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The world/s at the ends of the city.
Explorations in urban and environmental anthropology
27 May 2019
Institut für Europäische Ethnologie
The term “ruderal” (from rudus, rubble) is a common botanical term that refers to communities that inhabit disturbed environments, such as the spaces alongside roads and train tracks, urban wastelands or rubble fields. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork with botanists and migrant urban gardeners in Berlin, this talk engages a series of human-plant encounters to develop the concept of the ruderal and expand it for anthropological analysis of urban environments. Tracing human-plant socialities across the realms of science, public culture and everyday life, the talk directs ethnographic attention towards often unnoticed, unruly and cosmopolitan ways of remaking the urban fabric. The notion of ruderal city, I argue, offers analytical possibilities for rethinking the heterogeneity of urban life beyond a conceptual division between nature and culture – and thus for highlighting the unexpected neighbors, both human and nonhuman, that inhabit the ruins of capitalism, nationalism, and ecological destruction in today’s cities.
Bettina Stoetzer is a cultural anthropologist and Assistant Professor at MIT. Her research focuses on the intersections of ecology, migration, and urban social justice. Bettina received her Ph.D. in Anthropology at UC Santa Cruz, and holds an M.A. in Sociology from the University of Goettingen. Before coming to MIT, she was a Harper Fellow at the University of Chicago. Her forthcoming book “Ruderal City: Ecologies of Migration and Urban Life” (Duke) examines how human-environment relations have become a key register through which urban citizenship is articulated in contemporary Europe. Bettina is also the author of InDifferenzen: Feministische Theorie in der Antirassistischen Kritik (argument, 2004) and co-edited Shock and Awe. War on Words together with Anna Tsing et al (2004). She is currently working on a new project on urban wildlife mobility, climate change, and nationalism in the US and Germany.