Urban wild things: a cosmopolitical experiment

Hinchliffe, Steve; Kearnes, Matthew B.; Degen, Monica and Whatmore, Sarah (2005). Urban wild things: a cosmopolitical experiment. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 23(5) pp. 643–658.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1068/d351t


Cities are inhabited by all manner of things and made up of all manner of practices, many of which are unnoticed by urban politics and disregarded by science. In this paper we do two things. First, we add to the sense that urban living spaces involve much more than human worlds and are often prime sites for human and nonhuman ecologies. Second, we experiment with what is involved in taking these nonhuman worlds and ecologies seriously and in producing a politics for urban wilds. In order to do this we learn how to sense urban wildlife. In learning new engagements we also learn new things and in particular come to see urban wilds as matters of controversy. For this reason we have borrowed and adapted Latour’s language to talk of wild things. Wild things become more rather than less real as people learn to engage with them. At the same time, wild things are too disputed, sociable, and uncertain to become constant objects upon which a stable urban politics can be constructed. So a parliament of wild things might be rather different from the house of representatives that we commonly imagine. It may be closer to what Stengers (1997, Power and Invention University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, MN) has characterised as cosmopolitics, a politics that is worked out without recourse to old binaries of nature and society. Using empirical work with urban wildlife-trust members we muddy the clean lines of representational politics, and start to grapple with issues that a reconvened wild politics might involve.

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