Maria Kaika’s work has been foundational for the field of Urban Political Ecology and she is Principle Investigator for the European Network for Political Ecology ENTITLE (EU Marie Curie Funded). Her research establishes a conceptual and methodological framework which stipulates that nature and the city are not separate entities, but socio-environmental hybrids, produced through the same global flows of power relations and metabolic processes that transform landscapes and livelihoods alike. This work is grounded on qualitative research on the urbanisation of nature in London, Athens and New York, and on ethnographic research on the actors and power relations involved in the development of EU environmental policies (notably the European Water Framework Directive). Her related work on urban infrastructures and iconic spaces interprets the ‘banalisation’ of old and proliferation of new urban infrastructures and buildings as the manifestations of periods of crisis and change in the imaginary institutions that hold societies together.
Her work on crisis and cities expands the framework for researching the socio-spatial impact of financialisation and the recent crisis beyond macroeconomics. Using a range of qualitative methods (diaries, life stories, interviews, archival research) it examines housing and land financialisation as a “Lived Process”. Her “Mortgaging Lives” project examines mortgage contracts as a biopolitical technology; a tool that engineered an intimate relationship between global financial markets and human bodies, labour, and livelihoods. The project documents how macroeconomic and policy changes could not have led to the global expansion of speculative real estate investment without a parallel biopolitical process that mobilised mortgage contracts as tools that successfully integrated the economic and social reproduction of the workforce into global cycles of financial speculation.
At the UvA Kaika will promote interdisciplinary research and teaching with particular focus on establishing a dialogue between the urban political ecology framework of analysis, and planning practices and institutions. She will draw particular attention to the processes through which ecological imaginaries and ideas can become planning practices that produce real socio-environmental change. She will also focus on key urban socio-environmental challenges that arise from the global economic crisis, notably the increasing exposure of livelihoods, environments and urban futures to the fluctuations of global financial markets, which poses an imminent social risk and a challenge to urban planning and urban development practices.
Maria Kaika holds a PhD (DPhil) in Urban Geography from Oxford University, and an MA in Architecture and Planning from the National Technical University of Athens. Since 2010, she has been the co-editor in chief of the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research and sits on the Editorial Board of European Urban and Regional Studies and Human Geography. Her work has received funding from national and international research councils and organisations (including the British Academy, and EU Framework and Marie Curie programmes). Her research focuses on three interrelated themes: urban political ecology, cities and crisis, and urban radical imaginaries.