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July 1, 2022

Blue Seattle: Immanent Ethics and Contemporary Urbanisation

Harris, Keith. (2020). Blue Seattle: Immanent Ethics and Contemporary Urbanisation. Area, 52(2), 273 – 281.

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This paper asserts that critical investigations into the urbanisation process should consider the actually existing ethics of the process itself, without defaulting to transcendent normative principles. Grounded in an ontology of immanence, as presented in Deleuze and Guattari's (9) political philosophy, I argue that attention must be paid to the production and transformation of normativity. Using the redevelopment of the South Lake Union (SLU) neighbourhood of Seattle - (in)famously home to Amazon, but largely envisioned and developed by Paul Allen's investment and philanthropic organisation, Vulcan - as an analytical starting point, this paper sketches out a profile of the blue dimension of the genesis of Seattle's environmental ethic, from early efforts to reshape the region's hydrology and address water pollution in Lake Washington, through efforts by governmental bodies and Vulcan to protect water quality and salmon habitat, and on to a large-scale infrastructure project - the Elliott Bay Seawall replacement - that includes features to enhance biodiversity and ecological functioning in the nearshore environment. In tracking these movements, I identify the emergence of an explicitly post-anthropocentric ethic from what initially appears as an aesthetic concern, while also highlighting the ongoing complexification of an earlier engineering ethic that dates back to the earliest attempts by settlers to manage the natural environment.


Water Pollution; Urbanization; Water Quality; Ethics; Political Philosophy; Home Ownership; Seattle (wash.); Blue Space; Deleuze And Guattari; Immanence; Post-anthropocentrism; Seattle; Allen, Paul, 1953-2018; Deleuze; Post-anthropocentrism