Lively Cities

Reconfiguring Urban Ecology

2023
Author:

Maan Barua

A journey through unexplored spaces that foreground new ways of inhabiting the urban

Lively Cities departs from conventions of urban studies to argue that cities are lived achievements forged by a multitude of entities—human and nonhuman—that make up the material politics of city making. Generating fresh conversations between posthumanism, postcolonialism, and political economy, Barua reveals how these actors shape, integrate, subsume, and relate to urban space in fascinating ways.

One of the fundamental dimensions of urbanization is its radical transformation of nature. Today domestic animals make up more than twice the biomass of people on the planet, and cities are replete with nonhuman life. Yet current accounts of the urban remain resolutely anthropocentric. Lively Cities departs from conventions of urban studies to argue that cities are lived achievements forged by a multitude of entities, drawing attention to a suite of beings—human and nonhuman—that make up the material politics of city making.

From macaques and cattle in Delhi to the invasive parakeet colonies in London, Maan Barua examines the rhythms, paths, and agency of nonhumans across the city. He reconceptualizes several key themes in urban thought, including infrastructure, the built environment, design, habitation, and everyday practices of dwelling and provides a critical intervention in animal and urban studies. Generating fresh conversations between posthumanism, postcolonialism, and political economy, Barua reveals how human and nonhuman actors shape, integrate, subsume, and relate to urban space in fascinating ways.

Through novel combinations of ethnography and ethology, and focusing on interlocutors that are not the usual suspects animating urban theory, Barua’s work considers nonhuman lifeworlds and the differences they make in understanding urbanicity. Lively Cities is an agenda-setting intervention, ultimately proposing a new grammar of urban life.

Maan Barua is a university lecturer in human geography at the University of Cambridge.

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