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Rethinking urban risk and adaptation: the politics of vulnerability in informal urban settlements

Fraser, Arabella (2014) Rethinking urban risk and adaptation: the politics of vulnerability in informal urban settlements. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Informal urban settlements are increasingly recognised as vulnerable to climate related risks. Their political-legal status is known to influence their vulnerability, but the linkages between state governance and vulnerability in this setting remain under researched. In particular, as more urban governments develop climate risk assessments, questions arise about how risks are defined, operationalised and received; and the impact this politics has on local-scale vulnerabilities. The thesis proposes a new conceptual direction for urban vulnerability research. First, it draws on livelihoods debates to highlight how the politics of access influences vulnerability, and shows how this is shaped through the interaction between agency and structure, and the social and political relations of meaning and power in which livelihoods decisions are embedded. Second, the thesis shows how theories of Science and Technology Studies (STS) and public policy, and theories of the state, can be used to investigate the politics of risk assessment in informal, urban areas. This theoretical frame generates insights at the interface between development studies and post-structural thought, providing a new perspective on questions of how adaptation takes place in informal areas, who adapts and what they are adapting to. The conceptual propositions of the thesis are applied to a landslide risk management programme in three informal settlements in Bogota, Colombia. The thesis presents empirical findings that illustrate (i) how risk assessments are shaped by state values and practices particular to informal sites in ways that create new inclusions and exclusions in policy; (ii) how inhabitants respond to risk in the context of sociallyembedded meanings and identities and their relationships with the state; and (iii) how people’s agency to transform risks is forged in socio-economic and political networks of power. The thesis argues for a re-politicisation of approaches to understanding urban risk and adaptation, and for transformations in policy to reflect this approach.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2014 Arabella Fraser
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
Sets: Departments > International Development
Supervisor: Forsyth, Tim

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