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Urban agriculture -- California -- Oakland, Neoliberalism -- California -- Oakland, Food security


For many activists and scholars, urban agriculture in the Global North has become synonymous with sustainable food systems, standing in opposition to the dominant industrial agri-food system. At the same time, critical social scientists increasingly argue that urban agriculture programmes, by filling the void left by the "rolling back" of the social safety net, underwrite neoliberalisation. I argue that such contradictions are central to urban agriculture. Drawing on existing literature and fieldwork in Oakland, CA, I explain how urban agriculture arises from a protective counter-movement, while at the same time entrenching the neoliberal organisation of contemporary urban political economies through its entanglement with multiple processes of neoliberalisation. By focusing on one function or the other, however, rather than understanding such contradictions as internal and inherent, we risk undermining urban agriculture's transformative potential. Coming to terms with its internal contradictions can help activists, policy-makers and practitioners better position urban agriculture within coordinated efforts for structural change, one of many means to an end rather than an end unto itself.


This is an Author's Original Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis Group in Local Environment: The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability on February 2014, available online:



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