I'm excited to announce that my article entitled "Cultivating (a) sustainability capital: Urban agriculture, ecogentrification, and the uneven valorization of social reproduction" has just been published in the Annals of the American Association of Geographers, as part of the 2018 Special Issue on "Social Justice in the City". It's my attempt at a "deep dive" into theories of value, capital, and race, to help make sense of the spatial patterns related to urban agriculture and gentrification that we've observed in Portland, Vancouver, and other "green" cities.
Here's the paper abstract:
Urban agriculture (UA), for many activists and scholars, plays a prominent role in food justice struggles in cities throughout the Global North, a site of conflict between use and exchange values, and rallying point for progressive claims to the right to the city. Recent critiques, however, warn of its contribution to gentrification and displacement. The use/exchange value binary no longer as useful an analytic as it once was, geographers need to better understand UA's contradictory relations to capital, particularly in the neoliberal Sustainable City. To this end, I bring together feminist theorizations of social reproduction, Bourdieu's "species of capital", and critical geographies of race to help demystify UA's entanglement in processes of eco-gentrification. In this primarily theoretical contribution, I argue that concrete labor embedded in household-scale UA—a socially reproductive practice—becomes cultural capital that a Sustainable City's growth coalition in turn valorizes as symbolic sustainability capital used to extract rent and burnish the city's brand at larger scales. The valorization of UA occurs, by necessity, in a variegated manner; spatial agglomerations of UA and the eco-habitus required for its misrecognition as sustainability capital arise as a function of the interplay between rent gaps and racialized othering. I assert that eco-gentrification is not only a contradiction emerging from an urban sustainability fix, but is central to how racial capitalism functions through green urbanization. Like its contribution to eco-gentrification, I conclude, UA's emancipatory potential is also spatially variegated.
For those of you without access via your institution, the first fifty downloads are free by clicking here, or else you can also find a post-print version on my Academia page.
The maps above illustrate the concentration of front yard gardens in "inner" Portland, where the population is more whiter and more affluent, and several gentrifying or gentrified nieghborhoods are located. But there is still plenty of backyard gardening going on throughout the city. Why do some gardens contribute to Sustainable City branding -- thus producing value and becoming entangled in processes of gentrification -- while others do not?
Great new article: "The Elusive Inclusive: Black Food Geographies and Racialized Food Spaces" by Margaret Marietta Ramírez
I just read a new article in Antipode by a geography PhD student at the U of Washington, Margaret Marietta Ramirez. In it she pushes the boundaries of food justice scholarship by drawing on black geographies and critical race theory (notably as elaborated by McKittrick and Woods) to "de-center the white subject as the presumed actor within critical food studies". Here's the abstract:
North American food scholars, activists and policymakers often consider how to make a community food project more inclusive to “vulnerable populations” to increase participation in local food efforts. Drawing from qualitative research conducted with two community food organizations in Seattle, Washington, I argue that inclusive efforts are not addressing the power asymmetries present in organizations and within communities. Engaging with black geographies literature, I reveal how a black food justice organization grapples with violent histories of slavery and dispossession rooted in a black farming imaginary, and works to re-envision this imaginary to one of power and transformation. The spatial imaginaries and spaces of each food organization acknowledge racial histories differentially, informing their activism. Black geographies possess knowledge and spatial politics that can revitalize community food movements, and I consider how white food activists might reframe their work so that their efforts are not fueling the displacement of residents of color.
She makes an important claim that really speaks to something I've been mulling over, which is the relationship between food justice and food sovereignty. She writes: "Some food scholars have signaled that perhaps a shift in terminology to that of “food sovereignty” would be more appropriate for food movements that address injustices across scale. While the use of food sovereignty connects North American struggles to indigenous struggles for autonomy across the globe, signaling our interconnection in the colonial present, I worry that the loss of this genealogy would displace the critique of institutional racism central to food justice activism and use a broad brushstroke to encompass place-based movements rooted in black geographies. In addition, the loss of the “justice” genealogy that traces food justice activism to its social justice roots in black social movements would be lost, submerging generations of black struggles for equity that are often tied to the land."
Great reading and I'll definitely be assigning it in class!
Nathan McClintock is a geographer and professor of urban studies and planning at Portland State University.