November 21, 2019

Although become ‘mainstream’? As Crane et al., (2013) suggest,

Although
these examples appear more ‘top down’ than demonstrative of Lefebvre’s call for
urban dwellers to assert their ‘rights to the city’, they raise the following
questions regarding the long-term implications of community-council
partnerships, where alternative spaces become appropriated under the purview of
city bylaws. This ‘appropriation’ may appear contradictory to core ideas in
radical urban theory, the linking of local government—its resources and
policymaking for structural change—with grassroots social production is perhaps
a necessity to imagine a more sustainable urban future. In any case, urban
agriculture is one form of social transformation taking place in ‘North and
South’ cities. Government, or official, support for hitherto grassroots
movements for socioeconomic change can be beneficial through removing
legislative barriers and providing infrastructure improvements and upgrades.

         However, there is the hypothetical
possibility that government involvement could be viewed as ‘interfering’ with
actually existing alternative social spaces, which prefer to operate
independently from bureaucracies attempting to regulate ‘radical’ activities.
It could be that socially re-produced spaces could re-emerge elsewhere in the
city, in reaction to undesired bureaucratic influences seeking to normalise
hitherto ‘alternative’ responses to the global food system. This leads to an
interesting question of what happens to alternative social movements when they
become ‘mainstream’? As Crane et al.,
(2013) suggest, these are questions ideal for critical urban geographers and
radical social scientists, to take up the notion of collective urban rights and
their potential power. Analyses of urban agriculture through the lens of
Lefebvrian spatial production can advance critical understandings of
alternative spatial production and the implications of its mainstream
appropriation by the city (or state) for purposes of reinventing the city.

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Urban agriculture and the globalised food system

Interest
in human and natural ecosystems as vital for urban sustainability are partly
influenced by rapid growth in community-based ‘urban greening’ movements
concerned with social, economic, environmental and food justice. For urban dwellers in low-income areas,
globally, urban agriculture appears as a defiant act and symbolic of the
failure of urban industrialism and the globalized food system. For urban food
social movements, city planning has largely suppressed the development of urban
agricultural activities, which is symptomatic of the tensions between actually
existing neoliberalism and socially lived space. When alternative social spaces
are integrated into mainstream urban planning as community development
initiatives, what then happens to the meaning and purpose of the ‘alternative
movement’?

In zoning for urban agriculture, are rights to the city
acknowledged and imagined urban geographies accepted and acted upon thus
transforming or reordering urban spaces and reproducing social relations? Or do
these relations become normalised, thus control and power in the use of urban
food space continues as actual existing neoliberalism? Reconciling tensions in
the contradiction between neoliberalism and alternatives might be possible
through close community-driven consultation with their local councils. 

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