Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

On the Peripheries of Planetary Urbanization: Globalizing Manaus and Its Expanding Impact

Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

On the Peripheries of Planetary Urbanization: Globalizing Manaus and Its Expanding Impact

Article excerpt

Abstract. In this paper I argue that global urbanism produces peripherality in ways that cannot be adequately problematized without taking into account its actual extent and geographically uneven development. Therefore, planetary urbanization needs to engage scholarly traditions attuned to regional urbanization if the discourse is to move past limitations in the urban globalization canon and its narrow focus on cities. To that end, I examine research on extensive urbanization in the Amazon region. Illustrative case studies show how attempts to globalize Manaus precipitated territorial restructuring and sociospatial change far beyond the city's boundaries. Manaus is now a more unequal city. Selective metropolitan expansion to the Rio Negro's south bank has led to the simultaneous upgrading and peripheralization of Iranduba. Yet, the building of a city-centric regional network of roadways also shaped Roraima State's transformation from isolated borderland to bypassed periphery. Moreover, financial and symbolic appropriations of standing rainforests by metropolitan conservationism marginalize remote communities even in the absence of exploitative deforestation and resource extraction. Final remarks emphasize the need for further research on the hybrid (urban-rural) conditions and functional articulations of distant-yet-impacted peripheries. Such efforts may broaden the political horizons of planetary urbanization by informing extensive contestations of entrepreneurial urbanism.

Keywords: planetary urbanization, critical urban theory, Amazon Rainforest, commodification of nature

Introduction

Studies of urban globalization need to pay more attention to the social production of distant peripheries. Current discussions focus excessively on local effects, limiting themselves to only the most easily identifiable urban conditions. Emerging research on planetary urbanization may benefit from a deeper engagement with urban research traditions more attuned to the extensive reach of urbanization processes, many of which emanate from the Global South. A good example is the contribution that Brazilian urban geographers have made to understanding Latin America's new ruralities, a multidisciplinary research arena that focuses on intensifying rural-urban linkages. In order to illustrate these arguments, the paper draws upon and expands the author's previously published case studies of extensive urbanization in the Brazilian Amazon (Kanai, 2013; Kanai and Oliveira, 2014). Undertaken in collaboration with urban geographers from the region mainly based at the Federal University of Amazonas and Federal University of Roraima, this research program focuses on understanding the characteristics and dynamics of the urban network in the Western Amazon portion of northern Brazil on the basis of detailed empirical analysis of both the larger nodes and the smaller yet functionally articulated settlements (Schor and Oliveira, 2011).

The research highlighted in this paper specifically focuses on the multiple scales of peripheralization that entrepreneurial efforts to upgrade the Manaus metropolitan economy have produced in the region. Undoubtedly, Manaus can be conceptualized as an unusual, yet also far from unique, narrative of state-sponsored urban globalization. Entrepreneurial interventions have sought to transform the city's relative isolation in the heart of the Amazon Rainforest into a locational advantage. Whereas Manaus is the preeminent regional metropolis, public and private initiatives now aim to achieve a competitive position within national and global city networks. This paper traces attempts to develop an ecological specialization--both material and symbolic--and leverage the planetary relevance of remaining rainforests that cover vast hinterlands. Yet this process has also triggered extensive regional restructuring and transformative sociospatial impacts, which help demonstrate the need for a broader theorization of urban peripheries under conditions of planetary urbanization. …

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