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Center for Metropolitan StudiesBarthold, Sabine

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Sabine Barthold


IGK Fellow; Extra Parental Year (DFG Funded) 


Greening the Global City. The Role of Global City Networks in Interurban Knowledge Production and Policy Transfer

This dissertation project explores the way in which global city networks, as interurban regimes of knowledge production and policy transfer, link global and local scales of politics in the production of urban environments. At the center of this study is the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, a global organization of mayors of large cities that link urban environmental policies with international climate change governance. In a comparative approach the study of the production and transfer of knowledge within the C40 Cities network is illustrated along case studies in 5 different global cities, including New York, Berlin, Toronto, Singapore and Addis Ababa.

During the recent period of economic restructuring policy makers have framed concerns of urban development increasingly in discourses of environment and ecology. City governments and urban planners are, as McCann and Ward (2011) have shown, ‘scanning’ the globe for the increasingly mobile policy strategies that help them embrace (often competing) economic, social, and ecologic demands. The “fast” knowledge and policy transfers between cities (Peck and Theodore 2001) are accelerated by international institution building and policy networks that form global regimes of science, regulation and capital investment.

The systematic production, transfer and circulation of knowledge and policy models are thereby a means by which urban actors can set technical and political norms (Acuto 2013) that push the global environmental discourse in particular directions. In the struggles for norm setting knowledge is used by different actors to legitimize particular political standpoints and de-legitimize others. Therefore, it is crucial to ask what sources of knowledge are deemed legitimate in the network, what eco-political claims are enforced or discarded by certain bodies of knowledge, and how, why, and by whom are certain policies fashioned as models.

Now that more than half of the world population lives in urbanized areas, cities and urban lifestyles are re-defining the relationship between human civilizations and the natural world. Political Ecology approaches understand nature not as a-historical, pre-given entity which exists outside the social world and in which societies act, but have argued that nature is both ideologically and materially a product of particular human societies. In that sense, nature is not merely an object of knowledge but a subject to political regulation and hence to questions of justice, power, hierarchies and conflict. In other words, cities are not just static containers for social processes, but result of collective production, reproduction and consumption processes that are always embedded in hybrid socio-natural metabolisms. Infrastructures connect populations with natural flows and material resources – water, air, energy, food, and so on – and cities are spaces where environmental problems have direct impacts on everyday lives of people – pollution, traffic, even natural catastrophes like storm, flooding, or heat waves hit urban populations in particular ways. In globalization, however, the transactions between the urban and nature have been rescaled. Especially in today’s global cities the societal relationships with nature have also been globalized. That means that local life worlds have been brought in a more direct relationship with ecological processes beyond their immediate reach. In order to understand how environmental policies and planning practices within the metropolis are entangled with global governance and larger socioeconomic transformations brought about by globalization, it is necessary to look at the institutions, ideologies, and actors as well as the connections and inter-linkages they establish between the urban and the global. This project is thereby closing the conceptual gap between the world and the city by showing how global city organizations like C40 can connect local environmental politics directly to global political ecologies in an urban meta-geography of Global Environmental Governance.



since 05/2012
Technical University of Berlin, Center for Metropolitan Studies (CMS)
PhD Student, International Graduate Research Program Berlin - New York – Toronto

10/2003 – 09/2011
Dresden University of Technology
Magistra Artium (M.A.) Political Science and Sociology

09/2008 – 08/2009
New School for Social Research New York, NY
Visiting Student (Graduate Program) Sociology, Political Science, Anthropology, Henry Arnhold-Scholarship

09/1993 – 07/2001
Fritz-Löffler-Gymnasium Dresden


Urban Sociology
Urban Political Ecology
Global Environmental Governance
Critical Theory
Critical IPE


09/2012 – 12/2012
Visiting Scholar at CITY Institute York University, Toronto

10/2011 – 10/2012
Scientific Assistant at the Sociology Department of Dresden University – Chair of Sociological Theory, History of Social Thought and Sociology of Culture – Prof. Karl-Siegbert Rehberg

10/2010 – 9/2011
Student Assistant at the Sociology Department of Dresden University – Chair of Sociological Theory, History of Social Thought and Sociology of Culture – Prof. Karl-Siegbert Rehberg

11/2009 – 01/2010
Internship at the Saxon State Ministry of Environment and Agriculture (Sächsisches Ministerium für Umwelt und Landwirtschaft)

02/2006 – 08/2008
Student Assistant at the Political Science Department at Dresden University – Chair for International Politics – Prof. Monika Medick-Krakau
BMBF funded project: “The international Forest Regime: International Dimensions of National Action”




Research Stay


New York City, USA

Research Stay


Toronto, Canada

Research Stay

09/2012 - 12/2012

York University Toronto


(2014) “Greening the Global City. City Networks in Environmental Knowledge Production and Policy Transfer” Paper presented to ISA World Congress Yokohama

(2014) “Greening the Global City. City Networks in Global Environmental Governance” Paper presented to Workshop “Networks in Global Environmental Governance” in Brussels.

(2013) “Cities as Sites, Objects, and Actors in Global Environmental Governance: Global City Networks and the Governmentality of Urban Ecologies” Paper Presented to IGK Annual Conference Toronto “Empire, City, Nature”.

(2013) “The global Re-scaling of Urban Ecological Governance. The Role of City Networks in Interurban Knowledge Production and Policy Transfer” Paper Presented to RC21 Conference “Resourceful Cities” Berlin.

(2011) The social production of urbanity – the urban production of society? On urban sociology as social analysis. Paper presented at the interdisciplinary doctoral colloquium “Economy and Society – today. On the genesis and contemporary constellations of the relationship between state and capitalism” at the German-Italian Center Villa Vigoni (Como, Italia)

(2011) Postmoderne Zeiten und die soziale Produktion von Raum. Eine stadtsoziologische Analyse zur Rekonstruktion Dresdens nach der Wiedervereinigung. (M.A. Thesis, unpublished)



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