Manufacturing Gesellschaft: Urbanized Nature and the Green Screen

Date and time
Thursday 2 June 2016
2.30-4 PM GMT

G07, Pearson Building, UCL Department of Geography, London, WC1E 6BT

Manufacturing Gesellschaft: Urbanized Nature and the Green Screen 

Dr Hillary Angelo, University of California, Santa Cruz

This talk offers a sociological account of urban greening: the normative practice of using nature to fix problems with urbanism. Through a historical comparison of greening practices at three moments of major urban restructuring in Germany’s Ruhr Valley, I find that urbanization made nature into a tool for manufacturing Gesellschaft, or ideal urban society, and that a social imaginary of nature as a vehicle for social goods, which I call urbanized nature, makes greening practices possible. In addition, the comparison reveals that greening operates with characteristic social logics. While spatializing very particular ideals of bourgeois urban publics, nature’s “green screen” allows protagonists to carry out greening projects as universally beneficial investments in the public good, and conditions audiences to respond in kind.

Dr. Hillary Angelo is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of California Santa Cruz. Her work explores the relationship between ideas about nature and urbanization processes from historical, theoretical, and ethnographic perspectives. She is currently preparing a book on urban “greening” in Germany’s Ruhr region, and is at work on two new projects: one on infrastructure and sociology (with Craig Calhoun), and the other on equity in urban sustainability planning. Recent publications include “From the city lens toward urbanisation as a way of seeing: Country/city binaries on an urbanising planet” (Urban Studies 2016) and “Urbanizing urban political ecology: A critique of methodological cityism” (IJURR 2015, with David Wachsmuth).