Urban Agriculture and the Neoliberalization of What?

Marion Ernwein

Abstract


The highly-regulated character of the predominantly municipal community gardens in the canton of Geneva (Switzerland) makes them only uneasily fit dominant analyses framing community gardens as contestatory, grassroots spaces. These gardens, however, do not map perfectly either onto the accounts of institutional “organized garden projects” deemed to accompany municipal entrepreneurial strategies and/or the implementation of neoliberal governmentality. Critically engaging with municipal involvement in community garden and urban agriculture development, this paper draws attention to the contradictory ways in which municipal actors frame and govern these issues. Drawing upon a case study in the municipality of Vernier, it argues that the municipality’ urban agriculture program serves different and contradictory functions and is simultaneously progressive and neoliberal. Indeed, while Vernier’s program clearly attempts at reversing processes of space privatization and nature commodification, it also reinforces the neoliberal production of individualized, self-responsible and self-entrepreneur subjectivities. This analysis, I hope, will encourage urban agriculture scholars to question their reliance upon a dichotomy between benevolent civil organizations and profit-oriented public institutions, and to account more precisely for the singular processes of neoliberalization at play within the boundaries of their case studies.


Keywords


urban agriculture; community gardening; neoliberalism; privatization; commodification; neoliberal governmentality

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ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies - ISSN: 1492-9732