Under urban resilience and adaptation models: New or strengthened hegemonies hidden by sustainable discourses rules?

PhD student: Juliette Marin R.

Tutor. Prof. Enrique Aliste A.


Universidad de Chile, Santiago de Chile




Resilience, adaptation and transformation are strategies for global challenges such as climate change, water scarcity, disaster reduction, in fine global and local sustainability. These strategies are predominantly urban based. Developed under urban assumptions, rationalities and standards, their usefulness in representing territorial or space processes and problems should be questioned. Is the hegemony of the urban conception leading to formulate correct questions, and thus pertinent strategies for the current global and local challenges in the global south? Studies of telecoupled processes point out the limit of traditional territorial scales of analysis, by linking the dependencies of places. Similarly, resilience and sustainability of cities require to rethink urban boundaries and scales.


Second, rural places and people are conceived and imagined from urban perspectives. ‘Nature’ is for the urbanite both immensely attractive -thus its need for preservation- and terribly threatening. Urban dwellers are fascinated by this ‘natural world’, perceived as exotic, mysterious, untouched. This idealized version of a ‘natural landscape’ generates gaps between ideas and proposals in the name of sustainability and rural visions and practices, such as cycling cities, green infrastructure, walking cities, etc.


In addition  to this hegemony of cities over territories, one must also consider the dominance of cities of the Global North in thinking, designing, justifying and promoting certain sustainability strategies, and the neo-colonial divisions in the production of knowledge structure and in the articulation of ideas and theories. Under the resilience and sustainability discourses and models -normative and uncritical-, what kind of hegemonies are being built or reinforced? Coincidentally, world-leading sustainable cities are from the Global North, serving as inspirations, goals and examples of good practices. What are the premises under which resilience and sustainability models are built, how are they promoted and by whom, and how do they circulate and gain legitimacy? For e.g., 100 Resilient Cities, City Climate Leadership Awards, etc.