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?
If you don't have institutional access to the journal, you can read the paper here for free or download a copy of the post-print here. The paper is built on a wider survey of UA organizations and businesses we conducted a couple of years ago when Mike was still a MURP student before heading to UBC (click here for the summary results of the overall survey).
PSU-led food policy research to explore link between urban gardens and gentrification
Author: Laura Gleim, Institute for Sustainable Solutions
Posted: December 10, 2015
It’s no secret that urban farms and gardens are core to Portland’s identity as one of the most sustainable cities in the world. What’s maybe lesser known is that those young patches of kale and cabbage are often entangled in processes of gentrification and displacement.
With a $249,978 grant from the National Science Foundation, a binational research team led by Nathan McClintock, Portland State University assistant professor of urban studies and planning, will examine the complex relationship between urban agriculture and gentrification in two ultra-green North American cities: Portland, Oregon, and Vancouver, British Columbia.
The three-year study, “Urban agriculture, policy making, and sustainability,” aims to shed light on how urban agriculture policy-making practices both contribute to and resist inequitable access to resources and features that make a neighborhood more sustainable—such as affordable housing, parks, healthy food, and transportation options.
“When we look at urban renewal and gentrification issues, urban agriculture can be part of the problem and part of the solution,” McClintock said. “Gardens offer so many benefits to communities, but what we see is that an increase
in gardens often indicates that an area is gentrifying and that longtime residents are getting priced out of their neighborhoods. Often, the gardens themselves ultimately get bulldozed for condo construction.”
But McClintock says many urban agriculture practitioners are aware of how it contributes to gentrification and are getting involved in equity policy and planning efforts. "We’re interested in how engagement with urban agriculture and food policy differ between various demographic groups and city to city,” he said.
McClintock and his co-investigators Eugene McCann and Christiana Miewald, professors of geography at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, will also look at how the motivations for gardening differ across race, class, and gender lines, which McClintock says can have implications for the type of outreach and language policy makers and city planners use when deploying resources that support people in a more equitable way to grow their own food.
The study builds upon McClintock’s previous work funded by the PSU Institute for Sustainable Solutions that mapped urban gardens in Portland and revealed that gardens often crop up in neighborhoods experiencing gentrification.
McClintock has also done comparative research on urban agriculture policy and practice in Montreal, Canada, and last September led a binational field course that explored issues of urban gardens, community activism, and gentrification. The course was composed of graduate students from both Portland and Montreal, and was funded by PSU’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions and the Government of Québec’s Ministry of International Relations.
Keep up with McClintock and his work on his website, urbanfood.org.
Nathan McClintock is a geographer and professor of urban studies and planning at Portland State University.