements are characterized by environmental injustice based on inferior social status, the missing right to citizenship or ownership as well as grave degrees of risk, located on landfills, near poisonous industries, or flood-prone areas without proper sanitation infrastructure and sewage systems. These issues are not to be seen as merely local phenomena, but are global in scope, tied to patterns of unequal economic growth and a vicious cycle in which industrial nations re-locate their hazardous industries and waste to the urban outskirts of cities in remote development nations, where the waste is recycled and sold for dumping prizes. The urban growth is thereby a phenomenon closely connected to social grievances and general poverty, manifesting itself in a continuous rural-urban migration which interconnects various geographic areas. Therefore, urban design alone will not do to meet the urban environmental challenges of the future. What is needed is a re-conceptualization of how local patterns and problems of growth are related to global networks of travel and trade and how local environmental pollution in cities is tied to material flows that have an adverse effect on the global ecosphere. Before this background it seems necessary to see cities as global phenomena without neglecting their respective socio-historical contexts, giving way to an “eco-cosmopolitan” (Heise 2008) ecological design which is not so much concerned with constructing enormous and expensive eco-city projects, but that aims at finding ways to ameliorate urban environmental conditions in regions and cities with a high urban sprawl by investing into sanitation infrastructure or recyclable energies based on organic waste. The eco-topian dream of some urban planners—exciting though it may be—should not forget about the great majority of the world population that are now only beginning to settle down on the outskirts and margins of world cities, because their neglect could easily lead to or further enhance the socially and ecologically unstable conditions that many urban centers are already experiencing. Young slum-dwellers from Cateura in Paraguay have made a virtue of necessity, building instruments out of litter and garbage and forming an orchestra, the Landfill-Harmonic orchestra, that is now successfully touring the world. 4 Their instruments are apt symbols of “eco-cosmopolitanism” and the way in which culture can engage change. Although the 21st-century will be an urban century, there is, in consequence, no guarantee that it will prove to be a success story. While many developing countries only start to see the growth of large cities, (post-)industrial nations are often faced with the reverse trend of de-industrialization and suburbanization that leaves the once vibrant inner-city areas and urban centers largely to themselves. A primary, if sad, example is the city of Detroit, the first major American city to officially declare bankruptcy. Economic crises and the breakdown of local car industries have added to the decay of the city, but the structural problems reach far deeper, encompassing crushing

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debts and civic mismanagement. Official statistics only give a vague impression of the situation: “Since 1950, Detroit’s population has fallen 63 percent, while its public workforce has fallen 40 percent, increasing pressure on public finances.” Now, “forty percent of the streetlights don’t work, since there isn’t enough money to keep them on, or up,” while “78,000 structures and 6000 lots are abandoned” (Chapman/Levin/Dockterman/Manibog 2013, 14–15). Of course, sometimes great misery inspires great initiative: For instance, Detroit is home to a group of guerilla gardeners who plant trees in the abandoned grounds of industries that have been polluted by industrial waste, slowly restoring environmental health, while putting unused, toxic space to good use. 5 Detroit is not the only city in America that faces social dilemma, nor will it be the last. Baltimore—leaving aside the football team and the fancy touristic sites—has not fared much better with most of its old inner-city districts vacant and slowly decaying in the face of flaring crime rates and the infamous “War on Drugs” out of control in the already socially disadvantaged parts of the city. Chapter Two, “‘Force of Nature:’ The Ecology of the InnerCity Drug Trade in The Wire” has examined the way in which these problems can themselves be comprehended as ecological ones, connected to a disparate use of city space which neglects the infrastructural needs of the inner-city population like the education system or community work, relying instead on redevelopment projects that re-locate entire parts of the population, while many get left behind in the process, unable to afford the rising property values. The materiality of this inner-city experience is made up of drugs and gun violence, and fills the void left behind by businesses and industries that have, in the meantime, moved to the city’s outskirts. What has followed has been a downward spiral of crime and decay as the urban politics continue to be based on a rigid law enforcement policy and detention that costs much, but leaves the pressing problems unsolved: Drug addiction, dissolving communities, and a growing lack of perspective. What is therefore needed is another approach to urban crime and drug trade altogether—one that does not perceive drugs as symptoms of a dark, urban underworld, but that sees them as an issue of public health and a misguided politics that has too long been based on rigorous policing without providing enough facilities for drug treatment, hospitals, homeless shelters, or schools. It is a matter of defining the term environmental politics. It has been a central idea of this study that they do not solely consist in questions of urban sustainability or greenery (although they are, of course, central to public health and wellbeing), but also in the questions of providing equal opportunity and citizenship, safety and sanity. The ecosystem of a city is determined by more than the ecological footprint of its carbon emitting industries—its environmental condition is closely tied in with the social and material condition of its

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inhabitants. If one part of the population is allowed to live in dirt, a city cannot be well. In part, New Orleans could also be included in the sad list of cities that fight for survival. Since Hurricane Katrina hit the city in 2005, population statistics have been declining, while unemployment rates keep rising and the local government has problems to fund its pensions. Yet, the problems reach far beyond economic and infrastructural aspects alone. Considering the geography of New Orleans, located at the mouth of the Mississippi River, the hurricane-prone Gulf of Mexico and oil-drilling industries along its shores, it may very well be the city itself that is at stake—the more so if one considers the fact that much of the city lies below sea level. However, as Chapter Three, “‘The City that Care Forgot:’ The Complex Ecology of Post-Katrina New Orleans” has shown, the danger that looms over New Orleans is not that of nature coming to strike back on humanity—quite the contrary, it is a manmade catastrophe waiting to unfold as wetlands that function as natural barriers against storms keep eroding or are being destroyed in the face of shipping canals and oil industries. (Post-)Katrina New Orleans is a good case in point for the way in which natural and built environment interact within an urban ecology. A city does not end on its outskirts nor is nature easily kept out of the urban sphere per se—both merge and mingle in manifold ways with consequences that sometimes only unfold in the face of disaster. When Hurricane Katrina inundated the city it was, as some researchers have aptly characterized the storm, a “natural-technological disaster,” because of the way in which the built environment was not able to withstand the allegedly natural occurrence of a major storm, relying on a malfunctioning levee system as well as artificial canals that led the water into the city instead of away from it. Moreover, it was also a “social disaster,” since unspeakable environmental injustice was brought to light that consisted in the high degree of risk that the predominantly poor communities were exposed to who were, on the one hand, not able to flee from the storm, because most of them lacked a car—a bad situation when one takes into account that the evacuation plan by the authorities primarily depended on an evacuation by car; on the other hand, their communities were adjacent to levees that had been insufficiently maintained and had already broken during previous storms. The risk scenarios were there, but environmental politics neglected them, while policy failures occurred not only in the course of the storm, but also in its aftermath, as entire settlements still wait to be rebuilt. Not only had the storm waters carried with them poisonous material agents like household chemicals, industrial waste, and sewage, intoxicating the flooded areas, but the government had also used the opportunity to put up predominantly poor neighborhoods for redevelopment projects, inciting a process that could very well see the erosion of once vibrant communities and the disappearance of historic

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parts of the city. (Post-)Katrina New Orleans is an interesting case study of the way in which city space, material agency, and environmental politics interact in the face of disaster and how urban ecologies are themselves embedded in a natural environment with which they reciprocally interact through material flows, weather patterns, and environmental change. Considering the fact that the future will see rising sea levels and more intense storms as a result of climate change, while more and more people move to cities located near the oceans of our world, re-thinking urbanity’s place in nature seems necessary if further catastrophes are to be avoided. One strategy consists in adaption: For instance, the intelligent design of houses that literally float on water has become a favorite project in modern architecture. 6 Preservation and protection of wetlands, reefs, cliffs, and green areas around coastal cities is another one. One that also works to not only detect risk scenarios for the local inhabitants, but also to minimize them by, for instance, taking into account waste ecology, re-locating landfills and industry to geographically stable areas, while increasingly relying on renewable power sources with low carbon emission. In this context, one only needs to think of Fukushima to comprehend why it is especially vital for coastal metropolitan areas to become self-sufficient and carbon neutral. The technology is there. What is still lacking is a will to use it—mostly for economic reasons. But big business inevitably means big risk. As especially disaster scenarios make clear, the urban is by no means a solely human-dominated ecosystem. There are many agents and actants involved in the complex, intricate networks that make up our cities. Cities are, above all, material processes. A space of fleeting, inter-relating bodies, material agents, fluids, and substances that continually changes and emerges in ever newer configurations. One only needs to visualize the process of raw materials that are taken from someplace else and transported to a city, where they are worked and re-worked, transformed into building blocks, making up the fabric of the urban environment that is itself subject to the impact of the forces of nature, water, wind, small particles in the air. That is another reason why the eco-city of the future remains an eco-topia: Its construction and building process involves raw materials and industries that have themselves a huge ecological footprint so that, while the city may be greener, the landscape could easily be browner as a consequence. Cities are characterized by a continuous “dance of agency” (Pickering 1995), from the metabolism of human bodies to the carbon emitting motors of vehicles and the machines of industries to the flows of sewage and waste that are networked below the urban environment. Modern technology will play a more and more important role as the century progresses—from cars that can literally “think,” over wind turbines and solar panels that produce the city’s energy to the big data of cyber-cities, our urban ecologies will see the arrival of ever newer inventions and hybrid bodies that will continue to re-make and re-invent the places

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we live in. As Chapter Four, “The More-than-Human City: Material Agents, Cyborgs, and the Invasion of Alien Species” has shown, it is therefore necessary to distance ourselves from views that perceive cities merely as humandominated. What is needed, is a re-conceptualization of the urban as a posthuman sphere in which the human is inextricably entangled with the material world of our cities. Only then will it be possible to re-think and to address issues of environmental health (or illness) as well as environmental justice (or injustice) in ways that recognize the intermingling of human actions and (unwanted) material agents and how these interactions shape our urban environments, with manifold consequences for the wider ecosphere. The urban is a place where a great proportion of the world’s greenhouse gases are produced and where their consequences become visible in the urban climate (which usually has a higher average temperature than the surrounding landscape). It is also a place where humanity needs to re-consider its impact on nature, realizing that we are not alone on this planet that we have termed Earth and that nature is indeed everywhere, lurking even beneath the asphalt of a downtown boulevard or the imposing presence of a Lehman Brothers’ bank. Lastly, cities are, of course, repositories and realms of culture and creativity. Cultural texts and mediums are integral parts of our urban ecologies, constantly making and re-making our urban worlds by, for instance, reflecting on their shortcomings or imagining possible alternatives. From the parkours runner who creatively re-combines urban space, finding routes and interconnections where architects or planners had not intended them to be, over the graffiti artist who spray-paints the somber-looking walls of a highrise building with colorful motifs, to the urban environmental activist who transforms concrete deserts into wildlife habitats with the help of guerilla gardening—these all are instances of how cultural forms and expressions constantly engage our urban spaces and turn them into places of life and of the imagination. Cultural texts literally help us to read urbanism, to understand the complex inter-relations that make up our urban networks. They also help to undermine them or to critically question hegemonic readings of them, opposing fancy building projects in favor of the preservation of parks and recreational areas or pointing to the exclusion of socially disadvantaged parts of the population from proper transportation or sanitation infrastructure. Trans-disciplinary groups like Terreform ONE, although they seek to integrate different approaches to urban life and planning, do not cite the environmental humanities, i.e., scholars and students in literary and cultural studies, as an influence or as possible partners in “urbaneering.” 7 Yet, it is my belief that ecologically based urban planning can widely benefit from cultural analysis, because it is exactly in cultural texts that various discourses are brought together, creating and re-creating ever new configurations of meaning and creative possibilities for our urban worlds. Cultural analysis offers tools for

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recognizing similarities and differences between different (intellectual) fields and social groups, showing how they nevertheless co-relate in the complex urban environments that are hard to analyze from one perspective alone. They also reflect on the way in which abstract city space gets appropriated, used, and viewed, illustrating how an urban sense of place is created and how it may stand in opposition to initiatives of urban planning or redevelopment projects. On the other hand, the environmental humanities themselves have to rethink their conception of what counts as environmental or environmentalist culture and literature. The cultural media analyzed in this study—from the non-fictional urban writing that critically investigates the patterns of urbanization on a global scope, to television series like The Wire and Treme that are set in urban environments and deal with the shortcomings of contemporary urban policy as well as television documentaries like When the Levees Broke and Trouble the Water that illustrate how an urban sense of place gets disrupted by technological urban disasters and misguided politics, to sciencefiction films like Metropolis, The Host, or District 9 that invite alternative readings of the urban as a hybrid, posthuman space and engage a new environmental ethics—all have, although they do not explicitly focus on nature, an environmental(ist) agenda. They all show how the urban can itself be understood as an ecosystem that stands in complex, reciprocal interaction with non-human nature and that is characterized by networks that affect all of our lives and all of nature. The city is the right place for the environmental humanities to look for those “connective corridors toward other disciplines” that Rob Nixon engages (Nixon 2011, 30), namely urban planners, architects, social scientists, ecologists, community activists, politicians, and others. I firmly believe that cities will continue to have a lasting effect on our ecosphere and will therefore figure prominently, for better or for worse, in the environmental debates of the 21st-century. The environmental humanities should claim their seat at the table. After all, cities are the places where everything is connected to everything else. NOTES 1. For further information on Dongtan see www.dac.dk/en/dac-cities/all-cases/dongtanthe-worlds-first-large-scale-eco-city/?bbredirect=true (12.09.2013). 2. On Masdar City see masdarcity.ae/en/ (12.09.2013). 3. www.terreform.org/urbaneer.html (12.9.2013). 4. Cf. www.landfillharmonicmovie.com (12.09.2013). 5. Cf. greeningofdetroit.com (12.09.2013). 6. Cf. www.archdaily.com/10842/floating-house-mos/ (12.09.2013). 7. Cf. the conceptual model of “the field of urbaneering” on www.terreform.org/urbaneer.html (12-09.2013).

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Index

Aberley, Doug, 7 Abram, David, xiii, 142 Abu Dhabi, 186 actant. See agency activism, xxvii–xxviii, 7, 39, 92, 117, 159–160, 167, 193 African American, xxxiv, 48, 59, 95–96, 99, 104, 109–113, 117–119, 133, 136n6 agency, xiv, xvii, xxxii, xlii, xlvin6, xlviin27, 1, 5, 14, 18, 31, 32–33, 66–69, 91–92, 98–109, 132, 139, 142–144, 159, 164–167, 176–178, 181, 187, 191; material, xii, xviii, xxi, xxviii–xxxv, xlv, 16, 35–37, 44, 60, 64–71, 88n30, 95, 107–108, 137n18, 140–145, 154, 158–162, 166–168, 178–181, 190–191. See also matter AIDS, 48, 70, 79–81, 88n30, 113 Alaimo, Stacy, xxxii, xlv, xlviiin29, 143 Alberti, Marina, xviii, xx Alff, David, 57, 59–60 alien, xlv, 145, 169–177, 179 Alvarez, Rafael, 59, 87n20 Anderson, Benedict, 9 Andrews, Richard, xxxv Animal’s People, xxxix–xl Annawadi, 26–35, 39 architecture, xi, xlviin18, 20–21, 28–29, 36, 38, 59, 83, 94, 104, 121, 142, 146–152, 180, 186–187, 190–193 Armbruster, Karla, 8

Arrival City, xliii, 10, 18–26, 29, 33, 39, 172 Bachelard, Gaston, xxvii Baltimore, xliv, 43–85, 131, 189 Barad, Karen, xxxii, xlviin28 Bates, Kristin, 95 Bateson, Gregory, xi, xv, 181 Beck, Ulrich, xxix, xxxv Behind the Beautiful Forevers, xliii, 10, 26–35, 39 Bennett, Michael, xiii Berger, Aimee, 112 Berlin, 146, 149 Bhopal, xxviii, xxxix, xl–xli biology, xx bioregionalism, 7–8, 41n12 Blanco, Kathleen, 112 Blomkamp, Neill, xlv, 140, 145, 169–177, 179 body, xiv, xvi, xxxii, xxxix, xlv, 31, 46–47, 61, 64–71, 78, 85, 105–107, 110, 119, 128, 137n20, 139–145, 146–148, 152–155, 157, 162–168, 176–181, 182n1, 191 Bong, Joon-ho, xlv, 140, 145, 158–168, 179 Bonjean, Elizabeth, 58 Boo, Katherine, xliii, 10, 26–35, 39 Bookchin, Murray, xxi Bowden, Mark, 63, 86n11 211

212

Index

Bridge, Gary, xxii Brown, Michael, 111 Buell, Lawrence, xiv, xxvii, xxxix Bullard Robert D., xxxvii, xxxviii Burgess, Robert, xviii Burns, Ed, 47, 49–50, 87n20 Bush George W., 93, 111, 123 Callenbach, Ernst, 100 capitalism, xxxi, 17, 28, 48, 50, 60, 125, 148, 151 Carruth, Allison, xxxix Carson, Rachel, xxviii, xxx Carter, Erica, xxvi Casey, Edward, xxv catastrophe. See disaster Chaddah, Anmol, 84 Chernobyl, xxx city, 1; and country, xv, xxx, 1, 18, 20, 25, 35; as text, xxiii; eco-friendly, 185–187, 191; world. See world city Clandfield, Peter, 59–60 climate, 1, 5, 19, 37, 139; change, xlviin17, 23, 25, 136n5, 181, 186, 190–191 Cochran, Aimee, 112 Commoner, Barry, 4 community, xiii, xv–xviii, xxv–xxvii, xxxiii, xxxvii–xxxviii, 5, 7, 26–27, 32, 39, 43–44, 48–49, 55–59, 64, 66, 70, 74–75, 78–80, 82–83, 86n8, 88n33, 92–93, 106, 110, 114–117, 126–132, 142, 173, 181, 185, 189–190; gated, 173–177 contamination, xxix, xxxiv, xxxix–xl, 16, 77, 107–108, 165, 176 Coole, Diana, xxix Cooper, B. Lee, 129 cosmopolitanism, 8, 36, 38; eco-, xliii, 1, 3, 35–37, 39, 187 country. See rural Cowan, Michael, 156 crime, xliv, 44, 49, 56, 59–60, 64, 65, 69–82, 87n19, 94, 109, 112, 113, 170, 189 crisis, 27, 163, 171, 186, 188; ecological, xiv, xvi, xliii, 5, 16, 23, 186, 187 Cronon, William, xv, xviii, xxx, 36, 142 Crowley, Sheila, 116

cultural ecology, xvii, xxii, xxv–xxvii, xxxviii, xli, xliii–xliv, 5, 8, 44, 47, 52, 64, 71, 75, 85, 120, 128–131, 135, 139, 157, 179 culture, xii, xv–xvii, xix–xxii, xxvii, xxxiii, xxxviii, xli–xliii, xlviin18, 1, 3, 5–7, 9, 35, 50, 51, 83–84, 86n13, 91–94, 96–97, 117–131, 135, 139–142, 146, 155, 160, 178–179, 192–193 cyborg, xlv, 145, 146–148, 151–157, 179, 182n1, 191 Da Cuna, Dilip, 103 Davis, Mike, xliii, 10–18, 26, 39 Deal, Carl, 102 De Certeau, Michel, xxiv–xxv de-industrialization, xliv, 12, 43–44, 48, 53, 59, 65, 83, 188 Deleuze, Gilles, 144 Detroit, 43, 84, 131, 188–189 development: of country, 3, 11–13, 17–19, 35, 174, 177, 187–188; uneven, 4, 17, 26, 187; urban, 14, 16, 28, 30, 33, 34, 36, 40n4, 53, 56, 57, 60, 64, 117, 126, 174, 185–186, 187–190 Dewey, John, 141 disaster, xxviii, 14–15, 22, 91–135, 140, 163–165, 179, 190–191; natural, xliv, 92, 94, 102, 105, 120–121, 134, 135, 136n5, 190; social, 25, 95–96, 105, 109–117, 123, 133–134, 136n6, 156–157, 190; technological, xliv, 95, 98, 102–104, 108–109, 132, 135, 136n5, 146, 156–157, 190 discourse, xxxii, xxxiv, xxxix–xli, xliv, 39, 44, 47, 51–52, 64, 71, 76, 80–81, 84, 97, 112, 121–126, 128–131, 135, 139–140, 143, 146–149, 151, 155–156, 160–161, 165–168, 174–177, 192 disease, 16–17, 57–59, 66, 69–71, 77–80, 88n32, 107, 113, 142, 158–159, 165–171 displacement, 92, 106, 109, 111, 113–115, 123, 126, 171, 174, 179 District 9, xlv, 140, 145, 169–177, 179, 183n20, 193 Doane, Ashley, 117 Donald, James, xxvi Dongtan, 185, 187

Index Doughty, Ruth, 116 Dover, Julia, 153 drug(s), xliv, 43–85, 86n8, 113, 189; addiction, 46–47, 48, 64, 68–72, 77–80, 88n29; policy, 49; legalization of, 75–81; War on, xliv, 49, 53, 69, 71–81, 85, 88n35, 189 Dubai, 36 ecocriticism, xiii–xiv, xliii, xlvin2, 9, 41n16, 143; material, xxxiii, xxxiv, 143 ecological footprint, xx, xxix–xxxi, xxxv, xxxvii, xli, 2–3, 6, 15, 16, 19, 21, 23, 25, 31, 35–36, 40n4, 180–181, 189, 191 ecology, xviii, xx, 7, 41n6, 186, 193; definition of, xii, xvi economy, 1, 4, 12, 17–18, 25–28, 30, 32–34, 36, 38–39, 60–61, 78, 105, 143, 174, 186 ecosystem, xii, xv–xviii, xxii, xxix, xli, xliii–xliv, 1, 7, 15–16, 92, 95, 100, 103, 105–106, 116, 131–132, 139, 142, 178–180, 186, 191–193; cultural, xvii; urban, xiii, xvi, xx, xxxix–xli, 2, 17, 35, 39, 91, 96, 189 education, 54, 113, 117, 189 Elsaesser, Thomas, 146 emission, xxix, xxxiv, xl, xliii, 3, 16, 19, 23, 26–28, 31–32, 36, 139, 180, 185, 190–191 energy, xxxi, 15, 40n4, 65, 71, 78, 116, 132, 139, 152, 156, 180, 187; renewable, 185–186 environment, xvi, xxvi, xxxii–xxxiii, xlvin5, 7, 47, 57–58, 60, 62–63, 64, 66–70, 72–78, 88n34, 99, 115, 119, 121, 126, 132, 134–135, 139–144, 162–165, 172, 179, 181, 193; built, xii, xvi, xxiv, xxv, xxviii, xxxii, xxxv, xxxviii, xxxix, xlii, xliv, 12–15, 21–22, 29–31, 36, 91–92, 94, 97, 101, 124, 133–134, 139–142, 149, 156, 164, 187, 190; natural, xii, xiv, xv–xvi, xx, xxiv, xxviii, xlii, xliv, 5, 12–15, 20–23, 30, 37, 91, 95, 96, 98–109, 187, 190; urban, xx, xxii, xxiv, xxvii, xxix, xxxii, xxxiv, xxxv, xli, 18, 21, 33, 44, 50, 56, 61, 64, 78, 85, 96, 98, 106–107, 117, 121, 145, 146, 160–163, 166–169, 179–181, 187,

213

191–192 environmental history, 7, 103, 105 environmental (in)justice, xviii, xxi, xxxv–xl, xlii, xliv, xlviiin30, 12–16, 26, 30–35, 39, 44, 92, 97, 104, 112–113, 117, 133, 145, 160, 174, 177–179, 187, 190–191 environmental movement. See activism Erikson, Kai, xxviii, xxix, 162 ethics, 8, 50, 64, 76, 141, 143, 146, 157, 168, 171–172, 176–177, 179–181; ecological, xv; environmental, xlv Evanoff, Richard, 8 Farber, Paul, 53, 63 film, 139–181 Finke, Peter, xvii Fitzpatrick, Kevin, xxxiv–xxxv flood, xliv, 30, 94, 97, 101–104, 107–109, 111–116, 121, 156, 190; protection, xliv, 32, 92, 95, 99, 103–104, 109, 113, 117, 121, 132–134, 190 Flores, Don, 7 Frost, Samantha, xxix Fukushima, 190 Fuqua, Joy, 129 Gandy, Matthew, xxii gardening: urban, 185, 188, 192 geography, xxi, 7, 15, 61, 78, 81, 100, 105, 117, 132, 143, 190; urban, xvi, xxiii, 83, 84, 108, 125 Gersdorf, Catrin, xii ghetto, 43, 59, 113, 117, 133, 169–177, 187 Glaeser, Edward, 40n4 Glassberg, David, xxvii global, 13, 18, 35–36, 53; and local, xvii, xl, xliii, 1–10, 20, 25, 31, 33–34, 36–37, 39, 187 globalization, 4–5, 9, 12, 17, 26–28, 36, 39, 163 Glotfelty, Cheryl, 8 Godsil, Rachel, 94, 108 greenspace, xxxvi, 16, 25, 43–47, 65–66, 70, 85, 88n28, 117, 164, 186, 189–192 Grewe-Volpp, Christa, 142 Grimm, Nancy B., 2 growth: urban, 14, 28, 35, 39, 91, 103, 187

214

Index

Guiyu, xl Haeckel, Ernst, xvi Hale, Jonathan, 141–142 Hall, Tim, 2 Haraway, Donna, 155, 182n1 Harvey, David, xvi, xxvi, xxxi, xxxviii, 4, 7 Hayden, Dolores, xxvi–xxvii HBO, 51, 83, 86n10, 99, 120, 135 health, xxxvii, 13, 16–17, 19, 31–32, 39, 49, 57–60, 64–69, 71, 76, 78–79, 106–107, 110, 133, 143, 162, 181, 188; risk. See risk; public, xliv, 44, 69, 75, 79–81, 85, 108, 160, 166, 179, 189, 191 Heise, Ursula, xliii, 7, 9–10, 35 Herbert, Daniel, 51 Hiles, Sara Shipley, 103 Hiss, Tony, xxvii Hochman, Jhan, xliii homelessness, 69, 71, 159 Hornby, Nick, 52 The Host, xlv, 140, 145, 158–168, 179, 193 housing, 96; policy, 20; project, 56–59, 63, 84, 125 Hsu, Hsuan, 167 Huang, Albert, 94, 108 humanities: environmental, xxii, 192–193 Hurricane Katrina, xliv, 91–135, 190 Hurricane Sandy, 132–134 hybridity, xxx–xxxi, xlii, xlv, 5–6, 9, 12, 20, 22, 26, 29, 35, 145, 146, 154–155, 176–177, 179, 182n1, 191 imagination, xii, xiv, xvii, xxii, xxiv, xxv, xxvii, xli, xli–xliii, 8, 10, 79, 84, 88n34, 93, 96, 120, 130–131, 132, 139–140, 145, 149, 151–153, 160, 169, 187, 192 inequality, xxxv, xxxix, 12–14, 33, 43, 49, 52, 60, 66, 92, 94, 95, 109, 113, 117, 133, 137n26, 148, 174, 177, 189 infrastructure, 20, 24, 30–31, 43, 57, 60, 93, 98–100, 110, 116, 172, 176, 178, 188–192 inner-city, xliv, 25, 43–85, 171, 174, 188–189 institution, xliv, 44, 51–53, 83, 97, 120 inter-disciplinarity, xii, xvii, xxii, 2, 187

Iovino, Serenella, xxxii, xxxiii, 41n14, 143, 168 Ishiwata, Eric, 96 Istanbul, xxv, 23, 24 Jackson, John L., 127, 129 Jacobs, Jane, xxv, xxxviii Jagoda, Patrick, 55 Jameson, Frederic, 51 Janssens, Maddy, 5–6 Johannesburg, 145, 169–177, 179 Kaes, Anton, 146, 152 Kaika, Maria, xxx–xxxi Keil, Roger, xvi, xxi, 6 Kern, Robert, xliii Kinder, Marsha, 51 Klein, Naomi, 117 Knowles-Yénez, Kim, 117 Kracauer, Siegfried, 144, 153 LaGory, Mark, xxxiv–xxxv landscape, xii, 1, 12, 15, 17, 19, 21, 32, 35–36, 50, 57–60, 62, 91, 99, 101–103, 104–109, 120, 132–134, 139, 150, 191 Lang, Fritz, xlv, 140, 145–157, 179 Langlais, Pierre, 120 Latour, Bruno, xiv, xxxi, xlii, xlvin6, xlviin27, 142 law enforcement, 49, 53, 72–81, 85, 189 Lee, Spike, 98–99, 104, 107, 136n11 Lefebvre, Henri, xxiii–xxiv, xxxviii, xlviin20–xlviin21 Lemann, Nicholas, 129 Lessin, Tia, 102 Leyda, Julia, 121–122, 124 Liu Gong Li, 21–22 Los Angeles, xxiii, 11 Love Canal, xxxvi–xxxvii Lynch, Tom, 8 machine. See technology Manaugh, Geoff, 103 Marshall, Brent, 95 Marshall, C.W., 62 Masdar, City, 186–187 material agency. See agency materialism: new, xxix, xxxi, 139 Mathur, Anuradha, 103

Index matter, xii, xiv–xv, xvi–xvii, xx, xxiii, xxv, xxxi, xxxiii, xxxiv, xlii, 3, 5, 21–23, 27–29, 31, 36–37, 44, 47, 63–71, 75, 78, 84–85, 99, 103, 105–107, 139–144, 153–154, 161, 168, 178–181, 186, 189, 191 Mauch, Christof, 134 Mayer, Sylvia, xii Mazzoleni, Donatella, xlviin18 McKenzie, Roderick D., xviii meaning, xxxii–xxxiii, xxxiv megacity. See metropolis Mehta, Suketu, 38–39 memory, xxvi, xxxix, xliv, 57, 60–61, 70, 100, 115; cultural, xliv, 94, 97, 105, 111, 120, 122–123, 128–129, 132, 134, 135, 137n22, 146 Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, 142 metaphor, xii, xvii, 22, 28, 38, 58, 62, 68–69, 75, 78, 105, 115, 140, 153–154, 157, 166–169, 172, 176–177 metropolis, 2, 11, 19, 28, 37, 43, 122 Metropolis, xlv, 140, 145–157, 179, 182n5, 193 migration, 1, 18–19, 23, 34, 35–36, 39, 172, 187 Miller, Demond Shondell, 105, 134–135 mind, xi–xii, xix, 142 Mitchell, Joachim, 180 mobility, 18–20, 24, 26–28, 33, 37, 39, 43, 49, 57, 60–61, 64, 66, 73, 95, 110, 113, 117, 133, 150–152, 190 monster, 157–168, 179 Monteith, Sharon, 117 Mumbai, 2, 10, 26–35, 38–39 Mumford, Lewis, xi–xii, xix, 144 Murphy, Patrick D., xiii, xliii music: Jazz, 117–131 Nagin, Ray, 95 narrative. See story Nas, Peter, xlviin18 nature, xv, xv–xvii, xx, xxii, xxiv, xxxi, xxxiii, 1, 10, 15, 25, 29, 46, 56, 66, 75, 78, 88n28, 91, 95, 96, 98–103, 105, 132, 142, 146, 149–151, 155–157, 160, 164, 178, 183n8, 190–193 Neal, Mark, 60–61 Nel, Adéle, 174–176

215

Neumann, Dietrich, 149 Newman, Lance, xiv New Orleans, xliv, 91–135, 190; nicknames of, 93–94, 103, 109; rebuilding of, 117, 121, 123, 137n25, 190 New York City, xxix, 132–133, 149 Nixon, Rob, xl–xli, 10, 17, 32, 39, 193 Nora, Pierre, 120 Nussbaum, Emily, 120 nutrition. See health O’Malley, Martin, 83, 87n19, 89n38 ontology, xxix, xxxi, xxxiii, 143 Oppermann, Serpil, xxxii, 143 Ouroussoff, Nicolai, 187 Overmyer, Eric, 120 ownership, 23, 126, 173 Park, Robert E., xviii–xix Patalas, Enno, 147 Pearson, Felicia, 62 Pickering, Andrew, 142 Picou, Steven, 95 place, xxiv–xxvii, 7–9, 26, 35, 38, 44, 47, 56–64, 71, 79, 84, 115, 120, 128–130, 131, 143, 151; attachment to, xxvii, 106, 114–117; sense of, xviii, xxv–xxvii, xlii–xliii, 7, 9, 36, 44, 106, 114–117, 121, 130, 192–193 Planet of Slums, xliii, 10–18, 39 Polan, Dana, 55 politics, xvii–xviii, xxi, xlii, 3–5, 17, 30, 33, 35, 39, 43, 50, 57, 58–59, 71, 73–74, 80–81, 83, 88n35, 96, 99, 111, 115–116, 121–125, 140, 143, 193; environmental, xxi, xxvii, xxix, xxxiv–xli, xlii, xliv, 8, 10, 13–14, 15, 16–18, 23–25, 31, 32–33, 37, 44, 47, 49, 52, 59, 72–81, 85, 92, 96–97, 104, 110–112, 116, 120–121, 126, 131, 132–133, 135, 139–140, 145, 158, 165–167, 172–174, 178–179, 186, 190; of resistance, xxv, xli, 24, 120–121, 126–128, 155, 160, 167; urban, xxv, 44, 47, 53, 62, 146–148, 189 pollution, xxix, xxxiv–xxxvii, xli, 12–13, 15–17, 20, 22–23, 24–25, 28, 31–32, 36–37, 38–39, 43, 64, 88n32, 107–109,

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Index

110, 158–168, 171, 179 population, 2, 18, 25, 40n1, 40n2, 48, 65, 83, 100, 107, 109, 116, 158, 168, 173–176, 187–190; growth, 11; rate, 2 posthuman, xlv, 141–145, 146, 154, 157, 168, 169, 176–179, 181, 191 Potter, Tiffany, 62 poverty, xxxv, xxxvii, xli, xliv, 11, 13–14, 16, 19–20, 24, 25–28, 30, 32, 34, 39, 44, 48–49, 59, 64–66, 71, 78, 92, 94, 95–96, 104, 109, 112, 113, 125, 148, 187, 190 Price, Richard, 86n9, 87n15 property investment, 13, 60–61, 92, 117, 128, 189 protest. See politics race, xxxvii, 60, 96, 97, 99, 112, 133, 174 racism, xxxvii, 109, 112, 117, 136n8, 137n26, 169 radiation, xxviii real estate. See property investment residential areas, xxxiv, xli, 20, 59, 73, 77, 86n8, 92, 96, 112, 133 risk, xxxiv, xxxvii, xxxix, xlii, 13–15, 22, 32, 91, 96, 107–108, 109, 117, 133–134, 156, 165, 187, 190; health, xxxiv, xxxv–xxxvi, xli, 27, 29, 31, 166; society. See society Rivera, Jason David, 105, 134–135 Roberts, Kimberly Rivers, 102, 106–107, 113 Roberts, Scott, 102, 106–107, 113 Ross, Andrew, xviii Royo, Andrew, 46 Rozelle, Lee, xxii rural, xii, 12–13, 18–23, 29, 39, 66 Rutsky, R. L., 146, 151 sanitation, xxxvi, 16, 27, 29, 31–32, 70, 77–79, 158, 162, 172, 187 Sanyika, Mtangulizi, 113 Saunders, Doug, xliii, 2, 10, 18–26, 29, 33, 39 science, xvi–xvii, xx, xxxviii, 2, 48, 142–143, 148, 154, 161, 181, 193 segregation, 14, 16, 24–25, 27–28, 29–30, 33–34, 49, 60, 64, 66, 88n27, 113, 148, 150, 152, 169–176

Seoul, 157–168, 179 settlement: squatter, 13, 20, 23, 27, 30, 172–174, 177, 179, 187 Seveso, xxviii sewage, 12, 14–15, 16, 21, 23, 26–27, 29, 30–32, 37, 92, 110, 139, 158, 166, 179, 187, 191 Shanghai, 185 Simon, David, xliv, 48–55, 83–85, 86n8, 86n12, 86n13, 87n15, 87n16, 120, 130–131 Sinha, Indra, xxxix–xl Slovic, Scott, xlvin2 slum, xxxix, 3, 10–18, 20, 21, 24, 26–35, 38–39, 169, 172, 174, 177, 179, 187; clearance, 14, 34 smog, xxix, xxxiv, 19, 37, 43, 171 social group, xxxv–xxxvii, 5–6, 13–15, 16, 27–28, 32–33, 43, 48–49, 52, 60, 64, 73, 86n8, 96, 109–112, 113, 133, 148, 150, 156, 173–174, 187, 192 society, 51, 142, 145, 146–152, 157–158, 174, 177; risk, xxix, xxxv Soja, Edward, xxiii–xxiv, xxv, xlviin19, xlviin20 Solomon, Gina, 94, 108 space, xii, xvii, xix, xxiv, xxv, xlii, 5, 13–15, 16, 19, 20, 25–29, 31–35, 39, 49, 64, 74–75, 78, 95, 121, 129, 131, 146, 149–152, 173–174, 179–181, 188; urban, xviii, xxiii–xxvii, 18, 31, 43–44, 47, 56–64, 66–69, 71, 83–84, 88n27, 88n34, 92, 96–97, 98–99, 101, 107, 110–112, 114–117, 120, 128, 131, 133, 139–140, 145, 156–157, 164–172, 174, 186, 189–192 Speidel, Linda, 63 Spitzer, Nick, 128 Squires, Judith, xxvi Stegner, Wallace, xxvii story(telling), xxv, xxvii, xxxiii, 47, 50–52, 55, 63, 64, 69, 74, 80, 85, 117, 121, 125, 130, 143, 146, 149, 163, 171, 174 Stuttgart, xxv Sukopp, Herbert, xx suburb. See urbanization sustainability, xv, xviii, xxii, xxxix, xliii, xlv, 2, 5–7, 15, 21, 24, 40n4, 178, 181, 185, 187

Index Swan, Richelle, 95 Swyngedouw, Erik, xxi, xxxi Teague, David W., xiii technology, 140–142, 145, 146–157, 178–179, 181, 183n8, 191 television, xliv, 44, 88n34, 96, 99–100, 123, 127, 132, 135; documentary, 97, 98–100, 111–113, 170–174; series, 43–85, 117–131, 193 Terreform ONE, 180–181, 187, 192 Third World. See developing country tourism, 1, 19–20, 28, 30, 32, 36, 38–39, 84, 92–93, 126, 189 toxicity, xxviii–xxix, xxxii, xxxiv, xxxvi–xxxvii, xxxix–xli, 13, 14, 16–17, 26–28, 30–31, 32, 37, 44, 49, 57–58, 64, 68–69, 70, 76, 78, 85, 94, 107, 139, 143, 157–168, 179, 187–188 trade. See economy trans-corporeality, xxxii, xlii, xlv, 16, 31, 32, 64, 68–69, 79, 107, 132, 143, 162, 165–168 transportation: public, 19–20, 38, 40n4, 113, 117, 133, 150, 152, 180, 186, 190–192 travel. See tourism Treme, xliv, 97, 117–131, 135, 193 Trouble the Water, xliv, 97–117, 135, 193 Tuan, Yi-Fu, xxvi Tuana, Nancy, 137n20 Twilley, Nicola, 103 urban ecology, xii–xiii, xvi–xxii, xxv–xxvii, xxviii, xxxi, xxxiv, xxxv–xxxvii, xli, 1, 3, 5, 17, 25, 27, 35, 37, 39, 44, 48, 56, 64, 71, 74–76, 78, 81, 85, 91–92, 94, 96, 98, 109, 111, 114–117, 120, 132, 135, 139–140, 143, 154, 158, 168, 169, 186, 190, 192; Chicago School of, xviii–xix urbanity, xiii, xiv, 44, 47, 50, 51, 83–84, 157, 181 urbanization, 1–4, 10–12, 16, 18–19, 24–26, 29, 35, 39, 40n4, 43, 140, 149, 177, 186, 193; sub-, xliv, 43, 48, 59, 65, 83, 188 urban planning, xxiii, xxv, xxvii, xxxv, xxxvi–xxxvii, xxxviii, xxxix, xliv–xlv,

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2–3, 13, 19, 22, 24–25, 30, 32, 40n4, 56, 58, 60, 64, 91–92, 103–104, 112, 121, 133, 139, 146, 149, 173, 178–181, 185–187, 192–193 urban periphery, 11, 13, 16, 17, 20–21, 23, 24, 25, 26–27, 29, 33, 35, 43, 169, 172, 177, 187, 192 urban political ecology, xvi, xxi, xlviin17 vacant buildings, 48, 54, 65–66, 71, 75–77, 81–83, 87n25, 88n29, 188–189 violence, 17, 46, 49, 65–66, 71–73, 75, 85, 87n25, 87n26, 109, 112, 117, 155, 157, 164, 172, 189; slow, xl–xli, 17, 32, 160 Warren, Paige, 58 waste, xxix, xxxii, xxxvii, xl, xliii, 2–3, 5, 10, 12, 15–17, 23, 24, 26–28, 30, 32, 35, 39, 56, 68, 98, 107, 109–110, 137n18, 139, 144, 164, 174–177, 180–181, 185–187; chemical, xxix; disposal of, xxxvi–xxxvii, xli, 30, 107, 137n19, 137n21, 190 water, xxx, xxxiv, 16, 29, 30–31, 32–33, 37, 40n4, 65, 71, 78–79, 95, 98, 101–102, 105–107, 110, 111–112, 116, 142, 156, 159, 162–163, 166, 185, 191 Watson, Sophie, xxii Wenz, Peter, xxxv Westling, Louise, 142 Westphal, Bertrand, xlviin19 wetlands, xliv, 15, 91–92, 95, 103, 105, 132, 185, 190 When the Levees Broke, xliv, 97–117, 135, 193 Williams, Linda, 84 Williams, Raymond, xlvin4 Wilson, William, 84 The Wire, xliv, 43–85, 120, 193 Wittig, Rüdiger, xx world city, xliii, 3–5, 8–10, 16, 18, 20, 22, 27, 34, 35, 37–39, 43, 187 Zanoni, Patrizia, 5–6 Zapf, Hubert, xvii, xxxviii, xlvin16 Zukin, Sharon, xxv

About the Author

Christopher Schliephake studied English and history as well as ethics of textual cultures at the University of Augsburg, where he works as a teaching assistant in the history department. He specializes in the fields of ecocriticism and cultural ecology, memory and place studies as well as ancient history and classical reception studies and has presented and published several professional papers. In 2012, he was awarded the Ecozon@-prize for the Best Graduate Student Essay in European Ecocriticism for his essay “The Materiality of History and the Shifting Shapes of Memory in J. Hersey’s Hiroshima and A. Resnais’s Hiroshima Mon Amour.” Currently, he is working on a book on “Black Classicism” and a project tentatively titled “Managing and Imagining the Anthropocene.”

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