Political ecologies of smart city transformations

In the context of a global climate crisis, Smart City projects are emerging an increasingly popular approach to urban governance and development worldwide. Smart City initiatives aim to clean up and modernize urban spaces and improve citizens’ lives through a suite of sustainability-oriented technological, expert-led, and capital-intensive interventions. In the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, decision-makers at all scales in India have reinvigorated a push for Smart City projects to sanitize, surveil, and modernize urban spaces, a governance model which has received international praise for leading global pandemic recovery efforts.

I am asking questions about the ethical and political implications of technology-led Smart City developments (surveillance, revitalization, sanitization) for low-income urban communities and precarious workers who rely on access to public space in South Asian cities. This area of research explores the impacts of smart city urbanisms in the urban margins and emphasizes the strategies through which urban communities and workers contest and cope with exclusionary forms of development in their everyday lives.

The urban politics of wastewater-based epidemiology

In this Urban Studies Foundation (USF) funded project, we are exploring shifts in the relationship between waste, health, and urban governance in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. We particularly focus on the emergence of Wastewater-Based Epidemiology (WBE) as a popular mode of collecting and analyzing public health data through the pandemic crisis. Yet, we observe that the socioecological and biosurveillance implications of WBE are unknown even as the tools of this field are being rapidly deployed.

In this collaborative project with case studies across North America, the Middle East, and South Asia, we ask: how is WBE transforming municipal governance mechanisms and becoming a new site of capital accumulation, and with what effects on whom?

Check out our Biosecurities and Urban Governance Research Collective website and reading group!

w/ Co-Investigators:
Dr. Rafi Arefin (PI) University of British Columbia
Dr. Carolyn Prouse (Co-I) Queen’s University

Embodied and emotional urban political ecologies

This project includes both methodological and empirical elements:

Methodologically, I am working with collaborator Mubina Qureshi (the local interpreter involved with my doctoral research in India) to reflect on the nexus of emotion, language, and the body in international, multi-lingual, and intercultural research. We aim to contribute to anti-colonial feminist methodologies by unpacking the ways that the relationalities of emotion, embodiment, and language shape our praxis of responsibility, care, and solidarity in knowledge production processes and inform the obligations we have to the people we work with.

Empirically, I am grounding UPE studies of urban solid waste management in the gendered, casted, classed, and racialized relations enmeshed in urban waste labour. I focus on the embodied and emotional particularities involved in doing stigmatized and dangerous ‘dirty’ informal recycling work and the physical and emotional tensions for self-employed, low-income Dalit women recyclers as their access to solid waste materials is threatened amidst neoliberalizing strategies to privatize solid waste collection.

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