From resilience to multi-species flourishing : (Re)imagining urban-environmental governance in Penang, Malaysia

Creighton CONNOLLY*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


This article uses the concept of multi-species flourishing to evaluate the potential of emergent urban governance initiatives in Penang, Malaysia, for achieving more socially and environmentally just forms of urban development. In doing so, the article offers an empirical examination of increasing development pressures on the forested hillsides of Penang, and the significant environmental and socio-cultural implications associated with this activity. This includes the significant flash-flooding and landslides in 2016 and 2017 that have been attributed to unscrupulous hillside developments and deforestation on the island for condominium and highway development. In tracing local responses to these developments, the article draws attention to the various more-than-human relationships that have been mobilised in preventing further degradation of the environment. It also re-visits the concept of environmental imaginaries to illustrate the close relationship between environmental and social wellbeing. The article argues that it is important to move beyond concepts of resilience, which advocate the implementation of technology and engineering measures to adapt to, rather than resist, the environmental shocks associated with intensive urban development. The research for this article has been conducted through participatory research with local civil society groups, and aims to evaluate the role of both governmental and non-state actors in these efforts and the challenges faced in doing so. The article concludes that research on urban resilience and urban governance must move beyond human-centred modes of thought and practice that regard cities as operating outside of ecological systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1485-1501
Number of pages17
JournalUrban Studies
Issue number7
Early online date6 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Earlier drafts of the article received valuable comments from Michelle Miller and three Urban Studies reviewers, which helped to clarify my writing and strengthen the arguments. Thanks also to Rexy Chacko and other Penang Forum members for their time and insights given during the research for this article, and for sharing the photographs used here. The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The research for this article was made possible by a research grant provided by the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore.

Publisher Copyright:
© Urban Studies Journal Limited 2019.


  • environmental imaginary
  • Malaysia
  • multi-species flourishing
  • resilience
  • urban governance
  • urbanisation


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