Theorizing Natural Disaster, Capitalism and the Built Environment

This paper offers a theoretical approach to the relationship between of natural disaster and cities for a future project. As I have argued in past work, the local political-ecology of wildfire shapes the commodification process of land. Or more specifically, wildfire in the urban periphery or wildland-urban interface has a profound impact on the rent seeking behavior by local developers (Balaban & Fu 2014). Wildfire and other natural disasters, in other words play both a spatial and metabolic role in the commodification of space. In this presentation, I want to go further and argue that natural disaster functions as an urban “crisis” that allows for new forms of commodification within cities in the absence of a broader systemic crisis. As such, I look at a trialectical approach to natural disaster, capitalism and the built environment.

Presented on February 22 at the Eastern Sociological Society Annual Meeting in Baltimore, MD