Politics of place making in urban farming – an essay

By Anke de Vrieze

Last trimester, I had the opportunity to join the Capita Selecta course `A Global Sense of Place´, taught by Joost Jongerden and Dirk Roep. From my current working experience in the field of urban agriculture, the subject of the course – place-based approaches for sustainable development- interested me and proved valuable. In the course, different approaches to ‘place’ were discussed and related to culture, politics, economics and leadership. As we were a small group of students, we met in a weekly reading group, to discuss the literature and our written assignments.

Personally, I was most inspired by the work of Doreen Massey. Her perspective on place and space is a relational one, as she describes places as ‘temporary constellations’ or ‘bundles of space-time trajectories’. In one of her articles, she connects this relational perspective to ‘geographies of responsibility’ and shows how the ‘global’ is embedded locally as well. Taking the example of the City of London, i.e. it’s financial district, she argues against generalised understandings of the local as a product of the global, and demonstrates that indeed much of what we call ‘the global’ stems from local areas, such as the City of London. This leads her to plea for alternative globalisations, based on ‘a challenge of place’. I think, Massey’s perspective can prove meaningful for anyone studying ‘place’, whether it be in urban or rural settings.

For the final essay, ‘Growing community? Urban agriculture in the context of place-based urban development’ of the course, I discussed the ‘politics of place-making’ in a case of urban farming. By drawing on the example of an neighbourhood-based urban agriculture project, I showed how the different perspectives on place, as employed by various actors involved, creates a dynamic fields of interests regarding the ability of UA to address urban issues, and to achieve sustainable community development. Based on this short analysis, I argued for the need of a relational perspective on place, taking into account place-frames and positionality of actors, in (future) cases of neighbourhood-based urban farming.

Anke de Vrieze, anthropologist and project coordinator of FARMING THE CITY (www.farmingthecity.net), contact: ftc@citiesthemagazine.com