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Urban agriculture, Urban gardens, Gentrification, Sustainability -- Oregon -- Portland


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.


This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article to be published by Taylor & Francis Group in the Annals of the American Association of Geographers 2018 Special Issue: Social Justice in the City.

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