Cultivating the City: Urban Agriculture and Agrarian Questions in Brooklyn, New York

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Weissman, Evan
Agarian Questions; Brooklyn; Food Politics; Urban Agriculture; Geography
thesis / dissertation description
Driven by social and environmental criticism of the conventional agro-food system, food is now highly politicized. In this context, urban agriculture enjoys renewed interest as a primary space to engage the politics of food. In this dissertation, I explore urban agriculture as a window into food politics. Using the contemporary period of urban agriculture expansion in Brooklyn, New York as a case study, I investigate the ways in which urban agriculture is working to challenge the problems produced by conventional agro-food, and the engendered contradictions that arise in the tensions between the goals of urban agriculture and its practice in Brooklyn. Accordingly, I ask a set of three inter-related questions: (1) how have urban agriculture efforts in New York City changed historically; (2) why do New Yorkers engage in urban food production; and (3) what are the outcomes of the efforts to cultivate Brooklyn? To address these questions I conducted an extensive mixed-methods analysis grounded in a theoretical framework drawing on the agrarian question, food geographies, and analyses of neoliberalization. I argue that Brooklyn's urban agriculture is limited by its neoliberal characteristics - that is, an adherence to neoliberalism's emphasis on market mechanisms as central to human well-being - and is thus undermined in helping to build a radical political movement around food issues. Although current trends indicate that urban agriculture works to (re)produce neoliberalism, it simultaneously produces political possibilities embodied by the assertion of public rights to cultivate the city and in the potential of food to serve as a tool for building solidarities en route to food justice.