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Fluid risks : the politics of risk-scaling at urban rivers in Nairobi

Aalders, Johannes Theodor LU (2015) In Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science MESM02 20151
LUCSUS (Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies)
Abstract
This thesis investigates the importance of scale for power dynamics in the negotiation of risks connect-ed to Urban Rivers in Nairobi, Kenya. In addition to unequal distribution of wealth, global inequalities in the distribution of risk become increasingly important. Scale as a significant dimension of inequality is discussed in the context of Nairobi’s urban, as water scarcity and flooding events are expected to in-crease and can both be observed within the highly heterogenic city of Nairobi. The thesis attempts to answer the conceptual question, how is it possible to conceptually grasp the relation of risk and scale? As well as the practical question of what are the power dynamics of scalar negotiations of riskscapes? Regarding the first... (More)
This thesis investigates the importance of scale for power dynamics in the negotiation of risks connect-ed to Urban Rivers in Nairobi, Kenya. In addition to unequal distribution of wealth, global inequalities in the distribution of risk become increasingly important. Scale as a significant dimension of inequality is discussed in the context of Nairobi’s urban, as water scarcity and flooding events are expected to in-crease and can both be observed within the highly heterogenic city of Nairobi. The thesis attempts to answer the conceptual question, how is it possible to conceptually grasp the relation of risk and scale? As well as the practical question of what are the power dynamics of scalar negotiations of riskscapes? Regarding the first question the concept of riskscapes is suggested and subsequently expanded to in-clude an explicitly scalar dimension. A relational focus on fluidity and movement is put forward. This conceptual background interfaces with the methodology of multi-sited ethnography, which inspires the method of following the river through the fragmented city of Nairobi. In the case study, three examples of scalar politics of river-related risks in Nairobi suggest that 1.) the scaling of actors influences the ways they can participate in practices of risking. Risks for certain local communities seem to be ap-proved by the government implying localisation of actors as a tactic within the politics of risks. The role of connections in localising or globalising actors is stressed. 2.) The example of the planned eviction of an informal market area along Nairobi River shows how political struggle is expressed in different scalar narratives of river related risks. While the government stresses risks for the entire area downstream of Nairobi to justify the eviction, the market stand owners evoke a much more localised framing of the risks they face. 3.) Both moments, scaling of risk-actors and scaling of risks is observable in the case of slum dwelling women at urban rivers. It is argued that women are discursively and materially framed to the household level, where they face the highest flooding risk. This informs the conclusion to regard the poor female body in the case of Nairobi as a sacrifice-scale where risks produced elsewhere are ‘dumped’. This thesis’ main contribution is the conceptual merging of the politics of risk and scale, the substantiation of this argument by a relevant case study and subsequently the spotlighting of dynamics of marginalisation through scalar negotiations of risk. (Less)
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author
Aalders, Johannes Theodor LU
supervisor
organization
course
MESM02 20151
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
keywords
riskscapes, Nairobi, urban rivers, risk, scale, multi-sited ethnography
publication/series
Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science
report number
2015:005
language
English
id
5469371
date added to LUP
2015-06-09 12:14:18
date last changed
2015-06-09 12:14:18
@misc{5469371,
  abstract     = {This thesis investigates the importance of scale for power dynamics in the negotiation of risks connect-ed to Urban Rivers in Nairobi, Kenya. In addition to unequal distribution of wealth, global inequalities in the distribution of risk become increasingly important. Scale as a significant dimension of inequality is discussed in the context of Nairobi’s urban, as water scarcity and flooding events are expected to in-crease and can both be observed within the highly heterogenic city of Nairobi. The thesis attempts to answer the conceptual question, how is it possible to conceptually grasp the relation of risk and scale? As well as the practical question of what are the power dynamics of scalar negotiations of riskscapes? Regarding the first question the concept of riskscapes is suggested and subsequently expanded to in-clude an explicitly scalar dimension. A relational focus on fluidity and movement is put forward. This conceptual background interfaces with the methodology of multi-sited ethnography, which inspires the method of following the river through the fragmented city of Nairobi. In the case study, three examples of scalar politics of river-related risks in Nairobi suggest that 1.) the scaling of actors influences the ways they can participate in practices of risking. Risks for certain local communities seem to be ap-proved by the government implying localisation of actors as a tactic within the politics of risks. The role of connections in localising or globalising actors is stressed. 2.) The example of the planned eviction of an informal market area along Nairobi River shows how political struggle is expressed in different scalar narratives of river related risks. While the government stresses risks for the entire area downstream of Nairobi to justify the eviction, the market stand owners evoke a much more localised framing of the risks they face. 3.) Both moments, scaling of risk-actors and scaling of risks is observable in the case of slum dwelling women at urban rivers. It is argued that women are discursively and materially framed to the household level, where they face the highest flooding risk. This informs the conclusion to regard the poor female body in the case of Nairobi as a sacrifice-scale where risks produced elsewhere are ‘dumped’. This thesis’ main contribution is the conceptual merging of the politics of risk and scale, the substantiation of this argument by a relevant case study and subsequently the spotlighting of dynamics of marginalisation through scalar negotiations of risk.},
  author       = {Aalders, Johannes Theodor},
  keyword      = {riskscapes,Nairobi,urban rivers,risk,scale,multi-sited ethnography},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  series       = {Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science},
  title        = {Fluid risks : the politics of risk-scaling at urban rivers in Nairobi},
  year         = {2015},
}