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?
The work of UrbanFood team member Dillon Mahmoudi on concentrated poverty has been making ripples in the media around the globe. He worked on a national level study called Lost in Place on the persistence of concentrated poverty and created an Interactive map to show this data for the 51 largest metro areas. The study has been featured in numerous news outlets, including: The Guardian, Atlantic's CityLab, Vox, and The Washington Post.
While the purpose of the report was to discuss the persistence of concentrated poverty, a somewhat revisionist or denialist discussion of gentrification creeped into characterization's of the report's results in some press. The most egregious example was Slate citing the research to say that "gentrification is a myth"... um, say what?! Ever been to N. Williams in Portland, Mr. Buntin?
So Dillon then had to go set things straight. Check out an interview with him on the radio show Let Your Voice Be Heard on WHCR 90.3 fm in Harlem to dispel this idea that gentrification is a myth. Congrats to Dillon on all his great work!
Nathan McClintock is a geographer and professor of urban studies and planning at Portland State University.