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The Boundaries of Urban Metabolism: Towards a Political-Industrial Ecology

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Full Publication Date
December, 2014

This paper considers the limits and potential of ‘urban metabolism’ to conceptualize city processes. Three ‘ecologies’ of urban metabolism have emerged. Each privileges a particular dimension of urban space, shaped by epistemology, politics, and model-making. Marxist ecologies theorize urban metabolism as hybridized socionatures that (re)produce uneven outcomes; industrial ecology, as stocks and flows of materials and energy; and urban ecology, as complex socio-ecological systems.We demarcate these scholarly islands through bibliometric analysis and literature review, and draw on cross-domain mapping theory to unveil how the metaphor has become stagnant in each. To reinvigorate this research, the paper proposes the development of political–industrial ecology, using urban metabolism as a boundary metaphor.

Research Areas
Urban Systems and Built Environment

boundary object, industrial ecology, interdisciplinary research, metaphor, political ecology, urban ecology, urban metabolism

Publication Type
Journal Article
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Full Citation

Newell, J.P. and J. Cousins. (2015) “The boundaries of urban metabolism: Towards a political-industrial ecology.” Progress in Human Geography, 39(6):702-728.