Accepted Paper:

Biophilic entanglements - intimate life in urban environments  


Des Fitzgerald (Cardiff University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper is about how, in contemporary cities, the notion of 'biophilia' - the idea that humans have an innate desire for intimacy with natural and living things - is producing a new ecological politics of urban life.

Paper long abstract:

Since the nineteenth century, scholars, planners, clinicians, designers and social reformers have understood the city as a psychogenic environment - a space in which sustained exposure to dirt, density, noise and overcrowding produces a constant sense of alienation, stress, and psychopathology. For more than a century, this perspective has sustained a distinctive affective and ecological politics of urban life - one that figures the material environment, and especially the relationship of that environment to some figuration of nature, as the primary axis for thinking and producing the liveable city.

In this paper, I report from the early stages of a project on how a range of actors are coming to understand the problems of city life as the problems of a particular organisms, with particular brains, in particular environments. In particular, I analyse the affective politics of the city, and the neuropsychoglovial research that undergirds it, through a language and practice of 'biophilia.' Rooted in EO Wilson's idea that human being have an innate affinity for intimate relationships with living things, biophilic design and planning practices situate (and seek to produce) urban nature as a source of resolution for the multiple ills of city living.

The paper asks: what does to mean to re-think the city through relations of intimacy with living things? What happens we re-think urban life though a politics of biophilic entanglement? What changes - political and affectively - when good urban life is re-made as the capacity to consummate an innate desire for natural things?

Panel A15
Intimate entanglements in science and technology