Climate change adaptation and urban development: a genealogy of flood risk management in Glasgow
Abstract: As cities increasingly implement climate change adaptation (CCA) projects, it is important to assess the potential long-term consequences of urban climate adaptation on socio-economic inequalities. As CCA is still in its infancy, observing long-term impact can be challenging. In this context, the historical study of past flood risk management (FRM) measures provides a useful proxy. This study uses Foucauldian genealogy to depict the inter-relationship between FRM and urban development in Glasgow, Scotland. Foucauldian genealogy seeks to unveil the complex historical processes, accidents and power struggles that form present institutions, narratives and governance practices. By applying a genealogical perspective, the study questions modern narratives of a FRM that (1) rely on sustainable solutions, (2) encourage cooperation, (3) foster individual responsibilisation and (4) contribute to urban regeneration. Our study shows how these seemingly apolitical framings tend to silence historical power struggles and socio-economic inequalities. Decisions around flood risk in Glasgow have traditionally benefited a small economic elite, whose members disproportionately influenced urban policymaking in the city. At the same time, less privileged parts of the population are largely absent from historical records. By accounting for the complexities of the past, our genealogy problematizes linear historical thinking and contemporary ‘taken-for-granted’ narratives of FRM and CCA. The study also highlights the role of power struggles in shaping these policies. Finally, it argues for including a larger range of perspectives in knowledge production, so as to better appreciate the incidental, complex, power-laden nature of both the past and the present.
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