Provincializing urban political ecology: Towards a situated UPE through African urbanism

Mary Lawhon, Henrik Ernstson, Jonathan Silver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Urban political ecology (UPE) has provided critical insights into the sociomaterial construction of urban environments, their unequal distribution of resources, and contestation over power and resources. Most of this work is rooted in Marxist urban geographical theory, which provides a useful but limited analysis. Such works typically begin with a historical-materialist theory of power, then examine particular artifacts and infrastructure to provide a critique of society. We argue that there are multiple ways of expanding this framing, including through political ecology or wider currents of Marxism. Here, we demonstrate one possibility: starting from theory and empirics in the South, specifically, African urbanism. We show how African urbanism can inform UPE and the associated research methods, theory and practice to create a more situated UPE. We begin suggesting what a situated UPE might entail: starting with everyday practices, examining diffuse forms of power, and opening the scope for radical incrementalism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)497-516
Number of pages20
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014


  • African urbanism
  • Everyday practice
  • Southern theory
  • Urban political ecology
  • Urban theory


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