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Henrik Ernstson

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About me

My name is Henrik Ernstson, and I am developing a situated approach to urban political ecology with a special focus on southern and postcolonial urbanism. This means that I mainly combine urban political ecology, urban studies, STS, and social movement studies, alongside interdisciplinary research in urban and landscape ecology. I am also developing a film-based research practice as part of the environmental humanities that uses cinematic ethnography, montage and essay film to engage in the texture, embodiment, and situatedness of political and environmental practices, knowledges and politics.

My main field work sites have been Cape Town, Durban, Luanda, Kampala, but also New Orleans and Stockholm. I have lead several PhD projects in human geography and natural resource management, and I have an interdisciplinary background that includes contributions to human geography, environmental history, politial theory, social network analysis and social movement theory. 

Publications. I have published over 40 peer-reviewed journal articles and chapters in leading journals, two major books that spans several of my interests, and made contributions to visual environmental humanities through a documentary film. 

The first book is Grounding Urban Natures: Histories and Futures of Urban Ecologies (MIT Press 2019, edited with Sverker Sörlin). With case studies from cities on five continents this book brings together human geography, environmental history, and urban studies to develop an argument for comparative urban environmentalism. Texture and detail is foregrounded to counter prevailing simplistic thinking and policy in urban ecology. The book uses richly textured case studies to theorise and understand urban socioenvironmental conflicts across a range of contexts, ranging from Delhi, Yixing, Lagos, San Francisco, New Orleans, Berlin, and Cape Town. The chapters are written in excellent and easy-to-grasp English which makes it a good book to teach undergraduate and postgraduate students with an emphasis to understand the enormous variability under which the world is urbanizing. Authors include leading thinkers from anthropology, environmental history, human geography, planning and sociology, including Amita Baviskar, Anne Whiston Spirne, Richard Walker, James P. Evans, Lindsay Sawyer, Joshua Lewis, Lance van Sittert and several others. 

The second book is Urban Political Ecology in the Anthropo-Obscene: Interruptions and Possibilities (Routledge 2019, edited with Erik Swyngedouw). The book argues for combining environmental thought much more explicitly with political and radical democratic theory in order to face serious social, ecological and political challenges. Thirteen chapters from leading environmental and political thinkers, ranging from Roger Keil, Jodi Dean, Richard Walker, Malini Ranganathan, Garth Myers, Jonathan Silver, Andy Merrifield, Marco Armiero, Sapana Doshi, Andrés Henao Castro, Maria Kaika and several others. The book is jam-packed with crucial theory on how to re-politicize the environment. Giorgos Kallis, Professor at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, said of the book: "What can be done? This book is a must-read for activists, scholars and scholar-activists who struggle for a better and more equal world." The book is highly recommended for higher-seminar readings among postgraduate and PhD courses.

With my colleage Jacob von Heland, I have also released the cinematic ethnography film One Table Two Elephants (CPH:DOX 2018, 84 minutes) that deals with race, nature and knowledge politics in the postcolonial city. The film is based on my long-term ethnographic work in Cape Town on ways of knowing urban ecologies that started in 2009 and then further developed since 20145 with Jacob when we complemented the pen and paper of the ethnographer with the camera. In collaboration with the people that are part of the film we explore who can claim to be in the know of the postcolonial city, a question we enter through the very mundane objects of plants and a wetland. 

I have extensive international collaboration with co-workers in South Africa, Uganda, UK, Italy, USA and Sweden and I have lead various interdisciplinary research groups with studies in Cape Town, New Orleans, Stockholm, Kampala and Luanda. He is the founder of The Situated Ecologies Platform in 2010 with Joshua Lewis and Jacob von Heland, which explores the spaces between art, science and environmental politics, and co-founder of the Situated Urban Political Ecology Collective (#SituatedUPE) with Mary Lawhon and Jonathan Silver.



Degree Project in Strategies for Sustainable Development, Second Cycle (AL250X), examiner | Course web

Sustainable Development in Developing Countries (AL2195), examiner, course responsible, teacher | Course web

Sustainable Planning and Design (AG2150), examiner, teacher | Course web

Theory of Science and Research Methodology for Planning and Design (AG2126), teacher | Course web