Competing discourses of nature in exurbia

Kirsten Valentine Cadieux

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


This paper explores different ways that the category of nature is used in addressing landscape changes associated with exurbia and exurbanization. Nature is an important category in the practices and representations that residents and planners use to construct and maintain exurban landscapes. However, common ways of mobilizing nature in exurban planning discourses often obstruct better discussion, rather than facilitate it. Invoking nature can make planning processes more difficult by providing a means for naturalizing planning decisions and also by exacerbating struggles over whose nature will be managed in what ways. More explicitly framing what is meant by nature in exurban planning may improve discussion of landscape problems associated with sprawl. The goal of this paper is to contribute to creating a framework for more actively contextualizing how "nature" is used in discourses relating to exurbanization. I suggest that such a framework would need to consider-and make explicit-themes such as the four that I discuss in this paper: (1) the centrality of the production of nature to exurban landscapes; (2) multiple meanings of nature that are often confused; (3) ways that normative statements about nature tend to be unquestioned in exurban planning; and (4) the simultaneous difficulty and usefulness of critiquing and "denaturalizing" both material and discursive nature. Explicit conversations about the role and representation of nature within residents' and managers' land-use practices and ideologies could create opportunities for dialogue between residents, planners, and academics about the valuation of and preferences for constructing particular landscapes, especially in addressing problematic aspects of the phenomena of "amenity migration" and "sprawl."

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)341-363
Number of pages23
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2011


  • Cultural geography
  • Exurbia
  • Nature
  • Planning
  • Political ecology
  • Urban sprawl

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