Another political ecology of civil society reflexiveness against urban industrial risks for environmental justice

The concerns of political ecology since its beginnings as a field have been predominantly set in rural
areas with limited focus on urban industrial risks. Further, debates on the global South (often from
Anglo-American perspectives) have not fully appreciated the divergent and differentiated perceptions
of urban risks and, therefore, everyday forms of resistance within civil society. Instead, work
has mainly focused on civil society power relations against the state and industry that are driven
by coherent populist political agendas. Against this setting, this paper’s contribution aims to better
contextualize ‘other’ third world localities in political ecology through a case study of urban
industrial risks in the upper/middle income (as opposed to rural, low/lower middle income)
country, South Africa. In doing so, the paper sheds light on the derelict aspect of civil society
contestation, especially along class and ethnic lines, over urban landfill infrastructure as a livelihood resource or a health hazard. The paper draws upon frameworks of self-reflexivity and
reflexive localism as complementary to the mainstream political ecology to illuminate differentiated
civil society reflexiveness and therefore, aims to advance the discussion of other political
ecologies. The case study of the largest formal landfill site in Africa, the Bisasar landfill situated in Durban, highlights differences underlying power relations and constraints within civil society (in
leadership, social networking, resources and mistrust) that have implications for mainstream
political ecology notions of civil society coherence.

Keywords: Bisasar landfill, civil society, Durban, environmental justice, political ecology, risk
society

Leonard L. (2012) Another political ecology of civil society reflexiveness against urban industrial risks for environmental justice: The case of the Bisasar landfill, Durban, South Africa, Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography, Volume 33(1), 77-92.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-9493.2012.00448.x/abstract

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