Landscape political ecologies of urban ‘swiftlet farming’ in George Town, Malaysia

Creighton CONNOLLY*

*Corresponding author for this work

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

17 Citations (Scopus)


In previous engagements with political ecologies, cultural geographers have been interested in intersections between place making and environmental health, nature, environment and landscape interrelations, and their mutually co-constituted, socially constructed and contested nature. This article explores these themes through the experiences of urban activists in George Town, Penang, who have been involved in resisting the proliferation of ‘swiftlet farms’ in residential areas. ‘Swiftlet farms’ are typically converted shophouses or other buildings which have been modified for the purpose of harvesting the nests of the edible-nest swiftlet. They have generated significant controversy in George Town given their perceived impacts on urban health, quality of life, and (in)tangible forms of urban heritage. In examining spaces of the city that have been transformed through the ‘swiftlet farming’ industry, this article aims to highlight the ways in which individuals experience everyday landscapes of swiftlet farming, and how they might engage in reshaping them. In tracing this controversy, the article develops the conceptual framing of landscape political ecology, which allows for a closer understanding of the socio-natural production, transformation and contestation of urban landscapes. The research is based on 6 months of participatory ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Malaysia, much of which was developed in collaboration with local stakeholders. The article concludes with a reflection on how the particular approach set out here can shed important light on the role of praxis and everyday lived experience in shaping contemporary urban environmental politics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)421-439
Number of pages19
JournalCultural Geographies
Issue number3
Early online date4 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, © The Author(s) 2017.


  • environmental health
  • ethnography
  • everyday life
  • landscape political ecology
  • Malaysia
  • swiftlet farming


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