Socio-ecological justice through a governance lens: the Superilla-Green axes “experiment” in Barcelona


  • ALESSANDRA MANGANELLI HafenCity Universität Hamburg


Governance tensions, Socio-ecological justice, Urban experiments




Over the last decades, experiments have been proliferating in urban areas as key modalities to foster urban sustainability governance (Fuenfschilling et al., 2019). Examples of urban experiments range from living laboratories, to tactical urbanism, pilot projects, multi actors´ partnership, and similar. They can be defined as temporally and spatially bounded initiatives engaging with forms of experimental governance, aiming to prefigure and concretely materialise more sustainable futures here and now, but also aspiring for more systemic and impactful (urban) transformations (Sengers et al, 2021). Yet, despite good intentions, the capacity of experiments to be transformative in the sense of going beyond the status quo and fostering greater socio-ecological justice is debatable. While part of the scholarly debate on urban environmental governance and experimentalism underlines the potential of urban experiments for stirring more sustainable and just urban transformations (Castán Broto & Bulkeley, 2013a; Monstadt et al., 2022), other scholars are more critical, highlighting how the capacity of experiments to be radically transformative and to foster greater justice should not be taken for granted (Hodson & Marvin, 2010; Karvonen, Evans & van Heur, 2014). Examining the governance of urban greening experiments through a socio-ecological justice lens, this contribution embraces a nuanced and context-based perspective on the capacity of experiments to foster justice in processes and outcomes. In particular, the concept of governance tensions is adopted to illuminates how conflicts experienced by actors involved in transformative projects give place to both, barriers, but also opportunities to enhance scopes of action. The empirical “test case” of this contribution is the Superrilla-Green axes program put into place by the Municipality of Barcelona to foster sustainability and promote eco-socialist policies of re-appropriation of public space by marginalized users. The analysis shows how actors involved in this greening “experiment” deal with tensions among social and ecological aspects of justice, and, consequently, what we learn about key dynamics that make this type of projects more or less socio-ecologically just.