On March 31st, HWISE-RCN member Michelle Kooy, with Ph.D. fellow Bosman Batubara and Nila Ardhianie from the Amtra Institute, presented “Re-enchanting more-than-urban water metabolism through degrowth: contestation and experimentation in Semarang, Indonesia.” This presentation was a part of the King’s College Department of Geography term seminar series.
[Abstract of Presentation] In this presentation we bring together critical urban theory and degrowth to explain and advance the current contestation of large-scale environmental transformations in the coastal city of Semarang, Indonesia. Using a framework of Urban Political Ecology, we start with a chronicle of how emergent social movements, of which we are a part, are analyzing the processes of urbanization through which Indonesia’s growing economy is sustained through the (re)production of uneven urban environments. From this, we follow (1) the movement’s understanding of how the uneven distribution of risks related to flooding – and flood management infrastructure solutions – is inherent to the logic of capitalist urbanization in Indonesia, and (2) where this connects in theory and practice to the articulation of alternative – degrowth – models of urbanization, for Semarang, and other Indonesian cities. Following the trajectory of the movement over 2019-2020, we identify where principles of degrowth emerge as necessary for articulating a counter-narrative to Indonesia’s capitalist urbanization models in general, and – specifically for Semarang – as an alternative set of social relations and processes through which water is metabolized. We conclude with reflections from both scholars and activists on the cross-fertilization of critical urban theory with degrowth for urban environmental justice in Indonesia.